Photo: Rebecca Sapp/WireImage
Wilco And Jeff Tweedy's Solid Sound Festival Announces June Lineup
Solid Sound's Wilco-curated lineup highlights bands deserving greater exposure such as the Feelies and Tortoise
On Feb. 21, Wilco announced their curated lineup for this year's Solid Sound Festival on June 28–30 at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Mass. Wilco themselves are headlining along with Courtney Barnett, and the band's own Jeff Tweedy is also on board for a separate Jeff Tweedy & Friends set.
In addition to art experiences and fun activities such as axe throwing and yoga, Solid Sound's lineup provides an opportunity to learn what all the excitement is about regarding emerging and underground artists such as Clipping, the Feelies, Cate Le Bon, Jonathan Richman and Tortoise.
Wilco won Best Alternative Music Album at the 47th GRAMMY Awards for 2004's A Ghost Is Born, and Tweedy also won independently at the 53rd GRAMMY Awards as the producer of Mavis Staples' Best Americana Album winner You Are Not Alone. Courtney Barnett was nominated for Best New Artist at the 58th GRAMMY Awards. Another previously nominated artist on Solid Sound's bill is jazz guitarist Julian Lage, who'll be appearing with his trio. The rest of the festival's lineup are distinctive and all deserving of a listen and a closer look, so here's a quick zoom in on five that are representative.
An experimental hip-hop collective signed to Sub Pop, Clipping came out with their debut album in 2009 and their third, Splendor & Misery, was released in 2016 to critical acclaim. They are considered as having emerged from being remix-centered to being leaders of the "noise-rap" genre.
Underground jangle-rockers from New Jersey, the Feelies have struggled with staying together, selling albums and affording studio time while influencing major bands such as R.E.M., from their first record, 1980's Crazy Rhythms, to their 2017 sixth album In Between. Their biggest hit singles were 1988's "Away" and 1991's "Sooner or Later."
Welsh singer/songwriter Cate Le Bon released her debut in 2009 and has come to greater attention recently for her work with Deerhunter. Darkness and fragility blend with art-pop experiments in both her solo work and collaborations.
Singer/songwriter Jonathan Richman is celebrated for both his solo work as well as playing in the Modern Lovers. His youthful and amusing zest on songs like "Ice Cream Man" can obscure his sophisticated craft, but his cult following knows to listen more deeply.
The progressive rock ensemble Tortoise released their self-titled first album in 1994 and broke into the Billboard 200 with two of their albums in the decade of the 2000s. In addition to bringing fresh attention to Chicago's music scene, Tortoise is considered to have pioneered the genre "post-rock." Jazz, electronica and dub are just a few of the eclectic influences they intregrate into their experimental collective's fresh sounds.
The MASS MoCA venue provides an art experience all its own and will be hosting exhibits by Laurie Anderson and Annie Lennox. Anderson recently received her first win at the 61st GRAMMY Awards and her virtual reality installation "Chalkroom" has been at the venue since 2017. Lennox's show "Now I Let You Go ..." opens there on May 25.
Single-day tickets for Solid Sound will become available at the festival's website on Feb. 28.
8 Music Books To Read This Fall/Winter: Britney Spears' Memoir, Paul McCartney's Lyrics & More
As 2023 nears its end and the holidays approach, add these books to your reading list. Memoirs from Dolly Parton and Sly Stone, as well as histories of titans such as Ella Fitzgerald are sure to add music to the latter half of the year.
If you’re a music fan looking to restock your library with some new reads, you’re in luck. With the second half of the year comes a dearth of new music books recounting the life and times of some of the most celebrated artists in the history of the artform are hitting shelves.
From Britney Spears' much talked-about memoir that tackles the tabloid tumult of her life and Barbra Streisand’s highly anticipated autobiography (which clocks in at nearly 1,000 pages), to tomes that recount the lives of Tupac Shakur and Dolly Parton, it’s time to get reading. Read on for some of the best music-related new and upcoming books to add to your collection.
