11 Songs, 42 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

“We almost called the record The Trouble With Caring,” Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy tells Apple Music. “We all give a s**t. You have to hang on to that in the face of a world where it's very apparent that a lot of people don't give a s**t. It's important to f**k with them, to hold on to your sanity.” Though they instead went with something that slots somewhere between Star Wars and Being There in their discography's pantheon of cheekily reappropriated titles, that battle against ambivalence and stasis drives the band's 11th album—not just in subject matter, but in how they sound and operate in the thick of their third decade. On the heels of Tweedy's 2018 memoir and stripped-down two-headed solo venture, WARM and Warmer, Ode to Joy amps up the moodiness and chilly ambiance but still feels of a piece with that introspective, relatively direct work, reconciling what it means to be an artist—or to be, period—in this particular moment. “There's an American atmosphere right now of some type of mourning or grief,” Tweedy says. “What I've learned is that you shouldn't waste a whole lot of time feeling guilty about having moments of joy in the face of depression. Do not postpone happiness based on some struggle you are witnessing or participating in. That's just kind of a core contemplation of almost everything that I've been working on for a pretty long time.” Bask in the weird times with this track-by-track overview straight from Tweedy himself.

Bright Leaves
“There's some beauty in never changing. There's some beauty in understanding your core self and forgiving yourself, that you're the same kid who made stupid mistakes when you were 15, but you have become a better steward of that person as you've gotten older. There is obviously something to mourn about the fact that we have such a difficult time changing things that need to be changed about ourselves and about our environment and about our political system, our culture. Wilco is a perfect vehicle for stuff like that, because there's a lot of ambience and atmosphere to the way we play together.”

Before Us
“Basically, we destroyed a rhythm track created by a drum machine with distortion and created all these micro-rhythms that were organic-sounding. That's typical of the way Glenn [Kotchke] approaches drumming in the studio, and I think it's really to his credit that he can play so virtuosic and doesn't seem concerned with making people aware of that. Just one drum hit can be profound if it's recorded the right way and struck the right way and with the right intent. I look at myself as being a passenger in these songs—Glenn being the mode of transportation—and everybody else in Wilco, in a lot of ways, are the things going by the windows.”

One and a Half Stars
“The line ‘I can’t escape my domain’: When my dad died, my sister and I and my brother, to some extent, we spent a lot of time at our childhood house—the only house I’d ever lived in, getting it ready to be sold. My teenage bedroom—it was pretty striking how similar the spaces I try and make for myself are still that type of domain: books and records and not much else. I carry it with me. I think everyone does.”

Quiet Amplifier
“There is a tendency to react, artistically, to what you believe are preconceived ideas of what you are trying to say. For a person that's been making music for a long time, like myself and like all of us in Wilco, you're up against a lot of preconceptions. For me, sometimes it's just an intuition about wanting to be contrary—not out of the desire to be a contrarian but because it's a struggle to make that connection. You're like, 'Oh, you're expecting me to say this really loud, I'm going to whisper it because I want you to hear me.' It's a frustration with how fallible it is to try and get people to listen to you in the spirit that you're speaking. Like, I'm over punk rock. I don't want to hear that s**t anymore. I just want to find something that makes it all come alive again, that makes the language exciting again.”

Everyone Hides
“It's a song that Spencer [Tweedy, Jeff's oldest son] and I had recorded for the movie St. Vincent a few years ago. But the band had some strong opinions about us taking a crack at it. Lyrically, I thought it fit the record perfectly, so I think we made a bigger, bolder version of the song that was there already.”

White Wooden Cross
“I think it's a pretty universal thing for people to contemplate: If you have people that you care about and you don't occasionally have a jolt of fear at the notion of losing them, then I don't know if you really care about them. The line 'I blow my horn for the whole band' isn't literally about a band. I want to feel useful to people beyond just making music. I certainly live for that connection in other people's work. I think it's a good thing to remind yourself of, that you're not just up onstage for yourself. It makes me feel better about what I do—we're not playing for you, we're playing with you. We're singing together.”

Citizens
“Like almost everything on the record, the drumming on ‘Citizens’ is something that sounds fairly simple and has a deep resonance, sonically, but it's pretty complicated. It's kind of like an octopus—you have to be very disciplined to be able to do all of those parts at once. It's a good example of the atmospherics that everybody is really contributing throughout the record, where it's super sensitive to the song and extremely cinematic.”

