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Wilco: Album by Album

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Parachute Woman, May 11, 2020.

  1. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Thank you, Mark, for continuing to do this.
  2. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product

    My pleasure mate. I always try and follow through. It's just annoying that I seem to have so little time at the moment
    Rockford & Roll, jalexander and Zeki like this.
  3. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    I’ll have to scout out what your latest project is (as we’re getting close to the end here). Heep, then Wilco...what’ll be next for me?! (I can only concentrate on one massive thread at a time).
    mark winstanley likes this.
  4. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product

    I went back home for the most recent thread. Inxs is getting a run. Probably won't be a huge thread but that alright :)
    After The Who thread is finished I have had a lot of requests to run a Bob Seger thread, and that is probably going to be ... idk, sometime in the new year?
    Rockford & Roll, jdrueke and Zeki like this.
  5. jalexander

    jalexander Forum Resident

    I revisited the Showbiz Kids soundtrack tonight. It’s largely minute-long instrumentals in the Warm(er) vein, but overall more accessible than the instrumentals on Chelsea Walls. Where Chelsea Walls felt like Jeff really learning to go it alone (with new collaborator Glenn along for the ride), and seeing just how experimental he could be, Showbiz Kids feels like something he could do in his sleep. And that’s something I don’t mean in a negative way. I think it’s quite something to consider what an accomplished songwriter, musician, and producer Jeff has become. It’s a long way from “the other guy in Uncle Tupelo” who wrote Screen Door!

    I’ll highlight a couple tracks beyond the excellent At A Distance posted earlier. The first hints at Gwendolyn, which we’ll cover before long:
  6. jalexander

    jalexander Forum Resident

    And this one feels like the emotional core of the soundtrack. A bit like an acoustic version of Quiet Amplifier:
  7. jalexander

    jalexander Forum Resident

    And I now realize @Fortuleo mentioned At a Distance, but didn’t link the video. It’s worth hearing - reminds me of the Warm outtake Life Story:
  8. palisantrancho

    palisantrancho Forum Resident

    Thanks for sharing. I like all of these. "At A Distance" would have been a highlight on Love Is The King. We don't have to worry about Jeff running out of songs. The melody is similar to "I'll Sing It".
    Parachute Woman and jalexander like this.
  9. Rainy Taxi

    Rainy Taxi The Art of Almost

    I really like "At a Distance" a lot. I think it's right up there with anything from Love is the King. I don't know why exactly — there's nothing that unique about it in the Tweedy-verse. It just has a dreamy quality that really hits the spot for me. I've listened to the whole Showbiz Kids soundtrack on Spotify a couple of times and actually enjoyed it. Some cool musical ideas that could have had potential being fleshed out into full songs. But "At a Distance" is the standout by far.

    "Tell Your Friends" is a nice novelty lockdown song, but it's definitely not a direction I'd like to see Wilco take with the next full album of material.

    I agree "It's a Whisper" would have fit well on Love is the King, judging by the Tweedy Show performance anyway. Like most people here, I've never heard the studio version. There was another Tweedy Show song I liked that didn't make the album called "I'd Rather Be Alone." I think there might be a studio version of that one out there as a vinyl-only B-side or something. Has anyone heard it?

    "All Lives You Say" is another good one. A seemingly out of nowhere track that proves how great a songwriter Jeff is and how effortless it is to make such a great track for the band. Like @robcar said, sometimes Jeff does get a little overly wrapped up in writing about his family and especially Susie (there's one in particular on the new album that is just too cloying for me), so it's nice when he takes on a different subject and makes observations about the world like this.
  10. wavethatflag

    wavethatflag Way up in the middle of the air

    Pacifica, CA
    Exactly. But if he did do that, would I like the album? That is the question.:D
  11. Rockford & Roll

    Rockford & Roll Forum Resident

    Midway, KY
    Thanks Mark. I dropped in on the AC/DC from time to time and The Who thread in the same fashion. I'll look for the Inxs-good memories of seeing them live and I only have an old cassette from back in the day. I'll be all over the Seger thread. I am particularly interested in the pre-hit era with the hard to find albums. Now back to Wilco!
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  12. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    We've made it all the way to the most recent album out of Camp Tweedy! I can't believe that things are slowing to an end. Of course, Wilco and Jeff are still active entities, so who knows when we will have new stuff to add to the end of our massive thread?

