Entries in Wilco (15)



When I first heard Wilco, I was a Junior in high school. On the way to run in a league cross country meet, a teammate gave me a copy of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to listen to on the bus ride, with this caveat: "you'll enjoy it more if you close your eyes while you listen." I heeded the sage advice, and was transported to another, more calm world by Jeff Tweedy's soothing vocals and the band's driving and introspective instrumentation. I was transfixed. Here we are, nearly 15 years later, and Wilco is as strong as ever on Schmilco. The formula hasn't changed a whole lot, and that's certainly not a bad thing as the formula has become more refined and perfected. Tweedy's voice is as mellifluous as ever, and the guitar work is perhaps even more subtle. "Normal American Kids", for example, is a simple guitar melody with Tweedy almost uncannily turning the clock back to where I was in life the first time I heard them, "I remind myself of myself long ago 'Fore I could drive, 'fore I could vote All of the time, holding a grudge 'Fore I knew people could die just because" "If Ever I Was a Child" and "Cry All Day" are perhaps the most radio ready tracks, and they'd fit perfectly on a nighttime drive or a Summer road trip. Later on the album, "Someone to Lose" and reminds me of just how poetic Tweedy's lyrics are, and how bittersweet. Perhaps the best example is from "Happiness" where he sings, "So sad it's nothing Happiness depends on who you blame" "Locator" builds to a huge crescendo, setting up the final tracks of the 36 minute, 12 track album before the perfectly bookended "Just Say Goodbye" drifts away, the last chord striking a sense of cautious optimism and nostalgia no longer viewed through rose colored glasses. As the Summer turns to Fall, and rain takes hold in the Northwest for a good 6 months, I know I'll be firing up the album repeatedly when I go for my runs in the trails. Though time has moved on, and I'm a shell of the runner who first heard Yankee Hotel Foxtrot those years ago, it's reassuring to know some things don't change: Wilco is just as strong as they've ever been.

Words by Alexander Hallett

Photos by Adam Richert


Tweedy - at the Neptune Theater - Seattle WA

I am the biggest Jeff Tweedy/ Wilco fan... But aren’t we all? He is the most accessible musician with catchy, radio friendly songs that seems to avoid mainstream radio. If for some reason you have missed out (since the late 80’s) on Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, and now Tweedy I would begin to go down that magical rabbit hole right about now.

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco played to a sold out Neptune Theater with his side project “Tweedy” consisting of Jeff and his son Spencer, along with some of their amazingly talented friends. When you go see an artists’ side project you generally can expect experimental songs that nobody knows and are just hoping that they will play a hit or two. But with Jeff Tweedy…. The man is going to kill it with some new jams, bring it home with some classic Wilco and a few “dad” jokes that may or may not embarrass his son Spencer Tweety sprinkled throughout.


Songs For Wednesday: Alabama Shakes, Wilco and more

Words // Adam Sharp

Yellow Ostrich - "Marathon Runner"
Well, kids, looks like we have 2012's first certified jam right here. It's got an odd rhythm, angular guitars and by far the catchiest chorus I've heard through the first month of the year. (website)

Yellow Ostrich - Marathon Runner

Bhi Bhiman - "Guttersnipe"
It's rare that a young songwriter can take an almost 7 minute long song about a wandering, lonely street urchin and turn it into an enjoyable, engaging listen, but that's exactly what Bhi Bhiman, and that magnificent, rich voice, has done. (website)

Bhi Bhiman - Guttersnipe

Alabama Shakes - "Heavy Chevy" (Live at Stubbs)
At this point I don't even know what to say about Alabama Shakes. They are just too damn good at rock & roll. Keep this in mind: 'Heavy Chevy,' which is a blistering little number, doesn't even appear on their forthcoming debut album. (website)

Wilco - "Cars Can't Escape"
You know those perfect songs that hide in the depths and clutter of your iTunes library? This was one of those for me. Hopefully that doesn't happen again. (website)

Wilco - Cars Can't Escape

Dr. Dog - "Lonesome"
As ramshackle, messy, bluesy songs go, this is pretty much perfect. (website)



Favorite Albums of 2011 10-6

10. The Shivers
More reads like a series of vignettes with a common theme of love.  Or, more specifically, lost love.  A musically diverse batch of songs that draws on soul, garage and a little electro-pop, but all with a gritty NYC edge. 

The Shivers - Irrational Love

9. David Wax Museum
Everything Is Saved
On Everything Is Saved, local favorites David Wax Museum deftly marry influences as diverse as Mexican son jarocho, american folk and klezmer.  A deeply personal and joyous record.

David Wax Museum - Born With A Broken Heart

8. Wilco
The Whole Love
The Whole Love shows off the band's impressive range - but this is no Wilco-by-numbers genre exercise.  The songs push creative limits and show that as the band isn't ready to start coasting yet. 

