Posts Tagged ‘Wilco’

Wilco, photo by <a href="https://www.annabelmehran.com/">Annabel Mehran</a>

Wilco have announced their 11th studio album. It’s called “Ode to Joy” and it arrives October 4th via their own dBpm Records. In addition to the album announcement, Jeff Tweedy and co. have shared a new song.

Listen to lead single “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” below,

Jeff Tweedy said of a new song in a statement:
There MUST be more love than hate. Right?! I’m not always positive we can be so sure. In any case, I’m starting to feel like being confident in that equation isn’t always the best motivation for me to be my best self—it can kind of let me off the hook a little bit when I think I should be striving to contribute more love outside of my comfortable sphere of family and friends.

So… I guess the song is sort of a warning to myself that YES, Love Is Everywhere, but also Beware! I can’t let that feeling absolve me of my duty to create more.

Wilco are heading out on tour this year. Ode to Joy marks the first Wilco album since 2016’s Schmilco. Tweedy’s first album of original solo songs, Warm, was released at the tail end of 2018. A follow-up companion album, Warmer, was also released earlier this year for Record Store Day.

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As a founding member and leader of the American rock band Wilco, and before that the co-founder of the alt-country band Uncle Tupelo, Chicago-based Jeff Tweedy is one of contemporary American music’s most accomplished songwriters, musicians and performers. His memoir, LET’S GO (SO WE CAN GET BACK): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc., was released last year.

Through his pioneering work in the legendary country-punk band, Uncle Tupelo, to his enduring legacy as the creative force behind the unclassifiable sound of Wilco, Jeff Tweedy has weaved his way between the underground and the mainstream – and back again. Funny, disarming, and deeply honest, his memoir casts light on his unique creative process and the stories that shaped his life and career, from a childhood spent in Illinois to the release of the bands album “No Depression” in the early 90’s – which set the blueprint for alt-country – and later working with Mavis Staples and, posthumously, Woody Guthrie. (Rough Trade BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

Jeff Tweedy and son Spencer, 

The book delves deeper into the creative development of one of the greatest American songwriters on his generation than any interview or biography I’ve read about Jeff Tweedy. The guy is honest, dishonest, candid, flippant, coherent, rambling, sometimes all on the same page.

Jeff Tweedy – One Wing – Woods Stage

Jeff opens up about the development of his writing style, making the understanding of the Wilco albums greater than any journalist review ever could. In fact the only flaw I would throw at this book is that it is almost too revealing about the personal lows Jeff has experienced in the troubled phases of the Wilco era. I’m sure it will hardly appeal to anyone unfamiliar with Tweedy’s output, which is sad as Jeff’s contribution to recorded music  in general is as vital as anyone else I’ve ever heard.

Wilco - Summerteeth

Summerteeth, released 20 years ago this week, is Wilco’s contribution to a common trope in pop music history: The prettiest songs are often about the ugliest subjects. Summerteeth exists as part of that lineage. It’s the most gorgeously ornate album Wilco ever made, and also the most disturbing.

Tweedy wrote the songs that became Summerteeth at what should have been the happiest time in his life. Rather than sabotaging his music career, the breakup of Uncle Tupelo — his massively influential country-punk partnership with childhood friend Jay Farrar had liberated him to pursue a vision entirely his own. He’d married his longtime girlfriend, Sue Miller, the owner of Chicago music venue Lounge Ax, and together they were raising a young son. The 1996 double-LP Being There had established Wilco as arguably the most talented and ambitious band in alt-country and helped Tweedy escape his reputation as Farrar’s plucky sidekick.

“I dreamed about killing you again last night, and it felt alright to me.” That’s a hell of a way to begin a song, and a hellish way. Just when the sleepy acoustic guitar chords out front of “Via Chicago” have lulled you into a stupor, Jeff Tweedy arrives to announce his shrugging approval toward the prospect of murdering someone he loves.

Eventually the Wilco frontman moves on to increasingly abstract imagery, from “I painted my name on the back of a leaf/ And I watched it float away” to “And crawling is screw faster lash/ I blow it with kisses.” The song builds from those initial chords into a vast soundscape that encapsulates Wilco at their best — that unparalleled ability to pile layers of beauty onto a simple folk song and then artfully rip it to shreds. At climactic moments, Tweedy launches into a slipshod guitar melody like Stephen Malkmus soloing over a disintegrating memory. Following it through to the finish is thrilling, but to get there you have to endure a whole verse of bloody, explosive details. It’s no wonder Tweedy writes in his new memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) that the album containing “Via Chicago” is “the record that’s hardest for my wife to listen to.”