By Britney Spears
One of the most highly anticipated books of the year, Spears' memoir has been a blockbuster in the weeks since its release. When it was announced that the singer was writing a book, fans and observers braced themselves for what she would reveal when it comes to her tumultuous life and career. The result is a no-holds-barred look at how an innocent girl from Louisiana became swept up in the tsunami of fame, as well as the resulting wake.
The Woman in Me details Spears' halcyon younger years as part of the "New Mickey Mouse Club," her explosive career, the blossoming and collapse of her relationship with Justin Timberlake, and the punishing conservatorship concocted by her father. Spears doesn’t hold back, but also shouts out the figures who provided solace and kindness: Madonna, Elton John, Mariah Carey, and former Jive Records president Clive Calder. The Woman In Me proves to be an unflinching, eye-opening look at the swirling tornado of music, fame, love and family, for better or for worse.
By Barbra Streisand
Since her early '60s breakout to her current status as a bona fide living legend, Barbra Streisand has lived a lot of life. Streisand's 992-page tome breaks down her humble beginnings growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and her subsequent stratospheric life during which she received a whopping 46 GRAMMY nominations and released many timeless songs. Along the way, she also became the first female in the history of moviemaking to write, produce, direct and star in a major motion picture (Yentl).
It’s all a long time coming, considering Jackie Onassis first approached Streisand to chronicle her triumphant life in 1984 (at the time, the former first lady was editor of Doubleday and Streisand was a mere 20 years into her iconic career). "Frankly, I thought at 42 I was too young, with much more work still to come," Striesand recently told Vanity Fair. It’s an understatement considering all that’s happened since.
By Paul McCartney
One of the most celebrated artists of all time, McCartney's genius songwriting is on full, glimmering display in THE LYRICS. Newly released in a one volume paperback edition, the book puts the Beatles' way with words front and center while offering popcorn-worthy backstory.
Originally published to acclaim in 2021, the updated version includes additional material and insight from Macca himself on the creation of some of the most indelible hits in music history, including the 1965 Beatles hit "Daytripper."
"The riff became one of our most well-known and you still often hear it played when you walk into guitar shops," wrote McCartney of the track. "It’s one of those songs that revolves around the riff. Some songs are hung onto a chord progression. Others, like this, are driven by the riff."
By Dolly Parton
"It costs a lot of money to look this cheap!" So says luminary Dolly Parton, in a self-deprecating and witty and also patently untrue famous turn of phrase. While Parton’s life story has been recounted numerous times on the page and on screen, Behind the Seams zeros in on not just her trials and tribulations, but her unmistakable style.
Packed with nearly 500 photographs, the book traces Parton’s looks from the sacks she used to dress in as a child in poverty to the flamboyant visuals associated with her stardom. "I’ve been at this so long, I’ve worn some of the most bizarre things," Parton recently told the Guardian. "My hairdos have always been so out there. At the time you think you look good, then you look back on it, like, what was I thinking?"
By Sly Stone
The 80-year-old reclusive frontman of Sly and the Family Stone has certainly lived a lot of life. From his early days as part of the gospel vocal group the Stewart Four, Stone and his family band later became fixtures of the charts from the late '60s into the mid-'70s; a journey traced in the new book Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin), named after their 1969 song of the same name.
Known for funky, soulful and earworm signature hits including "Dance to the Music" and "Everyday People," the band won over the hearts of America, influencing legions of fans (including Herbie Hanckock and Miles Davis) and gaining a few enemies (the Black Panther Party). The book chronicles those ups and downs (including drug abuse), tracking Stone up to the modern era, which includes receiving the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Special Merit Award in 2017.
By Judith Tick
Ella Fitzgerald is one of America’s most iconic voices and the full breadth of her story will be told in the first major biography since her death in 1996. Known as the First Lady of Song, the 13-time GRAMMY winner is known for her swingin’ standards, sultry ballads, scat and everything in between.
Out Nov. 21, the vocalist’s historic career is recounted by musicologist Judith Tick, who reflects on her legend using new research, fresh interviews and rare recordings. The result is a portrait of an undeniable talent and the obstacles she was up against, from her early days at the Apollo Theater to her passionate zeal for recording and performing up until her later years.
