In “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” the documentary about the making of Wilco’s landmark 2002 record Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the late Jay Bennett is discussing how the band should approach “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” the song.
“We just wanted it to not sound like a little folk ditty, you know? So we wanted to have just like some kind of sonic weight under all of that,” Bennett says. “And just something kind of weird and fucked up.”
With Cousin, Wilco’s latest and thirteenth record, this approach resurfaces, likely in large part due to Cate Le Bon taking the helm as Wilco’s first outside producer since 2007’s Sky Blue Sky.
Jeff Tweedy and Co. certainly have a knack for the weird and fucked up. Walls of perfect noise interrupt the acoustic beginnings of “Pittsburgh.” “Infinite Surprise” features one of Wilco’s finest and edgiest chord progressions, building to a cacophonic, destructive finish in only the first song of the record. Even Nels Cline’s solo in “Soldier Child” turns to a darker side, making for one of the finest musical moments on the record.
Although Tweedy turned away from some of the experimentation after YHF, it’s not unlikely that the desire to give his little folk ditties an edge never left him. Throughout all of Cousin, he’s constantly throwing chords at the end of progressions that pull the curtains aside and expose the more vulnerable side to his songs. “Ten Dead” doesn’t initially come across as intense as it ends, which is what makes it so cathartic. If it doesn’t have you at the beginning, it will by the end.
The record is full of fresh Wilco sounds. Closing track “Meant To Be” rollicks at a pace not often heard throughout the Chicago band’s discography. I’m an avid defender of Wilco’s ability to rock, and this track not only proves that, but does so in an exciting and extremely listenable way.
With the release of Cousin, Wilco continue to cement themselves as one of the greatest American bands of all time. The record reels with energy and tension not often seen in a band approaching their third decade.
Cousin shouldn’t fade away as an obligatory release by a legacy act. It should stand as one of the best records of the year, and a testament to the skill it takes a band to continue reinventing themselves. With their latest record, Wilco continue to demonstrate why making music is important, and why doing it in new and interesting ways is what makes them great.
Pre-order Cousin by Wilco HERE
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