In House #1869: Wilco's Sky Blue Sky; New Track a Tiger
Once upon a time, with efforts like A.M. and Being There under their belts, Wilco was considered at the forefront of the alt-country movement. That began to change a bit with 1999's Summerteeth, with nods to the lushly orchestrated pop of Brian Wilson in the mix, before the band excused themselves almost entirely from the genre on their two 21st-century releases, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born. It's ironic then that the tweak to Wilco's formula this time around, the flavor switch that differentiates their new Sky Blue Sky from their previously recent work, is at the very least a nod to the rootsy beginnings they strove so hard to get away from. The band's sixth studio album (or eighth is you count the Mermaid Ave. volumes they released with Billy Bragg) is a creation culled largely from the influence of folk-leaning material from the 1970's, The Band to The Dead to Neil Young. Which is not to say there aren't some gloriously experimental moments here: "Walken," "Impossible Germany," and "Hate It Here," all have their moments of enjoyable difficulty, though it's generally tempered with warmer tones than you'll find on most of A Ghost Is Born. Whether one takes this as a creative step backward, or more of a coming full circle, the results are once again consistently great, unpretentious pop. In short, more distinctly American music from this most American of bands, which, in the context of this discussion at least, is the ultimate compliment.
In House #1869.
Focus: New release from Wilco, Sky Blue Sky, out tomorrow, plus new music from Track a Tiger, Ian Hunter, Nick Lowe, The Mother Hips, and more.
In House PODCAST #309