"Ella was two people," her longtime drummer Gregg Field told GRAMMY.com in 2020. "She was very humble, very shy and generous. But when she walked on stage she was hardcore and didn’t know how to sing unless it was coming from her heart."
By Jeff Tweedy
Aside from his extensive discography with Wilco and beyond, Jeff Tweedy is the author of three books: his memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), a meditation on creativity called How to Write One Song, and his latest, World Within a Song. The latter expertly examines a variety of songs by a disparate spate of artists, from Rosalía to Billie Eilish with Tweedy’s singular take on what makes each song stand out along with what he dubs "Rememories," short blurbs that recount moments from his own life and times.
Much like his songwriting prowess, it’s a book where Tweedy’s way with words shine with shimmering eloquence. "My experience of my own emotions is that they all interact," Tweedy told GRAMMY.com last year. "They aren't individual, isolated things that you experience one at a time, and I think that's a really beautiful thing about being alive."
By Staci Robinson
One of the giants of hip-hop finally gets his due with an official recounting of his life and times. Here his legend is told by the authoritative Staci Robinson, an expert on the star who previously wrote Tupac Remembered: Bearing Witness to a Life and Legacy and served as executive producer of the FX documentary series "Dear Mama: The Saga of Afeni and Tupac Shakur."
Here, Robinson reflects on Tupac’s legacy from a modern perspective, and tracks the history of race in America alongside the rapper’s life and times, from the turbulent '60s to the Rodney King riots. Along the way are the stories behind the songs including "Brenda’s Got a Baby."
"In between shots (of filming the movie Juice) I wrote it," Shakur is quoted saying in Robinson’s book. "I was crying too. That’s how I knew everybody else would cry, ’cause I was crying.’"
How To Watch The 2024 GRAMMY Nominations: St. Vincent, Jeff Tweedy, Muni Long, Kim Petras, Jon Bon Jovi, "Weird Al" Yankovic & More To Announce The Nominees; Streaming Live Friday, Nov. 10
The nominations for the 2024 GRAMMYs will be announced on Friday, Nov 10, starting at 7:45 a.m. PT / 10:45 a.m. ET. Watch it live on live.GRAMMY.com and YouTube.
It's that time again: The 2024 GRAMMYs is just a few months out — airing live Sunday, Feb. 4, from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. Which means nominations for the 2024 GRAMMYs are just around the corner. On Friday, Nov 10, starting at 7:45 a.m. PT / 10:45 a.m. ET, nominations for the 2024 GRAMMYs will be announced via a livestream event airing live on live.GRAMMY.com. The nominations will also stream live on the Recording Academy's YouTube channel.
The 2024 GRAMMYs nominations livestream event will feature a diverse cast of some of the leading voices in music today, including St. Vincent, Jeff Tweedy, Muni Long, Kim Petras, 2024 MusiCares Person Of The Year Jon Bon Jovi, and many others, who will be announcing the 2024 GRAMMY nominees across all 94 categories. Plus, the livestream event will also feature an exclusive GRAMMY Nominations Pre-Show and Wrap-Up Show, which will both feature exclusive videos and conversations about the biggest stories and trends to come out of the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations.
City National Bank is the Official Bank of the GRAMMYs and proud sponsor of the 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards Nominations.
See below for a full guide to the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations livestream event happening next week:
How Can I Watch The 2024 GRAMMY Nominations?
When Are The 2024 GRAMMY Nominations Announced?
The 2024 GRAMMYs nominations will be announced Friday, Nov 10. The day kicks off with an exclusive GRAMMY Nominations Pre-Show, starting at 7:45 a.m. PT / 10:45 a.m. ET. Hosted by Emmy-winning TV host and “GMA3” contributor Rocsi Diaz, the GRAMMY Nominations Pre-Show will give music fans an inside look at the various initiatives and campaigns that the Recording Academy, the organization behind the annual GRAMMY Awards, supports on a year-long basis on its mission to recognize excellence in the recording arts and sciences and cultivate the well-being of the music community.
