Monday, May 21, 2007

Review of Sky Blue Sky

How much do I love Wilco? So much I have driven to and from Chicago in the same day to see them play. (Remember those days G and PL?)

How much do I love the new album Sky Blue Sky?

Watch this promo for the new album and read on.

With any new album I have to listen to it quite a bit before I make any judgment calls. A lot of times I find myself changing my mind after a few more listens. Such was the case with this album.

At first I thought the album got off to too slow of a start. I'm accustomed to the Wilco slow start, but usually they build up to some kind of jam at the end of the first song, such as "At Least That's What You Said" on A Ghost Is Born and "I'm Trying To Break Your Heart" on Yankee. The beginning of Sky Blue Sky is mellow, calm, and reminiscent of the older alt-country albums like Being There.

In other words, this album is much different from the experimental-ness of the previous two studio albums, which has its pros and cons.

Pros: The slow start works really well. It accumulates energy and builds up to something really meaningful at the end, which makes perfect sense. In a sense, the album is more like a book than a album. It's a story of "real" relationships, not the "I'm Always In Love" kind. Essentially, this album as a lot more maturity and an accurate portrayal of adulthood melllow-ness than earlier albums.

Also, Sky Blue Sky has beautiful music composition and instrumentation. The arrangement of the songs have the same complexity as the experimental albums, but they are way less noisy. These songs are poppy, jazzy, and tight. One example is the jam at the end of "Impossible Germany," which is artistically controlled and very skilled. "Side With The Seeds" has a really nice jazzy vibe. And the playing is solid. You can hear it in the turns and building melodies and layers. Great stuff.

Con: THE LYRICS. I think of Wilco and I think AWESOME lyrics. This album is not so lyrical. I wonder if publishing a poetry book (Adult Head) exhausted Tweedy's talent with words. Sure, there are the fab songs with fab lyrics like "Hate It Here" and "Either Way," but even then they're a bit shallow compared to the philosophical A Ghost Is Born. I want a Wilco album that has lyrics that make me think and rethink each time I hear it; I want to get something new out of the lyrics each time I hear them. Sky Blue Sky has pretty lyrics, but nothing I'd call exceptional. The more I listen to the album, the more I find myself getting the most from the music, not the lyrics. "Please Be Patient with Me" is a lovely little song, but it's no "Say You Miss Me."

As I mentioned earlier, I may have a whole new perspective on the album in six months. But for now, right here in this moment, I'd have to give it three and a half Hello Kittys.

I'm glad Wilco's applying what they learned from their more experimental albums to their old school alt-country-ness. However, I think this is a transition album for one that more beautifully weds music and lyrics. The pacing of the album is right on and definitely fits this album's relationship theme, but I kind of wish there were a few more rockers, a little more humor and wit, and a bit more angst like on "Walken." It's a great album, I'm just not blown away--yet. Of course, it took me six months to realize what a genius Sufjan Stevens is...

My fav song: "Hate It Here." C'mon, cleaning references and nice electric guitar solos--so me!

Watch the video for their song "What Light," see what you think and let me know.

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