First Impression: Wilco – The Whole Love

Alright guys I’m starting a new series called First Impression.  When big albums come out I try to buy my copy the day of its release, then I try to listen to the whole album from start to finish.  Then after one listen I’ll give you guys my, wait for it, first impression on the album.  I like to do this and then come back to the album later after I’ve given it some time to let the music digest in my head.

It’s interesting how albums can grow on you after some time.  A lot of my favorite albums I never liked the first time I heard it (Pinkerton, Sound of Silver, and pretty much every Radiohead album).  It’s also interesting that some albums I’ll love right away and then never listen to ever again (I loved R.E.M.’s Accelerate when it first came out, now not so much).  My opinions of these albums will probably change, but it’s cool to get my first impressions out.

And to start this series, let us turn to a little band called Wilco…

I love Wilco, but I am a pretty new fan of this band. I started to really listen to theses guys after Wilco (The Album) came out and I backtracked through their catalog.  This is the first new album of theirs I have been looking forward to coming out, and with that comes a lot of expectations.

A lot of people, including myself, didn’t care too much for their last two albums (there seems to be two kinds of Wilco fans – those who love Sky Blue Sky and those who hate it) and the majority of fans were looking for the band to return to their weirdness that made Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born so great.

If you’re one of those fans, you will not be disappointed with The Whole Love. The album is a great blend of the pop sound that made Being There and Summerteeth so great and the experimental of A Ghost Is Born that made it so unforgettable.

All of Wilco’s albums have terrific album openers, but “Art Of Almost” could be their best. It’s similar to “Misunderstood”, the track starts off immediately in a frenzy before coming back down only to be build up again to a fantastic climax.

Track two, “I Might”, sounds like it could be off of Being There, with its cheeky 60s organ and happy acoustic guitars complementing Tweedy’s lyrics about his desire to light kids on fire (listen to the song and it’ll make sense).  Everything between “I Might” and “Whole Love” sounds more like Wilco (The Album) and A Ghost Is Born.  All the songs are great, but none of them truly stand out right away, mainly because they’re not as out-there as the first two tracks.

Not everything here will please listeners.  “Capitol City” ruins the nice flow of the album with a low beat country jam that might have succeeded as a B-side to Sky Blue Sky.  “Standing O” is an awkward song to follow “Capital City”, but it’s a good song that is one of the band’s faster songs.

The album closes with “One Sunday Morning (Son For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend). It’s twelve minutes long and keeps the same tempo, chord progression, and melody the whole way through.  It sounds boring, but it could very well be one of the band’s finest songs. It’s one of Tweedy’s best songs lyrically, a song about a son trying to accept the lost of his dad, and the minimalism of the band makes it one of Wilco’s most powerful songs.

After one listen through I can already say that this is Wilco’s easiest album to enjoy from start to finish.  It might not have the substance that made Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or A Ghost Is born classic albums, but for fans that have stuck with Wilco for all this time, The Whole Love will sound fresh and very enjoyable.  This is one of the more accessible Wilco albums, but newcomers sound check out Being There first.

Gone is the Wilco that made YHF, but on The Whole Love, the current lineup is willing to go back to being weird, and that’s when they are at their best.

Overall First Impression: A terrific album from a band that didn’t need to make a terrific album

Highlights: “Art Of Almost”, “I Might”, “One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)”.

Rating: 4/5

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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