For the first time in its history, Wilco has gotten through three albums without a radical change in sound or lineup. Which means that the band can now call upon any style it has ever employed — and Jeff Tweedy’s current batch of songs, with the rough connecting theme of moving on after a personal shakeup, calls for all of those styles. Indeed, the opening “Art of Almost” covers the majority of Wilco’s career in 7 minutes: It begins with the chilly electronics of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, throws in a classically pop Summerteeth melody, then bursts into a joyous instrumental that lets guitarist Nels Cline dazzle. The elements are all familiar, but the arrangement is fresh and surprising. Same goes for the rest of the album, which often plays like a dialogue between Tweedy’s exuberant and withdrawn sides, as infectious pop tunes (including a touch of pure garage in “Standing O”) rub up against soul-baring ballads. The disc ends with a long turn inwards, as “One Sunday Morning” marks the band’s first extended track since A Ghost Is Born. No noise jam this time, though, just a subtle catharsis that needs 12 minutes to make its point.
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