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CD review: Wilco’s ‘The Whole Love’

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Annie Zaleski

The Details

Wilco
The Whole Love
three stars

Although Wilco’s 2002 magnum opus Yankee Hotel Foxtrot glittered with well-orchestrated studio dust, most tunes on the band’s last two albums, 2007’s Sky Blue Sky and 2009’s Wilco (The Album), came off much better live than they did on wax. The sextet’s latest continues that trend: While it’s the least-fussy record Wilco’s made since their rootsier ’90s days, its straightforward songs largely need the urgency of the stage to reach their full potential. (Notable exceptions: The groovy-organ-driven single “I Might” and “Standing O,” which meshes Who-like guitars with zippy power-pop keyboards.) Strummy, delicate tunes such as “Black Moon” and “Rising Red Lung” are pleasant but forgettable; the sing-songy “Whole Love” and classic pop song “Dawned On Me”—whose falsetto vocals and freewheeling rhythms hint at stomping soul—beg for the fleshed-out Wilco live experience. Most frustrating is that The Whole Love contains some truly lovely songs, which hint at more interesting directions: “Sunloathe” floats on a foundation of Beach Boys-like airiness, music-box piano and soundtrack-score sheen, while retro-minded “Capitol City” is a jazzy, ’60s-noir-ish jam. Better still is the seven-minute “Art Of Almost,” which starts with minimalist, burbling electronic perforations and climaxes with several minutes of pummeling, distorted noise. It's full of raucous energy and unfettered experimental glee, two things largely missing from The Whole Love.

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