We Were Lucky
“I wrote the song towards the end of the recording process because I really wanted to hear Nels [Cline] shred. I just thought it was an important part of what Wilco is. To me, that playing—his mode of expression and his ability to combine dissonance and virtuosity and all those things—is a pretty tight microcosm of what we're trying to get at on the whole record.”

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)
“It's a pretty simple, cathartic thing to have a signature motif, or a lyric, and then a guitar response. I don't know if we'd really done it that much, and this song just came together like that. That you can comfort yourself with the idea that there's more good than bad, I think, is important to believe. But I don't think it should be a belief that is placating or dismisses you from your duty to participate and to create love and to be vigilant.”

Hold Me Anyway
“Basically, the whole record is just working up to ‘Hold Me Anyway.’ It's just a big, goofy hug of a song. I think it's just meant to be ridiculously loving and big-hearted and stupid. I think that was the whole idea, to kind of work the record towards this climax of an embrace.”

An Empty Corner
“That song is mostly about this weird phenomenon when you dream about things that really happened. The first line, ‘Eight tiny lines on a copying machine’—first of all, I like the idea that nobody ever talks about tiny lines of cocaine. I used to work at a liquor store, and they would lay out lines of cocaine on the copying machine when the store would get busy. They made me a night manager at one point, I was only 18 years old. They gave me a gun and I had to make night deposits and then go back to the store and put the gun back in the safe. So I dreamt about that, and I woke up thinking I wish I had cocaine, but I don't even like cocaine. The other two verses are more actual dreamlike dream scenarios, but they're rooted in some of the authoritarian, dystopian atmosphere we're swimming around in. I like to look at a last song on a record as the closing credits of an album. This album, to me, needed closing credits that underlined the idea that maybe we're imagining some of this. That too shall pass and it's a thing that's really happening, but sometimes it does feel like a weird dream even while you're in it.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

“We almost called the record The Trouble With Caring,” Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy tells Apple Music. “We all give a s**t. You have to hang on to that in the face of a world where it's very apparent that a lot of people don't give a s**t. It's important to f**k with them, to hold on to your sanity.” Though they instead went with something that slots somewhere between Star Wars and Being There in their discography's pantheon of cheekily reappropriated titles, that battle against ambivalence and stasis drives the band's 11th album—not just in subject matter, but in how they sound and operate in the thick of their third decade. On the heels of Tweedy's 2018 memoir and stripped-down two-headed solo venture, WARM and Warmer, Ode to Joy amps up the moodiness and chilly ambiance but still feels of a piece with that introspective, relatively direct work, reconciling what it means to be an artist—or to be, period—in this particular moment. “There's an American atmosphere right now of some type of mourning or grief,” Tweedy says. “What I've learned is that you shouldn't waste a whole lot of time feeling guilty about having moments of joy in the face of depression. Do not postpone happiness based on some struggle you are witnessing or participating in. That's just kind of a core contemplation of almost everything that I've been working on for a pretty long time.” Bask in the weird times with this track-by-track overview straight from Tweedy himself.

Bright Leaves
“There's some beauty in never changing. There's some beauty in understanding your core self and forgiving yourself, that you're the same kid who made stupid mistakes when you were 15, but you have become a better steward of that person as you've gotten older. There is obviously something to mourn about the fact that we have such a difficult time changing things that need to be changed about ourselves and about our environment and about our political system, our culture. Wilco is a perfect vehicle for stuff like that, because there's a lot of ambience and atmosphere to the way we play together.”

Before Us
“Basically, we destroyed a rhythm track created by a drum machine with distortion and created all these micro-rhythms that were organic-sounding. That's typical of the way Glenn [Kotchke] approaches drumming in the studio, and I think it's really to his credit that he can play so virtuosic and doesn't seem concerned with making people aware of that. Just one drum hit can be profound if it's recorded the right way and struck the right way and with the right intent. I look at myself as being a passenger in these songs—Glenn being the mode of transportation—and everybody else in Wilco, in a lot of ways, are the things going by the windows.”

One and a Half Stars
“The line ‘I can’t escape my domain’: When my dad died, my sister and I and my brother, to some extent, we spent a lot of time at our childhood house—the only house I’d ever lived in, getting it ready to be sold. My teenage bedroom—it was pretty striking how similar the spaces I try and make for myself are still that type of domain: books and records and not much else. I carry it with me. I think everyone does.”

