Jump to content

"Ode To Joy" Reactions


Recommended Posts

Hey all, with OTJ floating out there now (and officially arriving on Friday), I'd figured we might as well kick off some reactions.

I've been posting on here since my freshman year of college (2008), and while many of you have been following the band for much longer, you still have to admit that a lot has happened in Wilcoworld over the last decade. Not to get all apocryphal on your asses, but I think we can all agree that tales of Wilco’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. I haven’t been on here as much as I was in the heady days of tracking down and downloading every taper-recorded set I could find, but this seems as good a time as any to dive back in. I have listened to OTJ a couple times through now, bought tickets to one of the St. Paul shows, and I am, in general, feeling more fizzed-up on the band than I have in a long while. Before breaking down my thoughts on the record, I wanted to provide a little insight into my fan boi history. 100% fine to scroll to the last paragraph though, if you DGAF. I know the impulse to judge new Wilco releases against their past output can be a frustrating and broadly pointless exercise, but I think that building and sharing some sort of personal context in this way can be helpful in explaining our relationship to the music over time.

 

The first new record cycle I was able to experience as a dyed-in-the-wool Wilco Head was (the album). I appreciated that collection for what it was, but frankly I could never fully shake the tiny, shadow-feeling of having to qualify my enjoyment of the new thing against what came before. I could make logical sense of this feeling pretty easily with what I understand about youth, nostalgia, etc. and I have more-or-less approached every album since with that same attitude: “This is Wilco. My favorite band. They have a new record out, and I’m going to like most of it quite a bit.” With the benefit of hindsight though, I think it's fair to say that Wilco (the album) represents the start of a later-era™ for the band. This period has had some great songs, and a few stinkers, but I think is fairly understood to be a period of relatively steady, if unremarkable releases. And honestly? That’s fine! But if I’m being completely honest, I have really really really been waiting for a Wilco record that feels like it approaches the “essential”-ness of of the BT-SBS era. The build-up/rollout of OTJ has definitely set the table for something that feels a little more “important” than the past couple records, and I know this idea is something JT has loosely alluded to in interviews as being sort-of intentional.

 

Now, let me just say —  I’m not *sure* OTJ reaches those heights…but it’s pretty fucking exciting to not be sure about that. Welcome to the #NewEra folks. I don’t know if it’s the power of persuasion at play, but listening to this certainly feels like we are walking onto more hallowed musical ground than anything since, maybe, AGIB? At the very least, I think it's deserving of the "best in years" that some publications have slapped onto their reviews. The studio really seems to have been brought in as an essential instrument again, and the architecture of this record finds unique and rewarding sonic fingerprints smudging the corners of nearly every song. This being the case, my initial impulse is not to highlight any songs in particular, but rather the record as a whole - which speaks to the quality of the thing, I think. With OTJ, I don’t feel there’s any reason to look for consolation prizes. Many have written about this at length, but big blocks of bass-drum-thump and snare-crack really push this record front to back. Muscular, visceral, hypnotic. It's relentless. If Glenn’s drumming is the huge, brutalist hospital building, then the rest of the band acts as surgeons, slicing and building simple folk songs into something altogether more bewitching. Instead of honking organs, and glammed-up guitar riffs, we get something more subtle, and dare-I-say, tasteful. There is gently rumbling bass, chirping and burping electronics, fingers scraping over strings, yawning feedback, and whimsical piano and guitar accents. It’s a record that’s gentle without being slight and patient without being slow. We do get a little proper guitar freakout and it’s dropped in a great spot, sequence-wise. Would I like just *a little* more guitar tangle & skronk? Sure. Of course I would. But situated as it is here, the moment is brief and deeply satisfying. Lastly, it’s clear at this point that JT has found an approach to vocal performance that sits more comfortably with him at this stage. We know this. Call it a world-weary sigh if you want. On OTJ, it still sits in a fairly reserved space, but I found the performances to be a bit more lively than the near-whisper/talk that can be found on a couple of songs on Schmilco-Warm-Warmer. So while some of the bark has faded, I can report that the bite is still very much intact here.

 

Okay then. Everyone will hear it Friday. I’m sure I’ll have more to say with later listens (esp. w/ full access to the lyrics), and I’m excited to see what people think!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 187
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

as i wrote on LP11 thread, i think its best since "ghost is born". i'm not counting "kicking television" although maybe i should. OTJ gets better on each listen. this one is a winner. hope we get some dates in the northwest soon!

 

This is where I'm landing with it also. I got into Wilco right around Sky Blue Sky and so far this is their most interesting record since A Ghost is Born to me. It feel cohesive and whole to me, and a lot of it has to do with the common themes in it's production I think...some electronics, subtle key tones, how pronounced the drums are in some of the tracks. 