Afterward, starting at 8 a.m. PT / 11 a.m. ET, the GRAMMY nominations livestream event begins. The livestream event will begin with a special presentation announcing the nominees in the General Field categories, aka the Big Six, as well as select categories. On live.GRAMMY.com, exclusive videos announcing the nominees across multiple categories will stream as a multi-screen livestream event that users can control, providing a dynamic, expansive online experience for music fans of all genres. The nomination videos will also stream live on YouTube. The full list of 2024 GRAMMYs nominees will then be published on live.GRAMMY.com and GRAMMY.com immediately following the livestream event.
After the nominations are announced, stay tuned for an exclusive GRAMMY Nominations Wrap-Up Show. Co-hosted by "Entertainment Tonight" correspondents Cassie DiLaura and Denny Directo, the Wrap-Up Show will break down all the notable news and top stories from the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations. The GRAMMY Nominations Wrap-Up Show will stream live on live.GRAMMY.com as well as the Recording Academy's YouTube channel, X profile, Twitch channel, TikTok page, Instagram profile, and Facebook page.
Watch the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations livestream event and make sure to use #GRAMMYs to join the conversation on social media as it unfolds live on Friday, Nov. 10.
The schedule for the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations livestream event is as follows:
GRAMMY Nominations Pre-Show
7:45 a.m. PT / 10:45 a.m. ET
Nominations Livestream Event
8 a.m. PT / 11 a.m. ET
Nominations Livestream Event Ends & Full Nominations Revealed
8:25 a.m. PT / 11:25 a.m. ET
GRAMMY Nominations Wrap-Up Show
8:25 a.m. PT / 11:25 a.m. ET
^All times are approximate and subject to change.
Who's Announcing The 2024 GRAMMY Nominations?
Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. will be joined by GRAMMY winners Arooj Aftab, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Jimmy Jam, Jon Bon Jovi, Samara Joy, Muni Long, Cheryl Pawelski, Kim Petras, Judith Sherman, St. Vincent, Jeff Tweedy, and "Weird Al" Yankovic, along with "CBS Mornings" co-hosts Gayle King, Nate Burleson, and Tony Dokoupil, to announce all the nominees for the 2024 GRAMMYs.
When Are The 2024 GRAMMYs?
The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, will air live on Sunday, Feb. 4, at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. Music's Biggest Night will air live on the CBS Television Network and stream on Paramount+.
Mark your calendars now for the 2024 GRAMMY nominations happening Friday, Nov 10.
With additional reporting by Morgan Enos.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photos (L-R): Peter Crosby, Mick Hutson/Redferns, Ken Weingart/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Songbook: A Guide To Wilco’s Discography, From Alt-Country To Boundary-Shattering Experiments
As they approach their 30th anniversary, Wilco are readying a familiar-yet-alien new album, 'Cousin.' It's a timely reminder that the prolific Chicago group are masters of infinite surprise.
As the axiom goes: surround yourself with people you can always learn from. This encapsulates the dynamic between Jeff Tweedy and Wilco. The beloved, enduring, four-time GRAMMY-winning group has been a vehicle for Tweedy's incisive songwriting for nearly 30 years.
Outside of Wilco, Tweedy is masterful: 2018's and 2019's raw-nerved, lived-in Warm and Warmer are proof positive of this. But although 99 percent of Wilco songs are Tweedy's, they've never been merely his backing band. Every incarnation of Wilco has contained visionaries and virtuosos.
Take the complicated and inventive Jay Bennett, Tweedy's foil for their first three masterpieces: Being There, Summerteeth, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Or Glenn Kotche, a key member since 2001 — not just a drummer and percussionist, but a 360° musical thinker.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. Wilco's current lineup, solidified since 2005, is stacked with masters.
Such as bassist John Stirratt, who's provided their subtle emotional undercarriage since their formation. And Nels Cline, one of the preeminent experimental guitarists of the 21st century. With each release, guitarist Pat Sansone and keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen's colors and shapes grow more iridescent.
On Sept. 29, Wilco will release their 13th album, Cousin — their second in just over a year, after 2022's Cruel Country. That self-consciously rootsy double album felt totally natural — essentially falling out of Tweedy's mouth and guitar.