    Love is the King

    Released: October 23, 2020 (digital)

    Recorded in April 2020 following the cancellation of Wilco's 2020 tour due to COVID-19, Love is the King joins a special group of 2020 "lockdown" albums, all of which were made by artists during a global pandemic when in-person touring was no longer possible. With all the playing done by Jeff with his two sons Spencer and Sammy, this could have easily been credited as the second Tweedy album, but he went with an individual name credit. As of this writing, Love is the King is still not released on physical media, though that is scheduled for January 2021.

    In the press release for the album, Jeff stated that he had begun writing country songs, finding that this style of music was suited to his mood. The result is easily the most country-flavored album since Being There, in my opinion. Featuring eleven songs that run a range of emotion from sentimentality to sarcasm, it's another homespun and personal effort from Jeff that showcases the ease with which he can now write songs--and good songs, too. Rather than turning in something maudlin during a year that has been tough on pretty much everyone, Jeff hands in an album that is often winking slyly and always displaying his caring heart. Having spent much of the pandemic producing the Tweedy Show on Instagram with his family from his house, Jeff feels closer than ever to the fanbase. Whether this is a good thing or not is perhaps up to the individual.

    The album received mostly good reviews in the B / 7 out of 10 range. Paste wrote, "Like Warm and Warmer, Tweedy's requires a bit of patience to crack open. The songs tend to seep in slowly, but it's worth the effort to burrow into them: Beneath that low-key exterior, Love Is the King displays luminous depth from a veteran songwriter who continues to grow into his craft." Consequence of Sound said, "Love Is the King is the work of a songwriter with clear eyes and a full heart. Tweedy leans on the two constants in his life, music and family, to find hope in a year where such a thing has too often been absent. In doing so, he's left behind more than just another solid record to add to his oeuvre, but also some reassurance that maybe things will be okay, so long as we keep sight of what's important." Most reviews focused on how the album fit into the landscape of 2020 overall. Interestingly, Exclaim agreed with all of us in this thread--there is a touch of John Lennon to Jeff's recent work--it has "a sharpness to the starkness."

    My own reaction upon first hearing Love is the King was that I thought it was very good and I enjoyed it a lot. I love how country-flavored it is and I like the variety of tempos and moods on it. There are couple of songs on here that are among the most 'fun' Jeff has written in years. The more I listened to the record, the more I liked it. On one particularly bad day a few weeks ago, I listened to Love is the King in the middle of the night and it completely rocketed up in my estimation. I fell head over heels. I don't think it is as great as Ode to Joy, but I continue to love Jeff's songwriting of late and I'm so glad that he took the extra time he was given this year to make art and try to say something to all of us. For a spell, this was my favorite album of 2020 but I believe it has been eclipsed again by Taylor Swift's folklore (also a lockdown album with a black and white cover). Jeff writes here of devotion and confusion and the music is alternately sweet and distorted.

    It opens with the title track...

    Love is the King

    One of the tracks released in advance of the album, 'Love is the King' is one of the songs on the album that I have revisited most often. I love the title, for one thing. It's an interesting arrangement of words and I've never heard love described in that particular way. In an interview with Colbert, Jeff stated that his original idea was to call this album King Lear, because William Shakespeare wrote that play while he was in quarantine. Perhaps that's how the word 'king' got into the mix. I just love it as a descriptor and as a affirmation of the importance of love especially these days. The song itself is one of my favorites on the album. It's a shuffly mid-tempo track, but I love the repetition of the title and the guitar work is absolutely excellent. I think this is Jeff's best guitar album since A Ghost is Born and the first chance he's taken in a long time to really stretch himself as a lead guitarist (with no Nels to lean on). There were comments in the Love is the King thread about people being mad that the record wasn't a rock 'n roll album and complaining about the lack of electric guitar on recent Wilco/Jeff efforts. The truth of the matter is that this album is full of electric guitar and full of Jeff's particular, individualistic lead style. It's in the lineage of Neil Young, but the solo on this song is so odd and mysterious. He has this way of playing solos that very easily capture unusual emotions. We talked about how so many of the solos on Ghost feel like composed statements about his anxiety and drug use. The solo on 'Love is the King' sounds to be me like a direct reaction to the chaos and horrors of 2020, while Jeff sings 'love is the king' over and over, almost as if to remind himself of that truth while the world crumbles.
  13. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Love Is the King: my first listen and I like it. And I like the drumming! ( :D ) The bare-bones rawness appeals to me (if Tweedy’s vocal was roughened up a bit I’d like it even more). I highly doubt that the guitar solo is something that can be replicated as it is just pretty much random squawking...but I like the squawks!