 

It could just be hype but after a few listens, I'm really in love with this one. Quiet Amplifier is such an incredible track.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Would I like just *a little* more guitar tangle & skronk? Sure. Of course I would. 

 

I haven't heard the record yet, but...

 

This is something I've been thinking about.  I am in the camp that wants more guitar.   Electric lead guitar, specifically, and multi-guitar harmonized leads is even better.   I may have tricked myself (maybe from seeing them live, where guitar soloing is usually plentiful) into thinking that is one ingredient that is most often missing from their records.  But I have to remind myself that YHF, for example, has virtually no lead guitar, and it'll probably be remembered as their career defining album.  Maybe Summerteeth is pretty light on lead guitar, too, now that I think about it.  So I need to keep reminding myself that "needs more guitar solos" is probably not a fair criticism to apply to their records.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't heard the record yet, but...

 

This is something I've been thinking about.  I am in the camp that wants more guitar.   Electric lead guitar, specifically, and multi-guitar harmonized leads is even better.   I may have tricked myself (maybe from seeing them live, where guitar soloing is usually plentiful) into thinking that is one ingredient that is most often missing from their records.  But I have to remind myself that YHF, for example, has virtually no lead guitar, and it'll probably be remembered as their career defining album.  Maybe Summerteeth is pretty light on lead guitar, too, now that I think about it.  So I need to keep reminding myself that "needs more guitar solos" is probably not a fair criticism to apply to their records.

 

You will be pleased.

Link to post
Share on other sites
So, my pre-order should arrive tomorrow here in AU, but in fevered anticipation (driven by the positive hype) I've been up tonight so it landed on Spotify at the crack of midnight.
 
What I can say is that this is certainly their most interesting, complex and dark release since A Ghost Is Born, and for me that's a very, very good thing. It's deeply affecting as well. And, ohh..this is a very, very good album.
 
Whilst it shares production similarities with Schmilco and Tweedy's WARM(ER), it's far more sonically rich and has a depth that was absent on those records. Furthermore, Ode To Joy represents a clear break from the democratic six-piece era of  Sky Blue SkyWTA, The Whole Love and Star Wars. The democratic felt at time like it was run along the lines of "Nels gets a part here...Pat gets one here...Mike gets one here"; and for me, this was one of the most frustrating aspects of Wilco's output during this phase. Even though it's fairly average, recently I regarded Schmilco as an effort in reigning that in and working more as an ensemble to build songs more on the basis of texture, shade and colour. It wasn't quite there on Schmilco (by a long shot at times..but neither were the songs) but listening to Ode, the continuity is pretty clear. On the one hand, it's insular and intimate (like the better parts of Schmilco/WARM(ER) and - imo - the best of Ghost and YHF) but the clear distinction is the presence of Glenn Kotche. The drums and percussion are right up front and - at times - quite unconventional. As opposed to the crisp crack of a snare or sibilant ripple of cymbals, most of the rhythm consists of huge blocks of sound and opaque rattles, squeaks and whirrs. In this regard, tracks like "Before Us" and "Quiet Amplifier" are outstanding tracks.
 

 

Then there's Tweedy. These are easily some of the best (most direct songs) he's delivered under the Wilco guise in a very long time. I might have mentioned somewhere on here previously that I'd wished he'd carried the bulk of WARM over for the next Wilco project; but listening to the quality of the Ode To Joy material has allayed any concerns about the well running dry or misdirecting his better material. The deliberate f&ck-it mentality of Star Wars and weaknesses of Schmilco isn't present here. These are beautiful songs.
Link to post
Share on other sites

First spin impressions: half of the record abandons verse chorus verse chorus bridge verse chorus which was really nice because I've been frustrated with Jeff writing to the formula too much. It sounds like they actually cared about production on the record which in a large part if because they let Glenn do interesting work on the drums. I described it to my brothers as "Schmilco mixed with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" because the noise doesn't sound thrown in like it did on Schmilco and even in the live set*. It sounds purposeful and thematic. Weird choice of singles as they do sound like singles, but do not really represent the record well. Kind of like "I'm A Wheel" representing A Ghost is Born

 

*I'm not always on board some of the noise tracks live such as "Muzzle of Bees" or "Via Chicago" because it seems like the new members of the band are making noise just to fill the space. There's a version of "War On War" with Leroy Bach live that slays the current lineup because he was clearly there to care about what they sounded like. It's for this reason that while "Pot Kettle Black" is my second favorite song, I never want to hear it live because all of the hyper-curated things I enjoy in the song are liquified and regurgitated poorly. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, as feared, I got home and my vinyl copy was warped into the shape of a topo map of the Andes.  Totally destroyed.  Kung Fu has a useless return policy, and trying to get recourse from US Postal Service is a non-starter. 

 

So I guess Wilco will be getting a double sale from me this time out.  I better win that guitar.

