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Wilco — Star Wars (August 21, 2015)

Wilco — Star Wars (August 21, 2015)

                     Wilco — Star Wars (August 21, 2015)                                    Ξ   Critically acclaimed Chicago band initially connected to the No Depression neo–country scene, later emerging as an experimental–pop powerhouse.
Formed: 1994 in Chicago, IL
Location: Chicago, IL
Album release: August 21, 2015 / November 27 (Vinyl)
Record Label: Anti / dBpm Records
Duration:     33:45
01. EKG     1:16
02. More...     2:44
03. Random Name Generator     3:50
04. The Joke Explained     2:33
05. You Satellite     5:17
06. Taste the Ceiling     3:15
07. Pickled Ginger     2:30
08. Where Do I Begin     2:55
09. Cold Slope     3:11
10. King of You     2:41
11. Magnetized     3:40
Current members
Ξ   Jeff Tweedy — lead vocals, rhythm, acoustic and lead guitars, bass, harmonica (1994–present)
Ξ   John Stirratt — bass, backing vocals (1994–present)
Ξ   Glenn Kotche — drums, percussion (2000–present)
Ξ   Mikael Jorgensen — Samples and Sound Manipulation (2002–2004), keyboards, synthesizers, effects, piano, organ (2004–present)
Ξ   Nels Cline — lead guitar, loops, lap steel (2004–present)
Ξ   Pat Sansone — keyboards, rhythm and lead guitars, backing vocals, synthesizers, maracas, tambourine (2004–present)                                                                                     Credits:
•→   Tamara Barrett Original Paintings
•→   Deb Bernardini Publicity
•→   Paul Boswell Booking
•→   Brandy Breaux~Simkins Management
•→   Nels Cline Composer, Group Member
•→   Ashwin Deepankar Technical Assistance
•→   Jared Dottorelli Technical Assistance
•→   Stan Doty Technical Assistance
•→   Eric Frankhouser Technical Assistance
•→   Josh Goldsmith Technical Assistance
•→   Mark Greenberg Assistant, Design
•→   Josh Grier Legal Advisor
•→   Leslie Yeh Johnson Booklet Preparation
•→   Mikael Jorgensen Composer, Group Member
•→   Glenn Kotche Composer, Group Member
•→   Benjamin Levin Management
•→   Bob Ludwig Mastering
•→   Matrix MacNamara Technical Assistance
•→   Tony Margherita Management
•→   Ryan Marian Management
•→   Scott McCaughey Composer, Mellotron, Piano
•→   Jan Mengeling Technical Assistance
•→   Ashley “Pk” Mogayzel Technical Assistance
•→   Crystal Myers Management
•→   Andy Nemcik Technical Assistance
•→   Zoran Orlic Photography
•→   Jon Orwant Booklet Preparation
•→   Lance Powell Technical Assistance
•→   Frank Riley Booking
•→   Jeremy Roth Technical Assistance
•→   Sheila Sachs Design
•→   Patrick Sansone Group Member
•→   Tom Schick Engineer, Mixing, Producer
•→   John Stirratt Group Member
•→   Warner Swain Technical Assistance
•→   Jeff Tweedy Composer, Design, Engineer, Group Member, Mixing, Producer
•→   Spencer Tweedy Percussion
•→   Wilco Composer
•→   John “Woody” Woodland Technical Assistance
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming;  Score: ****
•→   Wilco’s 11th studio album, Star Wars, opens with “EKG,” a 1:16 burst of skronky guitars that sounds like a few capable grad students imitating early Sonic Youth after a few beers, and if it seems like a goofy way to kick off the record, that’s a big part of the album’s charm. Wilco released Star Wars as a free download on July 16, 2015 with no advance notice (a day later, the band announced that the physical release would hit stores on August 21), and the element of surprise fits the playful, casual nature of the album. Where Wilco (The Album) and The Whole Love were enthusiastic but artful and crafted with care, Star Wars feels like an album full of experiments and happy accidents, 11 songs where the group members gathered in their rehearsal spot, rolled tape, and let their muse do what it will. Which is not to say Star Wars comes off as sloppy or uncertain; Jeff Tweedy’s songs are a bit more angular than usual, but the melodies are typically strong and engaging (and often sweeter than their delivery suggests at first glance), and they give the performances a solid backbone. The relatively open spaces of these songs give Tweedy and lead guitarist Nels Cline more room to move than they’ve traditionally allowed themselves in the studio, and the ringing and buzzing patterns that provide the beds for “You Satellite” and “Pickled Ginger” (as well as the reverse tape loops on “Where Do I Begin”) are the work of a band happy to tinker with its traditional framework. (And drummer Glenn Kotche does a splendid job of holding the various elements in place while adding thoughtful shade and color of his own.) Wilco rock with easygoing but real enthusiasm on tunes like “Random Name Generator” and “King of You” (both of which feature fuzz guitar that would do T. Rex proud), and if there are introspective moments in “Magnetized” and “Taste the Ceiling,” compared to the contemplations of life and death on Sukierae (which Jeff Tweedy recorded with his son Spencer under the group name Tweedy), these songs find the group’s leader on more comfortable ground, and the tone of Star Wars is that of some good friends tossing ideas against the wall and discovering that a surprising number of them stick. If the noisy sense of play was meant to be therapy for Jeff Tweedy and his bandmates, it seems to have worked; it has been quite some time since Wilco seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as they do here, and handing it out for free makes Star Wars feel a bit like a boombox rehearsal tape passed along to some friends, only with a great songwriter, a world~class band, and a seasoned recording engineer standing in for those beery college kids and a cheap cassette machine.  •→   http://www.allmusic.com/

