One of the best things about Wilco is that, while they have always had a distinct sound, they have never been confined to one particular genre. They have been a little bit rock, a little bit punk, a little country, and even a little metal. Never has their sound on one album been more undefined, though, than on their newest and first self released album, “The Whole Love.” Jeff Tweedy, the band’s lead singer, describes the new album as jumping between “snot-nosed obnoxious pop songs… and more languid, atmospheric-country music.” This hardly seems appealing, but while “The Whole Love” is not Wilco’s best album (that award still belongs to “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”), it does benefit from a more confident and relaxed band.
That is not to say the album is relaxed. The opener, “Art of Almost,” is anything but. It may even turn some listeners off immediately, but let the song play the full seven minutes and the experimental introduction is given some context. The song is engaging and unpredictable, breaking into a refreshing instrumental build up five minutes in that is sure to captivate the listener’s full attention. It is not the best song on the new album, but is one of the more interesting ones. The second song, “I Might” sounds more like the Wilco of recent albums, featuring Tweedy’s voice, an upbeat tempo, and an unrefined guitar backing.
The rest of the album mimics the tone set by the first two songs, with sections of the always experimental, boundary-pushing Wilco, followed by moments of more relatable catchy riffs. The album itself, though, seems like more of a representation of Wilco than any of the previous ones. This is probably a result of Wilco having greater control with their own new label. One of the songs is even entitled “I Love My Label.” Songs like “Born Alone” and the title song “Whole Love” are thoroughly enjoyable and musically interesting. “Capitol City” shines under what is clearly country influences. The album ends on an ambitious note, with “Black Moon.” The song is not quite as impressive as “Art of Almost,” but is a climatic way to end an impressive album.
For a band that has released seven albums, each of them unique and surprising in their own right, it is hard to imagine an eighth album with any new material. It is true that “The Whole Love” is not Wilco’s most innovative album. Instead, it is an album that shows off their experience. Every song shows another side of Wilco and every listen reveals some new detail added to spice up the song. The album is not legendary like “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” but it might be a little more enjoyable.