Yet he writes, “I was probably as unhappy as I’d ever been. I was insecure, homesick, and drug-addled.” Even worse, “I had more love in my life that I’d ever had, and I was still lonely.” Furthermore, Tweedy was frustrated that Wilco had been pigeonholed as an alt-country band, a perception reinforced by Mermaid Avenue, a collaborative album with Billy Bragg setting music to unused Woody Guthrie lyrics. Being There had blown open the possibilities of what Wilco could be, but most of the listening public still saw the band a certain way. “People assumed we had this sort of identifiable, philistine range of influences,” Tweedy wrote, “and we, in our heads, knew that wasn’t the case.”

To upend those expectations, Wilco made their idea of a bubblegum record. The rootsy pop-rockers and ballads that populated 1994 debut A.M. were still in the mix, as were the formal and stylistic experiments that made Being There such a leap in terms of breadth and quality. But now Tweedy and his sideman Jay Bennett were building these songs into small-scale symphonies: Beach Boys harmonies spilling into every chorus, waves of gorgeous orchestration surging in and out of the frame. By this point they were more chamber-pop than cowpunk or whatever term the readership of No Depression favored that week.

It was a different record born from a different process. In many ways Summerteeth was a dry run for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and its accompanying saga, be it Tweedy’s embrace of abstract, impressionistic lyrics, the introduction of extensive studio tinkering to tear apart the songs, or tearing apart of the band that came along with it. Drummer Ken Coomer and bassist John Stirratt were largely excluded from the sessions while Tweedy and Bennett popped pills and piled on the overdubs. As Coomer complained to Greg Kot in his Wilco biography Learning How To Die, “There wasn’t really a band, just two guys losing their minds in the studio.”

It’s hard to dispute the results Summerteeth continued a run of masterpieces that began with Being There and continued well into the next decade — but Reprise Records did anyway. That’s another way the album presaged Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: The label asked Wilco to go back and record more accessible music to promote to radio. In this case the band played along, leading to a rare instance of label meddling that worked out really well. The glorious guitar-pop onslaught “Can’t Stand It” is a phenomenal album opener and a frankly underrated entry in the Wilco canon. On the other hand, although you can see why the label didn’t want Summerteeth to begin with the drowsy, depressive, dysfunctional “She’s A Jar,” it’s tough to understand why they couldn’t find a single anywhere else on the tracklist especially when they had one readily available just one track beyond “She’s A Jar.”

On one hand, there’s nothing quite like “A Shot In The Arm” in Wilco’s discography. On the other hand, it’s a great case study for what Wilco were doing on Summerteeth: one of the most beautiful and exhilarating pop songs they’ve ever recorded, and also one of the bleakest. Bennett’s cascading piano ripples, a rock-steady Coomer backbeat, and a Stirratt bass line propel it breathlessly forward while an arsenal of squealing synths collide in the sky like fireworks. All the while, Tweedy alludes to strained relations with his wife and seemingly considers whether a heroin habit might jolt him out of his doldrums. It begins and ends in flicker of synthesizers.

He hints at those tensions again on “Pieholden Suite,” a lush multi-part sequence that really earns that “suite” designation: “There’s a whisper I would like to breathe into your ear, but I’m too scared to get that close to you right now.” And again on “We’re Just Friends,”, If love’s so easy, why’s it hard?” And again on the heartbreaking “How To Fight Loneliness,” a lounge-ready acoustic slow-drift that concludes the best strategy for battling alienation is “just smile all the time.” Punchy rock tracks “I’m Always In Love,” “Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway (Again),” and “ELT” course with stress and frustration beneath their cheery veneers. “Can’t Stand It” toggles between strutting Stones-lite verses with a carefree party vibe and a euphoric chorus smothered in keyboards and church bells, yet Tweedy spends the song lashing out at the randomness of both God’s love and his own. Yet again, he evokes a personal life that’s falling apart: “You know it’s all beginning to feel like it’s ending.”

Not everything on the album is so dark. Summerteeth concludes with a stretch of music that feels like a redemption arc. There’s real tenderness in the lullaby “My Darling” and the lazy back porch reverie “When You Wake Up Feeling Old.” The title track finds some kind of resolution as it breezes from snappy twang to sighing rhapsody, though even the apparent reconciliation is oblique enough to keep listeners guessing. And on gentle closing track “In A Future Age,” Tweedy buys into the possibility of change, bookending his album-opening cries that “Your prayers will never be answered again!” with a call to “turn our prayers to outrageous dares.” Yet despite things generally looking up at the end, the album remains a document of Tweedy at one of his lowest moments.

