My thoughts on Ode To Joy: In my six years as a teacher, one thing I have to remind myself is to have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. Fixed mindset is believing that qualities are fixed traits and therefore cannot change. These people document their intelligence and talents rather than working to develop and improve them. They also believe that talent alone leads to success, and effort is not required. In a growth mindset , people have an underlying belief that their learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience. When people believe they can become better, they realize that their effort has an effect on their success, so they put in extra time, leading to higher achievement. I feel a similar way when it comes to experiencing art, especially music. If I go in expecting something or wanting it to sound a specific way, I am displaying a fixed mindset. It is like I am already setting myself up for disappointment without even hearing a note of the music. With each album by my favorite artists, I always make it a point to not judge them based on past albums. Generally, my favorite artists are the ones that change or evolve (Wilco, Gorillaz, My Morning Jacket, The Beatles, Jack White) but I do have some favorites whose sound hasn’t changed much (Fountains of Wayne, Creedence Clearwater Revival). Ode To Joy is an absolutely stunning album. The only comparison I will make to another Wilco album is that much like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’s theme was described as being about America circa 2000-2001, Ode To Joy’s theme is America in 2018-2019. Jeff has stated that no one needs another Wilco album. I cannot disagree more. This is the album that is needed during this turbulent time in America. These last few years have been rough on many people because of the political climate we live in. Somehow there is hope that things will get better. Many of the lyrics and vocals sound so achingly weary, whether it is describing an argument from a long-time committed couple in “Bright Leaves,” or locking oneself away in their room (depression? Love of naps?) not being able to escape their domain in “One and a Half Stars.” The repeated line of “White lies,” pretty much sums up our president and how he lies about pretty much everything, including the smallest, pettiest things. “I wish your world was mine,” from “Quiet Amplifier,” can take on many meanings to many different people, but on October 4, 2019, to me that means wishing you could feel joy like other people while there is a constant, increasing barrage of negatively surrounding them. But there is hope. Realizing that love is everywhere is a really hopeful sentiment even if you have to look out for ones who may exploit that love. “Hold Me Anyway” is a perfect example of feeling world-weary but still remaining hopeful. There’s so much truth in people not giving a damn with what is going on in the world and personally freaking the fuck out at what’s been going on AND people not giving a damn. Constantly freaking the fuck out is exhausting. But we still love, and goddamnit if it’s not poetry and magic. Even when we get it right, love is still tragic because as the next line states, even if you’ve been in love with someone for years, people will die. That can be a very constant fear. How can we cope with that fear? Luckily the last song on Ode To Joy answers that question. In the vast catalogue that Wilco has, there hasn’t been a line that packs more of a hopeful punch than “You’ve got family out there.” As a person who has major depression, anxiety, and panic disorder, there is something extremely comforting hearing those words amidst the muted chaos in the music. I know I cannot be alone with these thoughts. In the darkest moments in my life, thinking about and being with my family can help pull me out of the abyss. This idea of family doesn’t just mean parents, siblings or blood relatives. I am a firm believer of that you can absolutely choose your own family. I’ve tried to describe the music as it fits in with the lyrics and themes of Ode To Joy. This is a beautifully layered album. There is a lot going on when you pay attention, and you can further hear it when listening on a good sound system and/or a good set of headphones. As many reviews that have pointed out, Glen is all over this album. Jim O’Rourke best described Glen as not a drummer, but a “musician who happens to play the drums.” I do not think you can say there was a drumming performance on this album, but a percussion performance. Yes, the percussion is booming in the many parts of the album, but there are small, but noticeable percussion happening throughout the album. For instance, on “Before Us” I can hear something along the lines of sleigh bells. On “Citizens” there are sounds of bells or chimes similar to those on “Ashes of American Flags.” In the verse “If your selling yourself on a vision/a dream of who you are,” there is a little added oomph on the snare drums. “Hold Me Anyway” there is so much going on with the percussion that I cannot effectively describe what they sound like (I’m a math teacher, so words aren’t my forte). What I can confidently say, is that there’s barely any cymbals on the album. This is not to say other instruments do not shine. Nels himself says that he really enjoys playing more nuanced parts with Wilco. He is all over this album, whether it is the triple-harmonic solo in “Hold Me Anyway,” or setting the atmosphere on “Bright Leaves” and “An Empty Corner.” The piano flourishes are beautiful as well, especially on “White Wooden Cross” and “An Empty Corner.” John’s bass lines are, as always, great to listen to and fits each song perfectly. Musically, this album is very cohesive in setting an overall theme. It does not beat you over the head with what is going on and I think it is intended for you to listen intently. Ode To Joy may initially sound minimalistic, but it is just so much more. This is a gorgeous album by a band who continues to make thought-provoking, evocative music.