May 21, 2007

Sky Blue Sky-Wilco

To be perfectly honest I find it hard to believe that anyone could not possibly gain enjoyment after listening to "Sky Blue Sky", the latest release from Wilco. Some reviews like this misjudged one are missing the point. Some like this one just get it. Sure we know that this new album isn't "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" (few are) or "A Ghost Is Born" for that matter. It doesn't push boundaries like those classics. But Wilco always surprise and delight in some way. For me this is simpler music but it is not simple music. This is a record to be heard in one sitting, many times over and let all the subtle nuances and gentle rhythms tickle your brain and warm your heart. There are definitely are couple of sleepier numbers ("Leave Me" and the title track come to mind) that don't quite stimulate but there is enough here hopefully for even the most die hard fan to enjoy. Actually for anyone who hasn't heard of Wilco (trust me they do exist, I work with them) this would actually be a good album to try to convert them.

"Either Way" opens up and right away I felt comfortable. A gorgeous, lilting song that feels like a Gram Parsons tune, it leads to my favourite song "You Are My Face" which they opened with recently in Sydney. A deceptively simple tune gives way to an almost funky tune at 1.30 in. And if you believe that Jeff Tweedy has lost his ability for beautiful images then try this last verse-
I am looking forward towards the shadows chasing bones
our face is stitched in sewing
our houses hemmed into homes
trying to be thankful
our stories fit into phones
our voices lift so easily
a gift given accidentally
when we're not sure we're not alone

This wonderful song take us to "Impossible Germany" which explodes the other myth. That Wilco have lost the talent to write intricate, experimental guitar lines. The interplay of guitar towards the end is simply stunning. Other highlights abound. "Side With The Seeds" and "Hate It Here" wouldn't feel out of place on a Beatles record with their pop/soul feel. "Walken" doesn't sound very original but it's so damn catchy. "What Light" is just perfectly simple. "Please Be Patient With Me" feels like Jeff has invited us to his back porch for a gentle dash of acoustic guitar. And "On an On and On" is a perfect closer, just an evocative slice of Wilco. This album sounds like a happy album. It has been well reported that Jeff Tweedy has reached a comfortable time in his life with the rehab behind him and he has stated that he has never been happier then now with the state of the band. You can hear it on the record and I witnessed it live. Now does that mean Wilco have lost their edge. Perhaps. But what you receive is instead a sumptuous, warm album that can make you smile if you let it. Nels Cline and John Stirratt have never produced better work and Jeff Tweedy's voice is a wonder. Never technically gifted it just has amazing character. All vulnerable and passionate, I could listen to him sing the phone book. There is no "Ashes of American Flags" or "She's A Jar" on this platter but there is a collection of songs that satisfy immensely. It is mature, assured music that stays in your heart. If you have written off this piece of music after an initial listen, go back, listen again and again and be patient. I ask you for Jeff's sake.

"A soulful, sad, yet ultimately hopeful document largely about putting a brave face in the midst of a dissolving relationship, indulging influences from Bill Fay to Charles Wright to Steve Miller, Sky Blue Sky is the rare, mature album where said maturity is seldom compromised by banality"- Pop Matters review can be read here, the best I have read.

MP3: Side With The Seeds
MP3: Hate It Here
MP3: Impossible Germany
MP3: You Are My Face


  • At May 22, 2007 , Blogger Rachel said...

    I think Wilco is the kind of band that gets a lot of grief because of all the expectations people have of them. Sky Blue Sky was a highly anticipated album it was bound disappoint some.

    But I agree with you it's a solid album that isn't ground breaking but it is enjoyable and that's what counts.

    Great review! ;-)


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