Wilco - Art of Almost

7. Fleet Foxes
Helplessnes Blues
Fleet Foxes' 2008 debut thrust them onto the national spotlight as poster childs for the new wave of folk.  Helplessness Blues proves that their success was not a fluke.  Rich harmonies and reverby vocals remain, but the lyrics seem a bit more personal.

Fleet Foxes - Montezuma

6. Gillian Welch
The Harrow & The Harvest
The Harrow & The Harvest was a long time coming.  8 years after her last release, Gillian Welch returns with another set of timeless folk songs.  It was well worth the wait.

Gillian Welch - The Way It Goes



Your favorite live recordings of 2011

Words // Scott Pingeton

One of my motivations in starting VV almost two years ago was to share live recordings from some of my favorite bands.  Growing up I would collect as many bootlegs as I could - from Dylan to Springsteen to The Replacements to Ryan Adams - and there's something magical about capturing the intensity and intimacy of a live performance.  Especially if it's a souvenir of a show you saw live.  Here are the five most popular live recordings we shared in 2011...

#5 Middle Brother: Paradise Boston MA 3.3.11

Middle Brother - Million Dollar Bill

"As a perfectly-sloppy version of "Twist and Shout" capped-off over three hours of music, I couldn't help but think how lucky I was to be able to see this band live."

Download the full set


#4 The Wooden Sky: Lizard Lounge Cambridge MA 11.11.11

The Wooden Sky - Oslo

"The reason I started Visible Voice was to share the music that I believe in, and there is no better example than They Wooden Sky.  A sold out Lizard Lounge is a start, but they are are destined for much bigger things"

Download the full set 


#3 The Head And The Heart: Royale Boston MA 9.30.11

The Head And The Heart - Lost In My Mind 

"At times I was taken aback by the response, and the band seemed genuinely surprised as well.  In any case, I've never seen a crowd at Royale so enthusiastic"

Download the full set


#2 Lady Lamb The Beekeeper: Brighton Music Hall Boston MA 4.14.11

Lady Lamb The Beekeeper - Aubergine

"As Aly Spaltro bared her soul to a room full of strangers, we exchanged knowing glances and eyebrow raises - we were witnessing something pretty special.  A jawdropping set from a rising star."

Download the full set


#1 Jeff Tweedy: State Theater Portland ME 3.26.11

Jeff Tweedy - Via Chicago

"The acoustic setting puts Tweedy's songwriting in the spotlight - stripping densely-produced songs to their bare essentials."

Download the full set



Fall 2011 Mixtape


Review: Wilco - The Whole Love

Words // Scott Pingeton

Like so many others, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was my first introduction to Wilco.  It was the summer of 2001 and I must have read a glowing review in whatever music publication mattered to me at the time.  I remember feeling super-cool as I walked out of the record store with both The Strokes' Is This It? and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  In retrospect, that one trip to the record store has defined and shaped much of my musical life.  But in the months that followed, I wore out Is This It? while Yankee Hotel Foxtrot gathered dust.  I didn't get it.  I guess I wasn't ready for it yet.

I distinctly remember sitting in my freshman dorm reading a year end "best of" list that probably annointed YHF as an instant-classic, digging out the CD and putting it on.  And again, it fell flat.  But I gave it time and eventually it clicked, and with that revelation a whole new world of music opened up before me.  Music that was challenging, songs required focus and patience.  Music as art suddenly made sense to me.

Since then, Wilco's music has been a constant and important part of my life.  I dove head-first into the band's back catalog, anticipated and obsessed over A Ghost Is Born and saw countless live shows.  But over the last two studio albums I saw my devotion starting to wane.  I found Sky Blue Sky lifeless and, while I was initially drawn to Wilco (The Album) because it reminded me more of previous Wilco albums, the veneer of novelty wore off quickly.  That isn't to say that those albums aren't good, but they lacked and edge and spark that the earlier albums had.  It was starting to notice a trend, and it wasn't good.

Wilco - Art of Almost

That all ends with The Whole Love - an inspired collection of songs that stands tall alongside the band's very best work.  Art-rock album opener "Art of Almost" pulses with energy, blips beeps buzzes and finally devolves into a screaming Nels Cline guitar freakout.  It's a ballsy opening track and it makes a big statement, landing a shot across the bow of "dad-rock" detractors.  It's as far as Wilco has pushed the experimental envelope to date, and it shows a welcome willingness to take risks.  The opening track demonstrates the lofty ambition and flawless execution that appears throughout The Whole Love, but sonically the album draws from all corners of the band's repertoire.  "Black Moon", "Rising Red Lung" and "One Sunday Morning" are hushed, tender Tweedy solo takes that feature some of the songwriter's most affecting lyrics in recent memory, adorned with subtle accompaniment.  "I Might", "Dawned On Me" and "Standing O" are catchy power-pop throwbacks to the Summerteeth-era and the band's best shots at a radio hit in a while.  "Sunloathe" and "Capitol City" are playful, vaguely psychedelic, Beatles-esque pop.

