Wilco revisits the unpredictable leanings of “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” and “A Ghost Is Born” on its latest project, “Wilco (The Album),” due June 30 from Nonesuch. The 11-track set was produced by the band with Jim Scott, who mixed 2007’s “Sky Blue Sky.”
Whereas that album reveled in a cohesive, laidback vibe and toned down the experimentation of its two predecessors, musically, “Wilco (The Album)” offers a little bit of everything while making good on frontman Jeff Tweedy’s stated goal to use “the studio as another instrument.”
That approach is best heard on the nearly six-minute “Bull Black Nova,” which is built on a pulsating rhythm akin to “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” from “A Ghost Is Born” and is layered with clattering piano and unhinged, interlocking guitar workouts.
Elsewhere, Wilco offers up unusual song structures on the gauzy “Deeper Down,” which has short verses that come to a full stop and a wealth of sonic details in its nooks and crannies.
The gripping “One Wing” builds from a quiet introductory section to a strident, arena-worthy stomper, while strings and horns color the majestic final portion of album closer “Everlasting.” Premiered last year on “The Colbert Report,” opener “Wilco the Song” is a humorous, self-referential rocker with the reminder that even when life gets you down, “Wilco will love you, baby.”
Fans of Wilco’s more straightforward side will revel in “You and I,” a gorgeous duet between Tweedy and Feist about the simple pleasures of love. Also in this vein are the hushed, largely acoustic “Solitaire” and the stately, harmony-rich “Country Disappeared.”
Rounding out the album, “You Never Know” is a flashback to the ebullient pop/rock of 1999’s “Summerteeth,” while “Sonny Feeling” kicks out a groovy, slide guitar-laden jam that would fit nicely alongside “Walken” from “Sky Blue Sky.”
Feist also plays percussion with Wilco on a non-album cover of Woody Guthrie’s “The Jolly Banker,” which is available for download on WilcoWorld.net. The band is asking fans to donate a minimum of $2 when they download the song, with all proceeds going to the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives. Wilco and Billy Bragg previously recorded two albums worth of unreleased Guthrie songs under the banner “Mermaid Avenue.”
Wilco will be featuring new “Wilco (The Album)” material on its summer tour, which begins May 23 in Tenerife, Spain, and hits the U.S. beginning June 12 in Cincinnati. Dates are on tap through Aug. 27 in Dublin.