Ξ   After four years of vault–emptying archival releases and scattered retrospective tours, Wilco got back to business on Thursday night and owned the Internet (music division) for a few hours. Their first album of new material since 2011 suggested the random appearance of a long–lost relative at the front door, unshaven, slouching, hands in pockets, but bearing gifts in his backpack from years of secret labor.
Ξ   Wilco made its 11th studio album, “Star Wars” (dBpm), available on its wilcoworld.net website without fanfare. It arrives with its own inscrutable white Cheshire cat on the cover and an apparently tongue–in–cheek title. It’ll take a few more listens, at least, to parse how cover image and album title link to the music, and the music itself carries its own puzzle–piece refusal to be instantly figured out. It’s strange, grimy and alluring in a way that a Wilco album hasn’t been in a decade.
Ξ   It’s difficult not to hear this album as an extension of the relaxed intimacy of the “Tweedy” debut album that Wilco singer Jeff Tweedy recorded with his son Spencer Tweedy on drums last year. At the time, Jeff Tweedy contrasted the family project to the more complex “committee” approach of recent Wilco albums, and how that led to more drawn-out recording sessions.
Ξ   But nothing sounds particularly labored or fussy on “Star Wars.” Many of the songs blend messy guitars, recessed vocals and deceptively off–the–cuff arrangements. The 11 tracks, which zip past in 34 minutes, suggest a smart combination of live takes and studio-as-instrument experimentation. There’s nothing pristine or particularly clean about these sounds — and it’s thrilling to hear Wilco’s musicians (including virtuosos such as guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Glenn Kotche) so off–handed in their interplay, so unconcerned about how pristine or pure their tones might sound.
Ξ   A terse instrumental, “EKG,” makes it instantly apparent that it’s not business as usual with its skewed, distressed guitars and off–kilter drums bringing back fond memories of the late, great Chicago art–punks U.S. Maple. “More…” swims with sighing vocals and woozy keyboards, punctuated by guitar fills that sound like cats in an alley fight, before a wave of noise overtakes everything.
Ξ   The run of random violence and beauty continues over the next handful of songs. Ξ   Low voices rumble and guitars agitate on “Random Name Generator,” all dense and menacing. “I kinda like it when I make you cry,” Tweedy sings. He adopts a Dylan–esque cadence and mirthful drawl on “The Joke Explained,” and “You Satellite” becomes a tangle of guitars and chaotic drums. “Taste the Ceiling” offers a bit more clarity, almost a straight up folk melody, with a foreboding undertow. “Why do our disasters creep so slowly into view,” the singer asks.
Ξ   This is an album full of trap doors and trick turns, disguising songs that probably would sound just fine on a lone acoustic guitar. But that also would come off as predictable and boring. This album isn’t that. “Pickled Ginger” (great title that) finishes a thrilling opening rush with subterranean guitars, episodic drums and sonar–blip keyboards. Tweedy gets his falsetto Prince on and the guitars sound like they’re being sucked backward into a worm hole.
Ξ   After that, the ride smooths out a bit, but the album finishes strong with a relatively subdued grace note. “Magnetized” has a quirky, baroque pop sensibility with fake strings, orchestral drumming (a nice nod to the late–Beatles era tastefulness of Ringo Starr) and what sounds like a musical saw — imagine an operatic soprano belting it out with lots of reverb.
Ξ   Final note: It’s impossible to assess an album this thick with twists and turns in a few hours. But at this early stage, it feels rich enough to reward more listens.
Ξ   Star Wars is the Grammy–award winning band’s ninth studio album and its first since 2011’s The Whole Love. The album is available for free download for 30 days via wilcoworld.net and anti.com, as well as through iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Digital. It is also available through traditional streaming services including Spotify, Apple Music and Rdio.
Website: http://wilcoworld.net/
Picture: Wilco at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Solid Sound Fest, 2011. Pictured left to right: Patrick Sansone, Mikael Jorgensen, Jeff Tweedy, Nels Cline, Glenn Kotche, John Stirratt Author Austin Nelson

Wilco — Star Wars (August 21, 2015)