I think the band flailed a bit on the last two records trying to fine-tune the studio dynamics of the current lineup.  In the live setting they're dialed-in, but finding the right use of Nels' guitar histrionics in the studio has proved a more difficult challenge.  On these songs Nels strikes the right balance - playing within the songs instead of overpowering them, except of course when the song calls for overpowering, in which case he lets it rip ("Born Alone", "Art of Almost").  The Whole Love also feels more like a product of the studio than any album since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  There are subleties revealed with each listen - new textures, noises and nuances - yet it never sounds artificial or sterile.  This may be the best sounding record the band has released, finding a perfect balance between the organic, live sound of A Ghost Is Born and the obsessive studio tinkering of Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

The truth is, there isn't much of a weak link on The Whole Love.  The record covers a lot of stylistic ground and, while it mostly works as a cohesive unit, it does feel a bit disjointed at times.  There is no doubt in my mind that this is Wilco's best studio work of the Nels Cline era; and while the record's ultimate place in the Wilco canon will be a matter of personal preference, it's certainly no stretch to say that The Whole Love stands alongside the band's best work.  It feels good to have my favorite band back.

The Whole Love is out September 27 on dBpm Records.  Preorder it here.

Photos from the band's typically-brilliant show at The Wang Theater in Boston earlier this week


Wilco Live at Solid Sound Festival 2011 (Night 2)

If Friday night's set was the musical equivalent of the dark storm clouds overhead - noise rock grit and flashy Nels Cline solos - then Saturday's set was the opposite.  A looser set featuring Wilco's most accessible and well-known work.  Classic rock pomp, folk-rock singalongs and Tweedy's trademark self-deprecating banter.

Catering to both the casual fans and die-hards, the set again drew from every album.  The only songs repeated from the previous night were new tracks "I Might" and "Born Alone".  Among many highlights, the standouts for me were "At Least That's What You Said" (I never tire of that solo), "Jesus, etc" which Tweedy turned over almost entirely to the crowd and "California Stars" with Sarah Lee Guthrie singing her grandfather's lyrics.

With a setlist so different from the previous night, it's not easy to pick a favorite -- Friday night felt like Wilco at their most vital and experimental.  Saturday was the victory lap - a set of crowd favorites and singalongs, played beneath finally-dry skies to a sprawling, adoring crowd. For those that were there, I'm curious which night you preferred - let me know in the comments.

Complete recording of night two is streaming below.  Sound on this is excellent - enjoy!


Solid Sound Festival - North Adams, MA
June 25, 2011

I Love My Label (Nick Lowe cover)
Dawned On Me (new song)
A Shot In The Arm
Side With The Seeds
Company In My Back
I'll Fight
War On War
At Least That's What You Said
It's Just That Simple
What Light
Can't Stand It
Unknown (new song)
Jesus, etc
I Might (new song)
Box Full Of Letters
Hate It Here
You Never Know (with Liam Finn)
Born Alone (new song)
The Late Greats
Heavy Metal Drummer
Passenger Side
California Stars (with Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion)
Airline To Heaven
Monday > Outtasite (Outta Mind)
Hoodoo Voodoo

Full set download:  mp3 zip



Wilco Live at Solid Sound Festival 2011 (Night 1)

Night 1 of Solid Sound was nearly a wash out.  Pouring rain had guitar techs and roadies giving each other worried looks on stage - and for a while I wasn't sure Wilco would be able to take the stage. 

They did take the stage, albeit a little late, and proceeded to put on one of the most intense shows I've seen from them.  The band mirrored the storm overhead, putting together a setlist that featured some of their noisiest, most experimental and visceral work.  Nels Cline was the star of the night, and as usual he was in top form - his solo on Hotel Arizona absolutely smoked.  Another highlight was Poor Places > Reservations, mirroring the perfect juxtaposition of the songs on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The set featured tracks from every studio album, a handful of brand new songs from the upcoming The Whole Love and closed with a cover of Split Enz "I Got You" with Neil Finn. 

Full recording is below for stream or download (right-click / save as).  Sound is generally excellent - though the pitter-patter of rain in the first few songs is audible, along with a bit of wind noise towards the end of the set.  Well worth the download if only for the full-band premier of 3 new songs.  Check back soon for my recording from night 2 which sounds even better!


Solid Sound Festival - North Adams MA
June 24, 2011

I Might (new song)
Bull Black Nova
Muzzle Of Bees
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
One Wing
Via Chicago
Whole Love (new song)
Hotel Arizona
Impossible Germany
Shouldn't Be Ashamed
Handshake Drugs
Radio Cure
Born Alone (new song)
Poor Places
I'm The Man Who Loves You
Red-Eyed and Blue
I Got You (At The End Of The Century)
I Got You (Split Enz cover, with Neil Finn)

Full set download:  mp3 zip