He writes in his memoir that the darkness explored on Summerteeth, while very real, was not autobiographical in the strictest sense. He discusses writing “Via Chicago” and other songs from the era in a fragmented style he compares to mosaic and collage. “When I write in this mode, I write for myself first, pretending that the audience isn’t even there, and will never be there,” he explains. “I can get things off of my chest, I can invent versions of myself that are better than I believe I am … or worse, are even downright awful and murderous. I can expose shadow selves that I believe I should keep my eye on. I can admit things about myself without really having to take ownership of anything.”

In other words, when “She’s A Jar” reaches its twist ending and Tweedy declares, “She begs me not to hit her,” he’s not actually confessing to domestic violence. He’s singing about a fictionalized version of himself, or maybe as a different character entirely, as a way to air out the more disquieting corners of his psyche. Which is not to say it’s wrong to be repulsed by these images or to wish that Tweedy, as the album’s ostensible protagonist, had not verbalized them.

Summerteeth occupies a weird space in Wilco’s history. It stands alone among their output, a product of personal crises and creative friction that would have ended the band if they’d carried on forever. There are people who’ll (wrongly, but earnestly) tell you that actually, this is the best album Wilco ever made. Others see it as the beginning of the end of the band they once loved, a rough draft for future glories. Whatever you make of Summerteeth, I can attest from experience that the album helped Wilco to become for a generation of listeners what the Clash and the Minutemen had been for Tweedy.

Wilco may have set a high water mark for experimental Americana with 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and 2004’s A Ghost is Born, but frontman Jeff Tweedy has spent the intervening years slowly inching away from the abstract and obtuse elements of those LPs, in favor of more direct and explicit songwriting. Warm, his first proper album under his own name, marks the exceptional culmination of that approach. Written in the wake of his father’s passing, and as Tweedy enters his 50s, these deeply intimate and skeletal songs consider what it means to remain in the present, what it means to be a link in a family chain, and what it means to appreciate the joys of life even as darkness threatens to swallow us whole.

Rarely has Tweedy conveyed so much emotion with such sparse arrangements. On standout track “How Hard It is for a Desert to Die,” each vivid note of his acoustic guitar carries remarkable emotional heft. On opening track “Bombs Above,” he recounts his battle with opioid addiction in a near-whisper—“I’m taking a moment to apologize,” he sings—backed by knotted guitars and his elder son, Spencer, gently thumping the drums. Even “Let’s Go Rain,” a major-key jangle and the album’s most accessible track, utilizes its sunny melody as a foil for an allegory of total destruction, and the deception makes it all the more chilling.

On “War on War,” from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Tweedy proclaimed, with then-typical abstraction, that “You have to learn how to die / If you want to want to be alive.” Throughout Warm, he conveys his gratitude for that life with a clarity and solemnity that, finally, brings that sentiment into sharp focus. “I don’t believe in heaven,” he sings on the album’s title track. For Tweedy, heaven, and hell, are right here on earth.

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Jeff Tweedy Previews His First Proper Solo Album with Twang-Tinged Single "Some Birds"

Jeff Tweedy  has shared “Some Birds,” the first single off his forthcoming solo album Warm, due out November. 30th through dBpm Records. The record, recorded at Tweedy’s legendary Chicago studio The Loft, will be his first proper album of entirely new solo work, and will feature liner notes by the acclaimed author George Saunders.

“Some Birds” finds Tweedy up to his old Uncle Tupelo tricks once again. The rusted alt-country of No Depression has, throughout the years, alternately been Tweedy’s boon and bane some of Wilco’s best work occurred when he was running as far away from roots rock as he could. But when he’s on his own, that naturalistic style of songwriting feels, well, natural.

Like Wilco’s collaboration with Billy Bragg, or Tweedy’s own cover of Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate” off the I’m Not There soundtrack, “Some Birds” just feels right. His reedy voice seems to be made for lap-steel slides and clomping acoustic vamps. That’s not to say he’s gone all “beer, trucks and broken hearts,” though—he’s still got his deadpan wit and an eye for good imagery. “Some birds just sit / useless, like a fist,” he sings to start. “I lean on the wall / like a broom, confused / by the scope it all,” he adds later, his metaphors always dangling for a few moments, leaving you wondering just how a fist is useless, or how a broom can be confused. It’s comfortable but funny, lived-in but not tired.

