Last week the indie rock world received a wonderful surprise. One of the true titans of modern music, known for reinventing their sound and never disappointing their audience, have done it again. Wilco’s ninth studio album was released without any prior announcement as a free download on their website (and it’s still available so go get it now). I couldn’t help but be puzzled when I popped over to the Wilco website and was greeted by a large, white, blinking cat and the heavily copyrighted words “Star Wars” covering my screen. I downloaded the album and began to listen to a collection of songs that was equally as unexpected as the title and cover. I still haven’t quite come to terms with what Star Wars is, but I know that I love it.
All Wilco fans know to expect the unexpected when this band releases something new. One of the aspects that makes Wilco one of my all-time favourites is that while I enjoy some of their albums over others, no album in their catalogue is obsolete. That being said, what are the characteristics that separates Star Wars from the rest of their work? For the most part, I think that this album could be described as abrupt. The eclectic guitar lines, the sudden explosions into full-bodied passages, and punchy chords and riffs all make the album feel sudden, yet calculated. The use of twin harmonized electric guitars all over the album is a new focus for their music. There is a feeling of controlled chaos in the production through distortion, spastic layering, and elements severely panning between speakers. Overall, the bright mood of The Whole Love has carried over into Star Wars, making it a happily frantic record.
I only have two complaints about Star Wars: First, it is by a long shot Wilco’s shortest album. Clocking in at just under 34 minutes, I always feel that I’m arriving at the gorgeous ending tune, “Magnetized”, too soon. Second, I feel that Star Wars is missing one of the captivating ballads that are one of Wilco’s trademarks. That being said, Wilco’s ballads are always the last songs on their albums to really click with me, so it might just be a matter of time before “Where do I Begin” hits that spot.
Star Wars is yet another strong addition to the Wilco repertoire, so don’t miss it! If you’re not a Wilco fan already, I highly recommend trying any of their albums out, I’m sure at least one of them will suit your fancy.