    Anyway, a good start. (Maybe I’ll have to go back and put together a solo playlist!)
  14. youknow

    youknow Forum Resident

    Love Is The King was one of the albums I listened to the most in 2020, and one of its songs is in my top three on Spotify's retrospective. I don't know if I listened to those other albums in the wrong moment, but the truth is that I like Love... way more than Ode or Warm/Warmer.
    Having said that, I don't care much for the first track; it's too sparse for my taste, and that atonal guitar solo doesn't really go anywhere.
  15. chickendinna

    chickendinna Homegrown’s All Right With Me

    Recent Wilco/ Tweedy related releases require patience. The songs don't leap out at you, not like for instance, Being There or even Summerteeth. However, if you're willing to invest the time, you'll be richly rewarded.
  16. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    Superb song, powerful, stark, to the point, the alt. country flavor perfectly suited to Jeff's current style of writing. What I mean is this song (and album) never sounds like an exercise in country, it sounds like Jeff Tweedy working comfortably in his most natural idiom, in his own voice – which happens to sound a bit country-ish, if only because of the ubiquitous acoustic guitar. @jalexander theory that Jeff was always aiming at that directness and simplicity is proven right throughout the LP. I've tried to refrain from listening to it too much, because I want to keep a sense of discovery and freshness when the vinyl is released. Only then will I really deep dive into the record (I'll make an exception for this thread, of course). But this song has a way of grabbing you when you least expect it. I like the marching waltz pattern, surprisingly it brings me back to… Side with the Seeds (minus the soul element) and it's apt proof that Jeff is now capable of creating very dramatic arrangements with very little, just him and Spencer, bass, drums and, of course, guitars (plural). It all starts very quiet, very subdued, and then slowly builds, layer after layer, Jeff singing each word a little more assertively than the previous one, and then the whole thing lifts unexpectedly on the fantastic chord change under the "and cry don't you dare" line, by far my favorite moment here, one of those irresistible Tweedy strokes of inspiration.

    The best thing about this album is that we didn't even know it was coming when this thread started. We're beyond the horizon, in uncharted territory, and it's a great feeling.:agree:
  17. slop101

    slop101 Guitar Geek

    So. Cal.
    I've heard a couple songs from Love is King here and there, but I'm waiting my the vinyl pre-order to arrive before I can give the whole album a proper listen.
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  18. Rainy Taxi

    Rainy Taxi The Art of Almost

    Love is the King: This is a pleasant album I've enjoyed listening to over the past couple of months, with a few truly standout tracks. In some ways, it's more of the same for a Tweedy solo album, in that you pretty much know the formula of what style he's going for. And, like recent Tweedy work, the tracks sometimes feel a little under developed, like he was on to something good but took it out of the oven before it was done cooking. But the songs themselves are extraordinary. And I think the performances are very good too.

    It is just stunning to me that the songs for this album came as a result of a writing exercise to come up with one song a day. They don't feel like they are off the cuffs written so quickly! It's more proof that Jeff is one of if not the best songwriter going these days.

    I agree with @Parachute Woman's observation that Love is the King is Jeff Tweedy's best guitar album since A Ghost is Born. The only difference is the Ghost songs were augmented with fuller and more epic arrangements. Here, it's pretty minimal. But the lead guitar workouts throughout the album are excellent. I'm really glad Jeff found his lead-playing groove again.
  19. palisantrancho

    palisantrancho Forum Resident

    "Love Is The King"- It may not be quite as strong as Warm, but it also may be too early to call. This thread made me appreciate Warm much more, so this album will likely get a little boost from these discussions. It is one of my favorite albums from 2020, but it initially fell a little short of my expectations. We are coming off Ode To Joy which was always gonna be a hard album to follow. I like the slight country stylings on Love Is The King and all the electric guitar added to the mix this time. The opening song breaks down into some squalling Jeff meets Neil guitar shredding. Wilco would have improved the song, especially on the bass and drums, but this minimal approach is usually what these solo albums go for. A good opening song that would be nice to hear on the turntable! Having the vinyl and CD come out months after the digital release must really hurt the sale of the album. 4/5
  20. frightwigwam

    frightwigwam Talented Amateur

    I've listened to the album just a few times. as I've been more focused on keeping up with this thread and listening to archival releases like Joni, Neil, and Richard & Linda, plus new jazz, etc. My first impression is that it often really does sound like the results of Jeff giving himself a daily assignment, particularly the straight Country songs. Also, do we know what's going on with the album cover? Is it just a still from a sci-fi movie?

    "Love is the King" is more in the Folk-Rock idiom, which I think is really Tweedy's wheelhouse. I'd like this one better if he had just dropped the drums and let his acoustic guitar keep the rhythm, though. The Youngian electric lead makes me think of some complaints earlier in the thread, like in the 2000-04 period, about some of Jeff's soloing sounding like an amateur/novice. Clearly, it's an aesthetic that he's committed to pursuing! Sometimes it works better than others, but I think the texture works well, here.

