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Wilco surprise dropped their ninth album for free last week, and it certainly sounds like a Wilco album: it’s got all the sonic beauty the band is known for, from razor-sharp, twitchy sound blasts to slow-blossoming rollers and many things in between, pulled together tightly with sparkling production by front man Jeff Tweedy and Tom Schick. It’s also the best Wilco album in a minute, and that’s largely due to its leanness (the run time is just over 30 minutes) and masterfully arranged pop tunes.
Opener EKG kicks things off with near-unbearable noise that leaves you wondering if Star Wars was a joke release, but quickly gives way to the organic groove of More… Centrepiece You Satellite — the only tune over five minutes — features a shimmering, gorgeous swell that eases you into the record’s superior second half, and showcases songwriter Tweedy’s gift for taking simple arrangements and ideas and making them feel extraordinary and heartbreaking, as he does on Taste The Ceiling and Where Do I Begin. The album’s highlight is saved for last, though: the psych-influenced, weirdo-pop love song Magnetized. Wilco hasn’t put out a straight-up pop record this great since 1999’s Summerteeth, and Star Wars should allow them to rightfully sidestep the recent “dad-rock” accusations.
Top Track: Magnetized
Wilco perform at the Toronto Urban Roots Festival at Fort York Garrison Common on September 19. See listing.