Throughout the past two-plus decades Wilco has won multiple Grammy Awards, released 11 studio albums, as well as a trio of albums with Billy Bragg penning music to lyrics by Woody Guthrie. They have founded their own record label (dBpm Records) and festival (Solid Sound). This year saw them curating Sky Blue Sky, a destination concert experience in Mexico, for the first time. The Chicago sextet continues to be regarded as a live powerhouse, as described by NPR “To see Wilco on stage is to hear the best of the best.” The band’s newest album, Ode To Joy, was released fall 2019.
Wilco return with Ode to Joy, out October 4th via dBpm Records. Ode to Joy comes three-plus years after the release of the “world-weary, wheezy – and wonderfully warm” (The Guardian) Schmilco, and encourages the act of finding joy in a dark political climate. The album presents a unique rhythm track and a minimalist instrumentation, with lyrics at once observant, hopeful, morbid, tolerant, and abstract. “Love is Everywhere (Beware),” the album’s extrospective lead single, is an upbeat, guitar-driven track that explores the dual joy and threat of a community focused on love. Jeff Tweedy discusses it below.
“There MUST be more love than hate. Right?! I’m not always positive we can be so sure. In any case, I’m starting to feel like being confident in that equation isn’t always the best motivation for me to be my best self – it can kind of let me off the hook a little bit when I think I should be striving to contribute more love outside of my comfortable sphere of family and friends.So. . . I guess the song is sort of a warning to myself that YES, Love IS EVERYWHERE, but also BEWARE! I can’t let that feeling absolve me of my duty to create more.”
Following his two solo albums, WARM and WARMER, and memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), Tweedy gathered Wilco to The Loft in Chicago. While all six members of the band can be heard on every song, Tweedy and Glenn Kotche were the launching pad from which most of the songs on Ode to Joy materialized – Kotche’s percussion propels the music forward while Tweedy’s measured words flesh out the cleared paths. As a result, the album is comprised of “really big, big folk songs, these monolithic, brutal structures that these delicate feelings are hung on,” as described by Tweedy. Across the entire album, drums pound and plod with a steady one–two pulse, meant to mimic the movement of marching—a powerful act utilized on both sides of the authoritarian wall. There’s also a sense of comfort that comes with the rhythmic marching sound.
Whether our joy is measured by sparks felt when clutching old sweaters to our chests, by the number of tiny digital hearts earned from a shared photograph, by a guitar solo or a drumbeat or a piece of cotton on a stick in your ear, or by something even greater, Wilco wants to sincerely remind us to wear that feeling loud and proud. This is Ode to Joy: pick it up, hold it tight.