The latter eschews much of that melody for a grittier rock and prog sound, and a wider thematic range, lyrically. Linking the two is the bands universally beloved and critically lauded 2002 opus, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but, save for Jeff Tweedys most devout, wide-eyed followers, few find themselves with an equal appreciation for both albums.
It seems strange then that theyd synthesize the two with their eighth studio recording, The Whole Love, which sounds comprehensive and whole, despite boasting songs that could well belong with either record.
Its also probably the happiest-sounding disc the bands ever recorded, which is a sweet relief for Tweedy fans who feared the worst when he went to rehab in 2004 and suffered through his mothers death, which much of the lyrics on 2007s Sky Blue Sky concerns. Tweedys long been capable of singing sweetly (here, on the albums title track and the sunshiney, Summerteeth-esque Dawned on Me), but it is remarkable and relieving to hear it for the majority of the record.
Album opener The Art of Almost is one of those hypnotic, coda-driving Krautrock songs the act first toyed with on A Ghost Is Born see: Spiders (Kidsmoke) and Bull Black Nova from Wilco (The Album) and I think its the best such song theyve ever put to track.
John Stirrat with Tweedy, the lone remaining founding member holds down a gnarled, thriving low end, while Nels Cline finally hits full stride recording with the rest of the band, now on his third album. Cline also contributes a terrific guitar melody to Born Alone, which nicely syncs up with Glenn Kotches cymbal-heavy drumbeat for another Summerteeth song.
Another standout, Standing O, is basically an Elvis Costello track, and just as much fun as anything he ever set a buzzing organ behind. With Tweedys always-nuanced vocals, this albums only going to sound better with additional listens. Matt Carney