According to Tweedy, “Some Birds” is “like a lot of songs on Warm, being a confrontation between self and shadow self simultaneously feeling I’m to blame and not to blame, present and gone, and utterly confused, but determined to hold someone accountable.”

Official video for “Some Birds,” the lead single off Jeff Tweedy’s solo album Warm.

Tweedy will be touring this fall in support of his new record. Check out the “Some Birds” video

Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy has announced he will release a memoir, titled Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), on November 13th via Penguin/Random House.

The book’s subtitle bills it as “A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc.” and its 304 pages promise to delve deep into Tweedy’s past—from his childhood in Bellville, IL, to the Chicago music scene that birthed his most famous outfit—and the music that the iconic singer-songwriter has penned over the years, whether with Wilco, Uncle Tupelo or as a solo artist, plus thoughts on his family, including Tweedy’s sons Spencer and Sam.

Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) is now available here (UK).

Tweedy also has a number of solo tour dates coming up this fall. He plays next at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons, CO, this weekend.

09_10_am_01

Wilco’s debut album, A.M., was released 20 years ago .

A.M. is the debut album of Chicago based alt-country rock band Wilco, released on March 28th, 1995. The album was released only months after the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, another alt-country band that was the predecessor of Wilco. Prior to the release of the album, there was debate about whether the album would be better than the debut album of Son Volt, the new band of former Uncle Tupelo lead singer Jay Farrar. Only days after the breakup, Tweedy had decided to form a new group. He was able to retain the lineup of Uncle Tupelo sans Farrar, and rechristened the new band as Wilco.

In mid-May, the band began to rehearse songs in the office of band manager Tony Margherita, and hired producer Brian Paulson, who produced Anodyne. Wilco first recorded demo tracks for the album at Easley studio in Memphis, Tennessee in June. Stirratt recommended the studio based on previous experience as a member of The Hilltops, and Jeff Tweedy had heard of the studio through a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion recording. Reprise Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, signed Jeff Tweedy after hearing the tapes, and recording for the album continued through August.

Although A.M. was released before Son Volt’s Trace, critical reviews were modest and initial sales were low. The album was later regarded as a “failure” by band members, as Trace became a greater commercial success. It was the band’s last album to be recorded in a purely alternative country style, as following the record the band began to expand their sound across multiple genres. It is also the only Wilco album to feature Brian Henneman of The Bottle Rockets as a lead guitarist. Recorded June–Autumn in 1994 . Brian Henneman had to leave the band shortly after recording the album, and was replaced by former Titanic Love Affair guitarist Jay Bennett. Jeff Tweedy also attempted to create a more collaborative environment than Uncle Tupelo, requesting songwriting contributions from other members. John Stirratt submitted three songs, hoping to become a secondary songwriter for Wilco. However, although the songs were recorded as demos, only one (“It’s Just That Simple”) was selected to appear on the album, and was the only Stirratt song to appear on any Wilco album.

The album’s title is intended to reference Top 40 radio stations, and the tracks reflect a straightforward country-rock sound. The band members felt that they needed to establish themselves outside of the Tupelo fanbase. However, Tweedy later stated that in actuality, they were “trying to tread some water with a perceived audience.” Tweedy wrote a song about the Uncle Tupelo breakup, but decided that he didn’t want any material on that subject matter to appear on the album (It can be argued, however, that first single “Box Full of Letters”, as well as “Too Far Apart” allude to the dissolution of Farrar and Tweedy’s friendship and working relationship.) Tweedy attributes some of the straightforwardness of the album to his use of marijuana at the time. Shortly after the album, Tweedy stopped smoking pot, to which he credits the introspectiveness of further albums.

Wilco began touring before the album was released. Their live debut was on November 27th , 1994 at Cicero’s Basement Bar in St. Louis, a venue where Uncle Tupelo had first received significant media attention. The band was billed for that concert as Black Shampoo, a reference to a 1970s B-movie, and the show sold out.  Wilco continued to tour for two hundred shows, culminating in show at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas in March 1995. A.M. was released on Reprise Records on March 28th, 1995.

