Wilco - Cruel Country

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i'm not talking so much about low-key vs. louder or fuller arrangements or whatever. i just think what they're doing on this one - straightforward-ish folk songs and Jeff singing much more clearly and melodically - is more successful than Ode to Joy, which sounds like a really good songwriter getting lost in sound. and i think some of that is the result of easy and free-ish access to a nice studio, and spending too much time in there tinkering (and disappearing up one's own arse, to put it unkindly).

and ... separate issue, i guess, but listen to, say, "White Wooden Cross" on Ode To Joy and then "I Am My Mother" or "A Lifetime to Find" from this new one, paying attention to how he's singing. why was he singing that way on OTJ? i don't get it, but it didn't help that album, i don't think. he sounds so much better on the new one.

alpine static, Friday, 27 May 2022 08:22 (two months ago) link

idk i know ode to joy was less live in studio than this, but it didn't feel particularly studio tinkery in the way of summerteeth through to a ghost is born, or a bit of the whole love

this is a whole lot better than ode to joy though yeah

ufo, Friday, 27 May 2022 08:56 (two months ago) link

xpost Star Wars is the most overlooked album of their catalog, no question

a really good record lost in a sea of mid- (or late-) career mediocrity

alpine static, Friday, 27 May 2022 09:01 (two months ago) link

star wars & the new one are the highlights of their last decade

keep coming back to "bird without a tail / base of my skull"

ufo, Friday, 27 May 2022 09:28 (two months ago) link

ok The Empty Condor is very nice

imago, Friday, 27 May 2022 09:58 (two months ago) link

That until Bird Without A Tail was a nice run, but Tired... is crushingly boilerplate, a bizarre choice for a track on the album let alone an advance single

imago, Friday, 27 May 2022 11:16 (two months ago) link

oh you guys liked it. lol

imago, Friday, 27 May 2022 11:17 (two months ago) link

ok there's the big obvious epic closing track riding its clichéd chord sequence off into some limp echo of past glories

wait there's 9 tracks left

there's some nice stuff in here when it's not being too obvious, but this has NOT earnt its length!

imago, Friday, 27 May 2022 11:29 (two months ago) link

i doubt it'll be on my end of year list or anything but i enjoyed it a fair bit more than i expected to & if you cut it down a bit i expect it'd hold up pretty well

ufo, Friday, 27 May 2022 11:32 (two months ago) link

yeah, I'm going to have to admit through very slightly gritted teeth that it shows the scale of Big Thief's achievement that their new album basically can't be carved apart like that

looking fwd to all your reduxes of this obv

imago, Friday, 27 May 2022 11:37 (two months ago) link

it's weird tho, something like A Lifetime To Find is pretty straightforward but it weirdly works, I cannot explain the mysteries of Country

imago, Friday, 27 May 2022 11:44 (two months ago) link

last five tracks of the album is probably the best bit

imago, Friday, 27 May 2022 11:55 (two months ago) link

xpost Star Wars is the most overlooked album of their catalog, no question

a really good record lost in a sea of mid- (or late-) career mediocrity

― alpine static, Friday, May 27, 2022 4:01 AM (four hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

Funny, I'd say the same about The Whole Love. Closest they've come to another Summerteeth.

Indexed, Friday, 27 May 2022 13:43 (two months ago) link

I'd say TWL isn't a low-key album of theirs - it's not far off A Ghost Is Born in popular perception and as an 'event' album. Plus it has songs where stuff happens ;)

imago, Friday, 27 May 2022 14:07 (two months ago) link

Agree that The Whole Love is musically a lot more similar to Ghost than to Summerteeth. But I don't think it's an event album or particularly remembered any more than their other stuff from the past 15 years. (It is by me, though - one of my faves)

Lavator Shemmelpennick, Friday, 27 May 2022 17:13 (two months ago) link

“Better than Ode to Joy” is a pretty low bar but so far that’s where I’m at. I think the “return to country” narrative is a little overblown other than a pedal steel here and there. I mean, it’s a Wilco album and it’s not too far removed from Ode to Joy or Schmilco.

sctttnnnt (pgwp), Friday, 27 May 2022 21:46 (two months ago) link

^ correct on all counts

catching up:
- i like "bird w/o a tail" too ... and the final 5 tracks
- big epic closer w/ 9 tracks still to go = "Many Worlds" ... i thought that one was kinda embarrassingly bad, especially the first half
- they should try to make a whole album of "A Lifetime to Find" ... which sounds like "the band that made A.M. but is now washed"

alpine static, Friday, 27 May 2022 22:04 (two months ago) link

the whole love wasn't included in my count of low-key recent wilco albums, only star wars/schmilco/ode to joy. star wars is obviously not mellow like the other two and better for it but it's still pretty low stakes

i think this one's probably better than the whole love though, i only really love the bookends on that (which are career highlights and better than anything here) but the rest doesn't move me much

ufo, Saturday, 28 May 2022 00:03 (two months ago) link

i feel the songwriting on this one is tweedy's strongest in a long time, that's the big surprise

ufo, Saturday, 28 May 2022 00:13 (two months ago) link

Love this album. Nice to hear Jeff breaking out of his more recent whispering phase

PaulTMA, Sunday, 29 May 2022 14:36 (two months ago) link

The Whole Love has some decent material but the slow 'acoustic' numbers are virtually impossible to remember and the superior powerpop songs are fine but reek of diet-Summerteeth

PaulTMA, Monday, 30 May 2022 01:24 (two months ago) link

Just returned from Solid Sound. I must say that while I had been enjoying Cruel Country, the songs hadn’t struck me as especially indelible. However, seeing them live really made them pop, with distinct and more memorable character instead of kind of a monochrome midtempo dad rock blend. And Bird Without a Tail was an absolute rager, of the Spiders/Impossible Germany tier.

I was there with my kids so didn’t get to see quite as much music as I would’ve liked, but two other highlights:

- Sun Ra Arkestra’s Marshall Allen presented with a 98th birthday cake in the midst of a raging set

- Nels Cline taking an unbelievably raging solo during Japanese Breakfast’s Posing for Cars

Lavator Shemmelpennick, Monday, 30 May 2022 14:57 (two months ago) link

the songs hadn’t struck me as especially indelible

This. Lazy Tweedy on this. If they end up sounding better live, that's even more reason to think he rushed this out too soon

curmudgeon, Thursday, 2 June 2022 13:10 (two months ago) link

I haven't heard this yet, but that strikes me as a weird assumption. I'd say at least 60% of Wilco's stuff comes more alive on stage.

a superficial sheeb of intelligence (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Thursday, 2 June 2022 17:37 (two months ago) link

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