    In the first verse, he compares himself to a boxer--as a songwriter? As just a person living in our time of COVID? "But cry, don’t you dare/ When I die in the ring/ Life isn’t fair." Seems rather melodramatic if he's talking about himself as a songwriter; I'm surprised that he'd take that kind of stance if he's just talking about people who might die of illness, or for any other reason, this year.

    The second verse begins, "Love is the king of beautiful dreams...," then describes protesters in the streets on the verge of clashing with militarized police, but "when push comes to shove, love is the king." I guess this ties back to "Love is Everywhere (Beware)" and his idea that we can't be complacent in the belief that love and justice will win out; sometimes people do need to fight for our ideals. Like a boxer? Still, I'd say that the loss of life is worth some mourning, even if in service to a good cause. Especially in that case. The unfairness is a large part of what makes it tragic.

    Maybe his mind was hung up on Dylan's "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," and he was trying to write something that alluded to that. Dylan's song, however, calls out his audience for our hypocrisy and even complicity in the society and judicial system that would allow the wealthy and connected William Zanzinger to kill a poor woman for no real reason and get off with a six-month sentence (and in the end, after the full injustice has been laid out, he sings, "Now is the time for your tears"). This song isn't as direct and powerful as that.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020
  21. palisantrancho

    palisantrancho Forum Resident

    Not many songs are. A brilliant Dylan song on what I believe is one of the greatest albums ever.
  22. frightwigwam

    frightwigwam Talented Amateur

    We have high standards here!
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  23. jalexander

    jalexander Forum Resident

    Love is the King... I was waiting for the annual sale before I did the pre-order, but didn’t pull the trigger. It was still going to be over $60 on my side of the border and the sale on other items (I was thinking of the alt cover Ode to Joy) didn’t make it worth my while. And with COVID, I won’t be able to access my US mailbox any time soon! So I’ll wait for it to hit my local and hope I can get the 7” tracks some other way.

    On to the song... it’s a good one if you like introspective, minimal, alt-folk Jeff, and I do. Thankfully the drums stay pretty sparse (spoiler alert you may have surmised from my comment yesterday: some of the drums on this album start bugging me again - maybe part of my love for Warm(er) was aided by the drums sitting back a bit compared to Sukierae).

    And the solo... well, it doesn’t sound like Nels at all to me. It’s the style Jeff started on I’m the Man... atonal noodling, overdubbed several times to sound like buzzing bees. I’m a fan but understand why others aren’t. It’s definitely his signature, though. One difference, though is that he’s lost his fuzz pedals and sticks to softer overdrives on this album. It fits the alt-country vibe pretty well.

    A good start.

    What about If All I Was Was Black? The only Tweedy album in years where he starts with electric guitars rather than adding them to an acoustic bed.
  24. fredyidas

    fredyidas Forum Resident

    Like a couple of others mentioned, I haven't listened to Love Is The King as much as some other records because I am awaiting the vinyl before diving in deep, but I will listen to each track for the thread. Overall I like the country-tinged vibe of the record, and it was nice to get a preview of some of the tracks while watching The Tweedy Show. I love Sammy's backing vocals on the tracks that he appears on.

    I like the opening track a lot, it has some great guitar (both the acoustic and electric parts), and I like the way it builds up before coming back down again at the end. I also see the lyrics as a kind of continuation of the idea behind Love Is Everywhere (Beware). A solid track.

    It's a photo taken in Tunisia by Robert Capa during World War II. I'm not sure what the significance is, although maybe you could see it as someone trying to make their way through 2020?
  25. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    @fredyidas I completely agree with you about Sammy's backing vocals. He adds a really good flavor to this album.


    The country feeling of this album really comes to the fore on 'Opaline,' a sardonic little shuffle featuring one of Jeff's most consciously 'country' vocal performances. The key lyrical inspiration here was the lyric "There's nothing worse than a hearse driving slow / Out on the tollway, stopping at the tolls." Jeff saw this very thing happening and considered it a pretty funny metaphor. Even in death, you can't escape the red tape of life. It's not one of my favorite tracks on the song, but I enjoy hearing something that leans into Jeff's wryness rather than really digging deep into his soul. I like that he met the lockdown with a willingness to play some tunes that aren't always incredibly serious. Some of the tracks on this album definitely go to deeper realms, but I like that he pairs them with tracks like 'Opaline,' which is lighter and basically a genre pastiche. I like the 'slide guitar' as well.

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