09_10_wholelove_01

There’s a whole lot to love about Wilco’sThe Whole Love”. It’s a career-spanning set of songs that appeared in the fall of 2011. Start with “Art of Almost” (you should be starting with this song, unless you have the album on shuffle.) The opening cut is the group’s most ambitious, confrontational piece since the Jim O’Rourke days. Plus, there’s the infectious “I Might,” the lovely, shuffling title track—all great. If The Whole Love has a weakness, it’s that the album spends so much time exploring the stylistic terrain of Wilco’s career to date that it never quite establishes an identity of its own. Plus, at 55 minutes and some change, Whole Love sags in its latter half. But man, “Art of Almost.” What a song

Has Wilco ever sequenced as perfect a coupling as “Art of Almost,” the band’s theme song, and the driving organ-pop number “I Might”? Those are 11 minutes to get lost in the music. The album ends with the 12-minute anti-epic “One Sunday Morning,” containing some of Jeff Tweedy’s best lyrics. You have to find your own meaning, but “One Sunday” seems inspired by a troubled father-son relationship, with Tweedy’s somber delivery over lovely piano accompaniment eventually leading to an understated jam that follows the tone of the proceedings. The album’s a little soft in the middle, but it includes a song that predicted Diamond Rugs (“Standing O”) and one (“Black Moon”) that cuts through Townes Van Zandt’s backyard on the way to the symphony.

Image result for WILCO – Troubadour Los Angeles ” 12th November 1996 poster

Last December Wilco issued a deluxe 4 CD edition of their classic 1996 album “Being There”. Among the treats of this version were discs 4 and 5: the first official release of their November 12th, 1996 performance at Los Angeles iconic Troubadour, previously held in common consensus as one of Wilco’s shortlist essential live recordings circulating among fans. Now Wilco is issuing Live At The Troubadour 11/12/96 on its own as a 2 LP set April 21, 2018 for Record Store Day. Rhino/Reprise will press 5000 copies in the US, 8500 worldwide, marking the first time it’ll be available on vinyl (and as a self-contained set on any format).

It includes the following tracks:

Tracklist :  Sunken Treasure, Red-Eyed And Blue, I Got You (At The End Of The Century), Someone Else’s Song, Someday Soon,
Forget The Flowers, New Madrid, I Must Be High, Passenger Side (Punk Version), Passenger Side, Hotel Arizona,
Monday, Say You Miss Me, Outtasite (Outta Mind), The Long Cut, Kingpin, Misunderstood, Far, Far Away,
Give Back The Key To My Heart,Gun,

 

Wilco - Star Wars

On July 16th, Wilco shocked their fans in the best way possible: by releasing Star Wars, the band’s first album in four years, for free on their website, with no advance warning. The album is Wilco’s best in at least a decade, full of loose, poppy rockers like “Random Name Generator” and “The Joke Explained.”  After recording the basic tracks himself in the Wilco loft in Chicago, frontman Jeff Tweedy brought in the other members of the band separately to play on them. The process has proved so productive that Tweedy says he’s already halfway finished with the next Wilco album. “I have a whole lot of material,” he says.

It’s kind of an extension of the thought process behind, I don’t know, staying in touch with some sort of wild energy as much as possible and some sort of an irreverence. But that painting of that cat hangs in the kitchen at the [Wilco] loft, and every day I’d look at it and go, “You know, that should just be the album cover.” Then I started thinking about the phrase “Star Wars” recontextualized against that painting — it was beautiful and jarring. The album has nothing to do with Star Wars. It just makes me feel good. It makes me feel limitless and like there’s still possibilities and still surprise in the world, you know?

“What’s more fun than a surprise?” Jeff Tweedy asked cheekily on instagram as he introduced us to Wilco‘s ninth studio album. In a year when fans of another Star Wars were being incessantly teased, this album dropped out of nowhere, no endless teaser trailers required. Instead it was free to download,

The album’s got a great sound—jagged guitar (courtesy Nels Cline), distorted vocals—but a critical shortage of great songs. “You Satellite” rules and “Random Name Generator” is formidable enough to make Jeff Tweedy feel like a shapeshifter rock star, but much of the album feels unfinished, like sketches for something that might’ve been great, a perception that’s fairly amplified by the album’s brief length and lazy title. The best thing you can say about Star Wars is that it injected some spontaneity, some aggression back into Wilco’s music. The album thrilled fans when it was surprise-released for free in 2015, following the longest gap between Wilco albums to date. But it’s already been eclipsed by the superior Schmilco. Wilco’s weakest effort isn’t bad at all, justwell, underwhelming

Kitsch kitty cover art and silly title aside, the fuzzed up, lean rock on Wilco’s most concise album in years took plenty of unexpected turns. Tweedy worked largely alone, the band adding the gloss and grit to finished arrangements and basic tracks. The result is at times wild and weird but always Wilco.