With their eighth studio album, “The Whole Love,” Wilco continues to be on a roll, retaining their achy, alternative country rock sound and fueling chatter and praise. Formed in 1994 in the windy city of Chicago, Wilco has continued to fuse together many sub-genres to create a distinctive sound that is all their own. Their music has not gone unnoticed in the past 17 years; in 2005, Wilco managed to pick up two Grammy awards.
Fronted by Jeff Tweedy, this six-piece band has managed to stay together over the past decade and a half even after circulating through five members and being dropped from their label. “The Whole Love” is their first album produced by Wilco’s very own label, dBpm (short for decibels per minute).
Their newest album is filled with quintessential American music, as Wilco almost flawlessly incorporates new sounds into the mix while pairing the varying influences they’ve gathered from today’s music scene. With the opening track, “Art of Almost,” the electronic and haunting beats, coupled with Tweedy’s lyrical repetition, is a sharp contrast from anything they’ve produced before.
The departure from the classic Wilco sound is quickly reversed with “I Might,” the most upbeat track on the album, as Tweedy croons against a backdrop of strumming guitars and a catchy beat. As he sings “you won’t set the kids on fire,” you can’t help but be a little confused about the meaning of the song, but you nevertheless find yourself humming along as you walk to class.
Another winner from the album is “Dawned on Me.” Much like “I Might,” the song also comes with a catchy guitar riff but unlike “I Might,” “Dawned on Me” includes more understandable lyrics like “I can’t help it if I fall in love with you again / I’m calling just to let you know it dawned on me.” This song is the truest representation of Wilco: folksy, rock, and just a little bit hopeful.
Other up-tempo songs on the album include “Whole Love” and “Capitol City,” which both sound like songs that one could easily skip along to.
But with these cheery songs, “The Whole Love” also includes some heavier songs like “Open Mind,” “Sunloathe” and “Black Moon” which all include the familiar melancholic riffs and emotional lyrics and crooning.
“One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend),” the most country song on the album, begins with a soft introduction of guitars that lead into Tweedy’s woeful voice. As Tweedy sings about a Sunday morning, it’s easy to imagine driving down a dusty Midwestern road, surrounded by open fields and farmland.
The track that sounds the most out of track on the album, “Standing O” begins with a loud and angsty guitar riff that is more reminiscent of a Blink-182 song rather than something from Wilco. The mesh of varying sounds and musical influences is a sharp contrast to the preceding album, “Wilco (The Album),” which was full of acoustic guitar melodies and bursts of country inspired electric guitar riffs. Wilco’s new album happens to break this self-established mold with songs like “Art of Almost” and “Standing O” with the incorporation of electronic beats and angsty guitars, respectively.
With the two bursts of new sounds and the continuation of old ones, “The Whole Love” is an album that shows Wilco’s commitment to expanding the American genre of rock while still managing to remain true to themselves with the album’s melancholic guitar riffs and folksy melodies. Although the album seems to continue along with Wilco’s traditional sounds, Tweedy and company wandered into the realm of attempting to expand their sound which overall resulted in a strong album with some minor bumps along the way.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5