But speaking to GRAMMY.com, Tweedy explained that Cousin would manifest like "an odd shape in the desert" — and it certainly does. Produced by consummate tinkerer Cate Le Bon, songs like "Infinite Surprise," "Levee" and "Meant to Be" coat Tweedy's rumpled, weatherbeaten tunes with a gently alien, digital feel.
As Tweedy put it in the press release, "Cate is very suspicious of sentiment, but she's not suspicious of human connection." Which makes her an ideal fit for a legacy band often preoccupied with distance, disorientation and loss in translation.
With Cousin on the horizon, GRAMMY.com took a spin through Wilco's discography — loosely trisected by era, and leaving out side projects and collaborative albums.
Uneasy Alt-Country (1994-2000)
Yes, the title refers to the form of broadcasting — hence the vintage radio on the cover. But the sunny, uncomplicated A.M. feels like the dawning of an important American band.
At the time, A.M. was unfavorably compared to Trace, the debut album by Son Volt — led by Jay Farrar, Tweedy's partner in the band Uncle Tupelo. (When they split in 1994, Tweedy got multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston, bassist Stiratt, and drummer Ken Coomer in the divorce.)
But 28 years later, the story of this rivalry has lost its luster: A.M. is a perfectly solid American album. Today, rootsy, power-popping tracks like "I Must Be High," "Box Full of Letters" and "Passenger Side" are perfectly enjoyable on their own terms.
Twelve albums later, A.M. remains the first and last Wilco album to feature basically no experimentation — a model that would dramatically flip in the next calendar year.
Being There (1996)
Sure, a few cuts on the double-disc Being There could snugly fit on A.M. — like the burbling "Forget the Flowers," the swaggering "Kingpin" and the rollicking "Dreamer in My Dreams."
But on the main, Being There is their Rubber Soul; while it shares superficial characteristics with their earlier creations, the band's works abruptly accrued a sense of windswept majesty.
This is obvious from the jump: where A.M. began with a friendly drum fill and some steely twang, Being There's opener, "Misunderstood," fades in with booming toms, thunderclap crashes and clamorous feedback.
So many of its small-town images stick in your craw: the taste of cigarettes, the promise of a party, the state of being "short on long-term goals."
"Misunderstood" ends with that unforgettable repetition of "I'd like to thank you all for nothing! / Nothing! / Nothing!" et al: the 18 ensuing songs seem to emanate from that wellspring of lonesome beauty.
The banjo-led "What's the World Got in Store" is aching and lovely; the spare, seven-minute "Sunken Treasure" is a canyon of feeling; baroque-pop "Outta Mind (Outta Sight)" foreshadows Summerteeth.
All these nascent ideas would take flower on ensuing albums, but Being There retains its partisans for very good reasons.
Summerteeth holds a unique distinction in Wilco's catalog: it's the most candy-coated and the most harrowing. Imagine Sgt. Pepper's with several variations on "I used to be cruel to my woman and beat her," and you're somewhere within spitting distance.
After zippy single "Can't Stand It" notes the arbitrary nature of divine blessings, the icy "She's a Jar" ends with a still-startling twist: "She begs me not to hit her."
The violence rolls on: "A Shot in the Arm" has a gory, hammering outro: "Something in my veins/ Bloodier than blood." At the top of centerpiece "Via Chicago," Tweedy has a recurring dream of committing homicide, and watching his victim bleed out.
But these lashings of aggression are well-timed, and in a vivid balance with the instrumentation: Summerteeth isn't an uncomfortably bleak listen, but an eclectic and unforgettable one.
"I'm Always in Love" is a sugar rush that threatens to shake apart. "My Darling," Bennett's ode to his niece in demo form, reads as a bedtime song from Tweedy to his son, and carries the paternal poignancy of John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy."
Despite the conspicuous advancements on Summerteeth, closer "In a Future Age" is its truest arrow to what was to come — despite it being a few chords, awash in atmosphere.
"Let's turn our prayers/ Into outrageous dares," Tweedy sings; the music feels like a blank page, ready for anything to be drafted on it.
