Every Friday until June 26th, Hightower and Jones will review an album from Wilco's catalog to celebrate Wilco's seventh studio release, Wilco (The Album) (in stores June 30th). With all formalities out of the way, let continue with...
Wilco's sixth studio album steps away from experiments and and returns the band to roots minus the heavy Country stylings of that period.
Sky Blue Sky is a very interesting album but not for the reasons that made the last three albums interesting. Gone are the experimentations with sound and overdubbing as is the flirtation with Pop. Also, since this is a new lineup, this album, much like every Wilco album, has a different feel than the previous one. What makes it so interesting? It's the most straightforward album the band had recorded since A.M. That's it. It's a very simple album and, given the last three releases, it's a strange record because it's so simple.
The one noticable thing about this album is the guitar. Nels Cline takes over on lead guitar and brings back the one thing really missing from the last two albums ("Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and "A Ghost Is Born"), interesting guitarwork. Not to criticize or look down on the playing of those records but after Summerteeth, the guitar took a backseat to songs that were overall more interesting than its parts at time. The work on 2004's A Ghost Is Born was interesting to hear what Tweedy would come up with as lead guitarist for the first time in the band's history. While interesting, it was more experimental and was far from the sound and performances Jay Bennett brought to the album. Nels Cline does what Bennett did and lots more. On a musical standpoint, he combines his sound with that of Bennett and former multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston to make the perfect Wilco guitar sound. Every solo serves a purpose and isn't for aimless noodling.
One of the standout tracks on the record is simple in both lyrics and instrumentation which leads to its beauty. "What Light" is a great inspirational song about believing in yourself and not letting anyone change your mind. It's set to beautiful instrumentation featuring lap guitar and some nice drumwork. "Impossible Germany" is the most reminiscent of the previous two albums with its guitarwork and overall mellowness of the song. It sounds and feels like a leftover from "A Ghost Is Born."
There's not much too say about this album other than if you really enjoyed the three previous albums then you might be very disappointed with this set of songs and a lot of people were. On the other hand, if you found those albums to be too much and wanted the band to scale back their sound, then this record is perfect for you. Either way, it's a good album and worth a few listens (one for the intial shock of a stripped down Wilco after several years of experimentations and a second to appreciate the album). Join Hightower and Jones next week when television is kicked in a live setting.
"You Are My Face"
"Hate It Here"
Buy Sky Blue Sky here.