Last week, the day that I had built up in my mind as the great moment of the 2011 musical epoch finally came. Ever since internet rumors of a new Wilco album/single started popping up last spring, I have been like Ralphie from A Christmas Story, just waiting eagerly for the big day with bright-eyed hope and a sneaking fear in the back of my head that the big day would be filled with disappointment. But what a gift Wilco has given their fans.
The Whole Love COULD have been a whole lot of things, and really, I had no idea what to expect. “Will it be safe, poppy and technical like their last two albums?” I thought, or “maybe it will be experimental and over-the-top like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. I almost didn’t want to know, because I didn’t want to be disappointed. But, I got the record, and I let it do the talking.
What the album is, is in fact, just like every other Wilco album; completely different from anything else they have done before. But the easiest way to describe The Whole Love is had Joe Meek produced Being There… and maybe Martin Rev sat in on the post-production.
And even that doesn’t hit it perfectly. The Whole Love is a whole new direction for Wilco, one where Tweedy is the creative king and his 5 or 6 lackeys could all be realistically described as virtuosos. The arrangements are complicated and completely original, even (especially) on the tracks that sound the most straightforward. I feel like at some point during the recording of this record Jeff Tweedy leaned over to Nels Cline (The guitarist) and said something to the effect of ,”Can you make sounds on your guitar that nobody else has before?”.
One thing that really stands out about The Whole Love to me is the enjoyability of it, sometimes Wilco albums take many, many listens to really appreciate (A Ghost is Born anyone?) but the new record has the listenability of A.M. or Wilco (The Album) with the technical mastery of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The first track “The Art of Almost” could be at home on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot with its 7+ minutes of changing time signatures, reverb and crazy guitars, while the second track (and first single) “I Might” is Summerteeth meets Sky Blue Sky. And I don’t even feel comfortable saying that, because it transcends ‘old Wilco’, becoming something completely new (with a bass line that will get stuck in your head and never leave). And after these two tracks finish, then comes my comparison to Being There, with enough jingle-jangle and pleasant lyrical depth to make The Whole Love first cousins with Being There.
But enough with the comparisons, that can only go so far. This album possesses a sound all its own, a sound that I can’t describe like I can Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or Being There yet, because I have only had it for a little over a week. But were I to rewrite this review in 6 years after (God-willing) the next 2 or 3 Wilco albums come out, and I will be talking about The Whole Love sound. Which, as far as I can tell now is technical, listenable and deep.
So whether you are creepily into Wilco (like me) or a first-timer looking for a good fall album, get your hands on a copy of The Whole Love, it will slither into your iTunes ‘most played’ pretty quickly. This is simply one of the best albums of 2011 so far.
My Favorite Tracks
- “The Art of Almost”
- “I Might”
- “Dawned on Me”
- “Born Alone”
- “Standing O”