Drummer Ken Coomer described Summerteeth as "two guys losing their minds in the studio," and that dynamic would come to a head very soon.
Uncharted Territory (2001-2006)
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
From interband drama to label warfare to 9/11 extrapolation, it seems like everything there is to write about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot has been written.
But besides every outtake you can imagine being available — via the GRAMMY-winning 20th century deluxe edition — a documentary being made about it, the album's actual making feels paradoxically enigmatic.
"They were replacing parts all the way up into the mix," Cheryl Pawelski, the compilation producer for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: 20th Anniversary, tells GRAMMY.com. [Mixing engineer] Jim [O'Rourke] would send Glenn out and say, 'Play something like a marching band over the section.'"
The lush, abstracted production throughout Yankee Hotel Foxtrot gives it much of its character. But the spectacle wouldn't mean much without unforgettable songs.
Despite, or because of, its fragmented wordplay, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" digs into the center of your chest: a "Bible-black predawn" is many times more evocative than "early morning." "Radio Cure" is an extended hand through staticky space, a signal faintly perceptible in the noise.
From there, not a single track, or moment, feels out of place. The shivering, lovely "Jesus, Etc." is Wilco's most famous song for a reason. The admission "I know I would die if I could come back new," in "Ashes of American Flags," remains devastating.
It all ends with the astonishing "Reservations," one of Wilco's most vulnerable and guileless creations; the drone decays and decays, refusing to let go.
When Wilco played "Reservations" live for a run of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 20th anniversary shows, Tweedy was lain flat by the experience.
"The audience just really calmed itself down and stayed with it for this long, drawn out fade-out," he told American Drunkard. "And that was the whole point of the record ending that way. It's gone and you're left with your interior thoughts.
"That response made me really proud, but also, it made me sad," he continued. "Every night. I cried every night." Two decades later, "Reservations" — as with all of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot — still reverberates through our bones.
A Ghost is Born (2004)
True to the album art — a single egg, balancing in a vacuum — Wilco followed their most visionary album with their most fragile: A Ghost is Born.
Counterweighing tunes of levity and light — like the bouncy, yearning "Hummingbird," the swinging, downtown-ish "Handshake Drugs" and the cult rock fan manifesto "The Late Greats" — are some of their most devastated, naked works.
"At Least That's What You Said" begins barely audibly, with Tweedy less singing than sleeptalking — then erupts into a seizure of electric guitar, performed with abandon by Tweedy himself.
If you subscribe to the Neil Young with Crazy Horse school of the instrument, A Ghost is Born is a treat: this is where we hear Tweedy let loose. "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" is their first true motorik workout; Tweedy's guitar punctures its even keel like a kitchen knife through office paper.
But as always with Wilco, the violence is counterweighed by a sighing beauty: "Muzzle of Bees" and "Wishful Thinking" are featherlight and swaddling; the side-eyed "Company in My Back" and punky "I'm a Wheel" are a reprieve from the album's tortured circumstances.
Speaking of: the most important moment of A Ghost is Born might also be the most skippable. At the end of the collapsed "Less Than You Think" is 13 minutes of noise, intended to represent Tweedy's migraines while addicted to painkillers.
"Even I don't want to listen to it every time I play through the album," Tweedy admitted. "But the times I do calm myself down and pay attention to it, I think it's valuable and moving and cathartic."
From here, the most outré Wilco fan may have braced themselves for a complete leap into the unknown. But Wilco would never pursue this degree of extremity again.
A Solidified Front (2007-present)
Sky Blue Sky (2007)
Featuring new guitarists Pat Sansone and Nels Cline, Wilco's heady, unwieldy 2005 live album Kicking Television whetted fans' thirst for even danker Wilco. As plenty of contemporaneous reviews groused: instead, they got Sky Blue Sky.
Granted, at the time, it felt like a retreat from the verge of something radical. Fueled by increasing suspicion of sound design, Tweedy sought a back-to-basics approach that harkened back to the classic rock that got Wilco going. (And via Nels Cline's chops, a helping of Tom Verlaine of Television.)
