Thursday, March 29, 2007

Advance Copy: Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

Been listening to Wilco's upcoming release Sky Blue Sky (which they streamed over their website). I don't want to commit to anything here yet, as I've only listened to it twice. On first listen, though, it follows along similar lines of 2004's A Ghost Is Born -- mostly mellow, meandering, much less hooky and poppy than earlier Wilco albums. Few songs do much rocking, though there's an occasional Neil Young-ish electric guitar lead that blasts through an otherwise quiet song (i.e. "You Are My Face"). Starts out well enough, with a few tuneful tracks picking up right where Ghost left off, then hits what I 've gotta say is a run of listless tunes that had me reaching for the skip button. Fortunately, it closes with a few catchy tracks that salvaged the album. Most notably among these is "Walken," probably the closest thing to the upbeat, inventive rock of the band's formidable middle-period (i.e. 1999's Summerteeth, 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot). "Hate It Here" similarly picks up the pace a bit.

Will I buy it when it comes out? Of course. It's Wilco. And Jeff Tweedy remains one of our most gifted songwriters, even if he's left behind some of his more straightforward pop and rock 'n' roll inclinations.

One thing I have to admit -- I've never loved a Wilco album on first listen. More than pretty much any other band (though the Flaming Lips come close), I've found Wilco to be a band whose pleasures are slow in coming. I remember hearing Summerteeth when it was first released and thinking it was a flat-sounding bit of lightweight pop; it is now one of my favorite albums ever, and something I listen to all the time. Likewise, I initially found that Yankee Hotel didn't live up to the hype, but a few years (and a lot of listens) later, I've concluded the hype was well deserved. And I'm just now starting to appreciate Ghost, with a few of its tracks numbering among the band's best, though it's still a drop-off in quality from its predecessors. And while I'm at the point where I'm thinking Sky Blue continues Ghost's slide into moments of relative dullness, I'll pick it up and see how it grows on me.


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