Chicago’s own Wilco have been playing their brand of experimental alternative rock for over 15 years now. This past week, Wilco released their eighth studio album, The Whole Love. The Whole Love is a significant album for Wilco, being the first album released on the band’s newly formed dBpm record label and the first album the band recorded in their secluded practice loft.
When listening to The Whole Love, it becomes clear that this album makes a departure from Wilco’s past two releases. The Whole Love is much more experimental than recent albums, and hearkens back to Wilco’s earlier efforts such as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. While the last few albums by Wilco have been good, they seemed to have lost sight of the experimental style that they are known for and excel at, churning out what could almost be called generic alternative rock.
This dramatic departure is clear with the very first track on the album. The track, Art of Almost, begins with a catchy drum and synthesizer beat that transitions into a fabulous string crescendo, and Jeff Tweedy’s scratchy, nasal singing. The whole song is daring. It tries to do things that Wilco hasn’t tried before, and is a bold proclamation that this whole album is going to be something new.
That feeling doesn’t leave as the album progresses. Each song has a new feel to it compared to Wilco’s earlier work, even the tracks that go back to the folk-rock style of Uncle Tupelo, the band that morphed into Wilco. The album closes with the track One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend), a twelve-minute-long song that serves as the perfect ending to the album. While the track doesn’t try to do as many new things as the earlier tracks on the album, the song still is epic and unmistakably Wilco. Making a twelve-minute-long song is quite ambitious and often leads to failure, but Wilco pulled it off. The song doesn’t feel lacking, and flows throughout. It has grown to become one of my favorite Wilco tracks.
Overall, The Whole Love is clearly the best of Wilco’s recent releases. It returns Wilco to their experimental roots, and is constantly changing as it tries new things. It sets the mood for an exciting future for Wilco, one where they return to constantly changing what alternative rock is. Wilco is best when pushing the envelope and casting off convention, and it is exciting to see them doing that again.