Sky Blue Sky is a pure, unadulterated listen — a window into the Wilco we know and love today.
Sometimes, the lyrics feel caught between abstracted musings ("You Are My Face") and quotidian imagery ("Hate it Here") — and when they're presented a la carte, they invite scrutiny.
But when the band simply lets it rip, they communicate more than words ever could; on "Impossible Germany" and "Side With the Seeds," Cline must be heard to be believed.
Wilco (The Album) (2009)
Sky Blue Sky welcomed in a new era of Wilco; as they approached their 15th anniversary, they decided to throw a party for themselves. (Hence the camel's birthday party on the cover.)
The choogling "Wilco (The Song)" remains something of a theme song for the band: the refrain "Wilco will love you, baby," a rallying cry.
What follows is a tour through the Wilco Museum: you get Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-level immersion ("Deeper Down"), a bloody fantasy worthy of Summerteeth ("Bull Black Nova") and a Stonesy rocker beamed from Being There ("Sonny Feeling").
Elsewhere, "You Never Know" is a highly commercial (and lovely) duet with Feist, suggesting a trajectory where A.M.'s simplicity remained the order of the day.
But like Sky Blue Sky, Wilco (The Album) peaks when the band takes flight, as on the majestic, lighters-up "One Wing" and the radiant, All Things Must Pass-like "You Never Know."
"Every generation thinks it's the end of the world," Tweedy sings in "You Never Know." Wilco (The Album) is permeated with that askance, self-referential attitude — which makes it right on time, another 15 years on.
The Whole Love (2011)
With The Whole Love, the new Wilco was now three albums in — and more simpatico than ever. Their sleek and jagged sides had found a rapprochement; Nils Cline played more in the shadows than on top of the others.
This synergy could suggest a lack of danger, which thrillingly pushed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born over the edge. If not for its first and last tunes in particular: "Art of Almost" and "One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)."
The former is as arcane a composition as Wilco ever dreamt up: the undulating, unpredictable co-creation has shades of Can and electric Miles, and eventually erupts into a string-snapping showcase from Cline.
As for the latter: it shows Tweedy's incisiveness as a writer hadn't dimmed a bit.
In its account of a son's cracked relationship with his late father, "One Sunday Morning" unspools like peak Dylan: it's immediately recognizable to anyone grieving a complicated, controlling parent: "Bless my mind, I miss/ Being told how to live."
In between, Wilco try on various costumes to satisfying results: sleek new wavers ("Born Alone," "Standing O"), '60s-style classicists ("Sunloathe," "Capitol City") and close-miked folkies ("Open Mind," "Rising Red Lung").
Star Wars (2015)
The Whole Love struck a mature balance of eclecticism and cohesion: four years later, Wilco shattered that facade with a shot of irreverence and cheek.
Which starts with a hell of a title. "The album has nothing to do with Star Wars. It just makes me feel good," Tweedy said. "It makes me feel limitless and like there's still possibilities and still surprise in the world, you know?"
Across a tight 33 minutes, Wilco keep the proceedings fat-free, forward-thinking and relentlessly uptempo. "More…" is needle-sharp art-pop, "Random Name Generator" kicks the goofy Marc Bolan energy up to 10, and "You Satellite" builds a heavenbound momentum.
But when Wilco aren't in attack mode, Star Wars achieves an even greater resonance. "Taste the Ceiling" possesses the type of sticky melody that seems to naturally fall out of Tweedy's guitar, and poignantly broaches communication breakdown: "Try the words in sequence/ But that's never how its done."
And the push-pull closer "Magnetized" is plainly one of the most fascinating, emotionally incisive songs in their entire catalog: "I sleep underneath a picture that I keep of you next to me," Tweedy sings — and the swelling instrumentation is like a knot in your throat.
Imagine the irreverence of Star Wars translated to acoustic instrumentation, and you've got a good handle on Schmilco.
About that flippant, Nilssonesque title: "It's really, to me, inhibiting to take it so seriously, to treat it like it's so precious," Tweedy said at the time. I guess that's just a way to illustrate that, to some degree. Like, 'Hey, Wilco Schmilco, f—, I just wanna keep moving.'"
