First impressions of new Wilco CD

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It’s streaming now at http://wilcoworld.net/discs/thealbum/, and I just listened to it for the first time. Here are my snap impressions of the songs. My opinions are bound to change as I listen more. I’ve been a fan of Wilco since the beginning, but I was disappointed with the group’s previous record, Sky Blue Sky — not a bad record, but one that simply failed to excite me the way previous releases had. So far, Wilco (The Album) sounds like a stronger effort.

Track 1: “Wilco (the song)” — The record opens with a nice blast of the rollicking pop sound that Wilco used to have, back in the days of Summerteeth and Being There. The whole idea of doing a song called “Wilco (the song)” seems a little silly, but the track makes a good first impression.

Track 2: “Deeper Down” — This is one of those quiet Wilco songs where Jeff Tweedy sings in a gentle, sensitive tone. The song has some ornate touches, including strings and a harpsichord-like keyboards, but the arrangement feels spare, and the tempo is surprisingly quick.

Track 3: “One Wing” — Some cool guitar work by Nels Cline, a lulling chorus. The blend of Tweedy’s songwriting and the guitar flourishes here feel like a perfected version of what the band was trying to do on the last album, Sky Blue Sky.

Track 4: “Bull Black Nova” — The song starts out all staccato, with Tweedy singing about a car as a piano ticks off repeatedly. There’s something about this that sounds like the 1970s, but then the track veers into some strong guitar soloing — is that a guitar duet between Kline and Tweedy? The song builds into a stranger piece than it seemed at first, like a simple little ditty that’s become an art-rock epic.

Track 5: “You and I” — A classic-sounding Tweedy acoustic ballad. Just a touch of guitar wankery at the end, as the track fades out.

Track 6: “You Never Know” — More of that 1970s feeling, a pop song with a chorus that sounds like something Harry Nilsson might have done, with a touch of George Harrison slide guitar at one point.

Track 7: “Disappeared” — Tweedy softly singing high notes over a subtle arrangement with piano as the lead instrument. The chorus has a wistful air that reminds me of “Jesus Etc.”

Track 8: “Solitaire” Acoustic guitar and space-rock keyboard sounds blend together in a beautiful opening. Tweedy sings an instantly catchy melody with lyrics that are probably going to stick in my mind as well: “Once I thought the world was crazy…”

Track 9: “I’ll Fight” — Starts off like a solo acoustic folk song, but then the band kicks in and Tweedy chants an insistent, simple melody. Feels a bit like an anthem, but it’s tamped down, without the fist-pumping chorus it could have had.

Track 10: “Sonny Feeling” — An upbeat track, with the sort of shifting instrumentation that Wilco’s big ensemble of musicians can pull off like few other bands.

Track 11: “Everlasting Everything” — Tweedy sings, “Everything alive must die…” Touches of George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass”? This has the feel of a big album-closing ballad. The record ends with just a little bit of psychedelic guitar with that backwards-sounding sound.

Overall, a good first impression. But I doubt if Wilco (The Album) will become the Wilco album that defines the band for me.

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