Quiet Amplifier
“There is a tendency to react, artistically, to what you believe are preconceived ideas of what you are trying to say. For a person that's been making music for a long time, like myself and like all of us in Wilco, you're up against a lot of preconceptions. For me, sometimes it's just an intuition about wanting to be contrary—not out of the desire to be a contrarian but because it's a struggle to make that connection. You're like, 'Oh, you're expecting me to say this really loud, I'm going to whisper it because I want you to hear me.' It's a frustration with how fallible it is to try and get people to listen to you in the spirit that you're speaking. Like, I'm over punk rock. I don't want to hear that s**t anymore. I just want to find something that makes it all come alive again, that makes the language exciting again.”

Everyone Hides
“It's a song that Spencer [Tweedy, Jeff's oldest son] and I had recorded for the movie St. Vincent a few years ago. But the band had some strong opinions about us taking a crack at it. Lyrically, I thought it fit the record perfectly, so I think we made a bigger, bolder version of the song that was there already.”

White Wooden Cross
“I think it's a pretty universal thing for people to contemplate: If you have people that you care about and you don't occasionally have a jolt of fear at the notion of losing them, then I don't know if you really care about them. The line 'I blow my horn for the whole band' isn't literally about a band. I want to feel useful to people beyond just making music. I certainly live for that connection in other people's work. I think it's a good thing to remind yourself of, that you're not just up onstage for yourself. It makes me feel better about what I do—we're not playing for you, we're playing with you. We're singing together.”

Citizens
“Like almost everything on the record, the drumming on ‘Citizens’ is something that sounds fairly simple and has a deep resonance, sonically, but it's pretty complicated. It's kind of like an octopus—you have to be very disciplined to be able to do all of those parts at once. It's a good example of the atmospherics that everybody is really contributing throughout the record, where it's super sensitive to the song and extremely cinematic.”

We Were Lucky
“I wrote the song towards the end of the recording process because I really wanted to hear Nels [Cline] shred. I just thought it was an important part of what Wilco is. To me, that playing—his mode of expression and his ability to combine dissonance and virtuosity and all those things—is a pretty tight microcosm of what we're trying to get at on the whole record.”

Love Is Everywhere (Beware)
“It's a pretty simple, cathartic thing to have a signature motif, or a lyric, and then a guitar response. I don't know if we'd really done it that much, and this song just came together like that. That you can comfort yourself with the idea that there's more good than bad, I think, is important to believe. But I don't think it should be a belief that is placating or dismisses you from your duty to participate and to create love and to be vigilant.”

Hold Me Anyway
“Basically, the whole record is just working up to ‘Hold Me Anyway.’ It's just a big, goofy hug of a song. I think it's just meant to be ridiculously loving and big-hearted and stupid. I think that was the whole idea, to kind of work the record towards this climax of an embrace.”

An Empty Corner
“That song is mostly about this weird phenomenon when you dream about things that really happened. The first line, ‘Eight tiny lines on a copying machine’—first of all, I like the idea that nobody ever talks about tiny lines of cocaine. I used to work at a liquor store, and they would lay out lines of cocaine on the copying machine when the store would get busy. They made me a night manager at one point, I was only 18 years old. They gave me a gun and I had to make night deposits and then go back to the store and put the gun back in the safe. So I dreamt about that, and I woke up thinking I wish I had cocaine, but I don't even like cocaine. The other two verses are more actual dreamlike dream scenarios, but they're rooted in some of the authoritarian, dystopian atmosphere we're swimming around in. I like to look at a last song on a record as the closing credits of an album. This album, to me, needed closing credits that underlined the idea that maybe we're imagining some of this. That too shall pass and it's a thing that's really happening, but sometimes it does feel like a weird dream even while you're in it.”

TITLE TIME

Ratings and Reviews

3.2 out of 5
42 Ratings

42 Ratings

AFR.T. ,

Excellent Effort

I enjoy the subtle, almost hidden, complexity that each band member brings to the songs. For me this is craftsmanship and no one member is specifically outdoing the other, they all do what is right for the mood of the song. This is a good return to form. I cant wait to hear the songs live.

MRDAVIDCPA ,

So Boring!

I am a big Wilco fan, I gave this a try, and then gave up. Slow, boring, songs.

aditz233 ,

Underrated

Such a great band with amazing songs. Nice comeback.

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