There’s a lot happening in the music world, and we here at Heavy Blog try our very best to keep up with it! Like the vast majority of heavy music fans, our tastes are incredibly vast, with our 3X3s in each Playlist Update typically covering numerous genres and sometimes a different style in each square. While we have occasionally covered non-metal topics in past blog posts, we decided that a dedicated column was warranted in order to more completely recommend all of the music that we have been listening to. Unmetal Monday is a bi-weekly column which covers noteworthy tracks and albums from outside the metal universe, and we encourage you all to share your favorite non-metal picks from the week in the comments. As is tradition, we’ll be highlighting albums and tracks that struck our fancy over the past few weeks. Head past the jump to dial down the distortion:
Wilco – Ode to Joy
Chicago’s Wilco have been a favorite of mine for over 15 years. Their live show at Red Rocks supporting their self-titled record is still one of my favorite concerts I’ve attended, and at least three of their records have a place on my top 50 all-time list. But it’s been a few years since the band made a record that, to me, felt like it needed to be made. Sure, Star Wars and Schmilco certainly have their charms, but neither packed the urgent punch of The Whole Love or matched the stately beauty of Sky Blue Sky. It’s been a hit-and-miss decade-plus for the alt rock legends, which makes their 11th full-length record, Ode to Joy, all the more special. Understated, lush, meticulously composed and filled to the brim with sincerity, it’s one of the most essential releases of their career.
Opener “Bright Leaves” feels like an amalgamation of the sparse, woozy instrumental experimentation found on The Whole Love and the insular lyrical themes of A Ghost Is Born without ever sacrificing the feeling that it’s a work all its own. Guitars sputter and skip around Glenn Kotche’s deliberate beat-making, which has on a sonic level never sounded so crisp and vibrant. Jeff Tweedy’s vocals and lyrics, fresh off his outstanding solo work, are also a highlight of the track, feeling revitalized and filled with a new intention and energy. “Before Us” displays his dismal perspectives on modern socio-political life with distinct memorability, while his ever-present and subtle sense of humor rears its beautiful head in the Yelp-reminiscent “One and a Half Stars”. He’s back in top form, and it’s a joyous site to behold. The rest of the band excels throughout the record as well, particularly Nels Cline, who takes advantage of his more sparse opportunities to shine, churning out beautifully complimentary guitar lines throughout. “Quiet Amplifier” and “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” not only display Clines incomparable skills as a musician, but are two of the best tracks the band has ever written. In short, it’s everything fans of Wilco could ask for.
Ode to Joy is going to end up on my year-end list without a doubt. How high only time can determine. It’s been a long while since I’ve felt this transfixed by a Wilco record, and I’ve got to say that it feels good. The band are operating at a level of cohesion and creative chemistry that few bands achieve, and it’s certainly a sight to behold. If you’re a fan of American rock music or Wilco in general, don’t skip out on Ode to Joy, their best record since The Whole Love.