Schmilco feels like an intentionally minor effort — which isn't a flaw; it gives it an appealing je nais se quoi.
The hushed "If I Ever Was a Child" is a sunbeam gradually peeking over the horizon; "Common Sense" is charmingly lumpy, amelodic and disagreeable; "We Aren't the World (Safety Girl)" flips the cornball charity classic into a sarcastic missile.
Only the roving "Locator" goes electric — which reveals a shared DNA strand with its predecessor, and underlines its nature as something of a Star Wars companion album.
Ode to Joy (2019)
Even before the pandemic, racial spasms and Jan. 6 rattled the world, the news was fairly traumatizing. In response, Wilco made a rattled, whisper-quiet album about finding embers of love in a wasteland.
Several songs on Ode to Joy feel like ragged marches: behind the kit, Kotche opts not to flow, but trudge with grim resolve. Goes Tweedy's first line, from opener "Bright Leaves": "I don't like the way you're treating me." And man's inhumanity to man haunts everything in its wake.
"Remember when wars would end?" Tweedy sings gravely in "Before Us." "Now, when something's dead/ We try to kill it again." And Cline responds with a distant, ominous guitar scrape.
This haunted vibe makes Ode to Joy one of the most resonant latter-day Wilco albums. But levity does creep in — albeit with an implicit threat. "Everyone Hides" wittily prods at the flight side of "fight or flight."
And "Love is Everywhere (Beware)" carries a mightily resonant message: "The song is a reminder to myself to act with more love and courage and less outrage and anesthetized fear," Tweedy said.
Indeed, when world events inflamed our basest instincts, Tweedy dug deep within himself — and wrote a song that belongs in the Wilco time capsule.
Cruel Country (2022)
Cruel Country was cleverly marketed from the outset as "Wilco goes country"; its goofy advance single, "Falling Apart (Right Now)," was honky-tonk straight from the therapist's couch.
But when the album — their first double album since Being There — actually landed, it proved to be a more teeming and complicated beast.
Most of the material wasn't country at all: tunes like "The Empty Condor" and "Bird Without a Tail/Base of My Skull" were actually on Wilco's more outré end. And "Hearts Hard to Find" dealt in yet another side of Wilco: swoony folk-pop for a midsummer evening, a la "California Stars."
For all its multitudes, Cruel Country is a flowing, enveloping listen. And what binds this wealth of material is Tweedy's psychological incisiveness ("Tonight's the Day," "Tired of Taking it Out on You"), as well as commentary on America's Music and the nature of patriotism.
"It's really gratifying to feel like we made something that we very, very profoundly, deeply know we couldn't have made five years ago," Tweedy told GRAMMY.com at the time, "without all the miles that we've traveled together in between."
He then mentioned that the album's successor would contain "songs that really wouldn't fit into the Cruel Country landscape" — that they'd come across like "somebody dropped a weird shape into the desert."
And Tweedy was correct — partly thanks to a visionary outside producer.
Wilco has been a self-contained enterprise for ages. In the congested music industry, they self-produce; record in their private wonderland, The Loft; and mostly disregard traditional album cycles.
Perhaps this could be a double-edged sword — Wilco could have fallen into old habits as their 30th anniversary loomed.
Whatever the case may be, for that "weird shape in the desert," the band drafted Welsh musician and producer Cate Le Bon — to give their tried-and-true aesthetic a refreshing twist.
This partnership paid off handsomely: while Tweedy's songwriting is still very much Tweedy, Cousin has a taste and feel that doesn't resemble any past Wilco album.
"Infinite Surprise" hangs in a droning, digital ether that puts it somewhere in the taxonomy of Joni Mitchell's Taming the Tiger; "Levee" shimmers and sparkles like Wilco songs haven't really in the past; "Pittsburgh" is a Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-level mind movie.
With Cousin, Wilco prove they can still find new avenues and corridors in their three-decade trajectory. And the continual state of guessing is what makes it so rewarding to be a Wilco fan. Or, in their words: infinite surprise.