Wilco's ninth album, Star Wars, was a happy, out-of-nowhere surprise, like long-lost friends from high school, ­crumpled dollar bills in coat ­pockets or Beyoncé's air-dropped 2013 LP. On July 16, the Chicago legends unceremoniously released the set with no advance notice or ­promotion on their website, an atypical move for a storied alt-rock fixture that in recent years has been labeled, often pejoratively, as so-called "dad rock." But the album's music offers a ­different ­perspective of Wilco: It's the group's most ­energetic, adventurous music in years.

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