 

At least there's Spotify to hold me over until I can get to the record store. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Feels pretty similar to Schmilco. A solid record, like Warm/Warmer with stronger melodies and arrangements. And some great moments from Nels. Nothing feels groundbreaking or surprising, but what's wrong with that? 

 

Look, a band with one of my favorite records of all time probably isn't going to top or match that record 20 years later. And that probably has more to do with where I am in life now vs. where I was when I first heard them. 

 

I also think this feels genuine and honest -- this is where they're at, a guy Jeff's age isn't going to -- and frankly, shouldn't -- write a lyric like "I'd like to thank you all for nothing at all." I wouldn't mind an utterly surprising musical left turn, though. Maybe next record? 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Having just completed my first listen, the songs that I was most drawn to were Quiet Amplifier and An Empty Corner.   It seems pretty obvious this album will be a grower for me.  AGIB was like that, too, to some degree.

 

I'd agree this album is sort of in the Schmilco universe, but that could be an unfair first impression.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

Been through it twice. I think its a pleasant album, I also think its pretty much a Tweedy record with a souped up band but I think that is what Wilco is right now so its all good. I think this album will translate well to live shows. I can't exactly place it but personally I think tempo is what I am pining for on these last couple of albums but its not the  early 2000's and thats  not where the band is.I am off today, working in the yard with a new Wilco album in my ear all day. I am grateful my favorite band still putting out albums!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Been through it twice. I think its a pleasant album, I also think its pretty much a Tweedy record with a souped up band but I think that is what Wilco is right now so its all good. I think this album will translate well to live shows. I can't exactly place it but personally I think tempo is what I am pining for on these last couple of albums but its not the  early 2000's and thats  not where the band is.I am off today, working in the yard with a new Wilco album in my ear all day. I am grateful my favorite band still putting out albums!

 

Regarding tempo...

 

I don't know if this is true for anyone else, but when I sit around paying guitar by myself I come up with a lot of different things in slower tempos.  But if I'm practicing with a band, what we come up with tends to be mid-tempo or faster, and almost never anything at a slower tempo. 

 

In Wilco's case, it could be that Tweedy experiences this same phenomenon, writes a lot of slower tempo material, and rather than working these musical ideas up with the whole band playing as a group, which tends to rock things up quite a bit in terms of tempo and swagger, the songs remain at the tempo and attitude they were when Tweedy came up with them.  The result can appear that the band is conforming to Tweedy, more than Tweedy being nudged in any direction by the band.  At least on record.  In concert, history has shown us that the songs take on more of the character of the band.     

 

I think you can kind of see this at play by looking at SBS, which was a live band session.  There are slower tracks on that one, too, but there's also a good bit of hip shaking and dust being kicked up on a lot of those tunes.  Wilco generally doesn't do much of that on their albums anymore.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it's a pretty remarkable achievement for a few reasons.

 

First of all, I'd say production-wise, or sonically this is the most realized thing Jeff has done with Tom Schick as his right-hand engineer. The preference for defiantly smaller sounds has stayed a hall mark, but with some pretty big new percussive oomph. There is much more of a sense of all the sounds coming together to make a powerful whole than on the last record.

 

The other thing I'm enjoying about it is there was a time years ago when I was discovering some of their great B-sides. Songs like 'More Like the Moon', 'Panthers', or 'The High Heat' felt like an image of the band that I wanted to explore more. Away from the bombast of an acclaimed rock band on a big stage, they sound more like an art-folk ensemble winding sounds in a carpeted room around some emotionally direct songs. That's where this album lands to me for the most part. 

 

The last thought I have for now is one that's read on the facts as I understand them of how this record was made. From Tweedy to Star Wars through Warmer I have the sense that Jeff has spent time building up songs with Spencer on drums, and overdubbing guitar and bass ideas as well as the expected core of his voice and acoustic guitar. On the last two Wilco records it seems the members have been invited to pick at what could already be a complete arrangement to modify, replace, or think of a new addition. Jeff mentioned these songs were started as a guitar and drum machine skeleton, and the he and Glenn workshopped what the percussive approach would be, forcing themselves somewhere novel. If I understand correctly that left the other members approaching songs that only had vocal melody, some guitar strums, and stark percussion. This left them space to build texture, harmony, dynamics and I think it created something that feels very nuanced and cohesive to me.

Link to post
Share on other sites

To me, this album has so much more in terms of layers than Schmilco. I put it much closer to YHF that way. Maybe only slightly less dissonance and tension than YHF had, but only slightly. I think we'll look back at it quite differently than the general tenor many of the initial reactions I'm reading. Maybe this is because I listened at a higher volume than I do most music, but I found it pretty damn thrilling throughout.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The top post on r/indieheads is "the best wilco album since whatever the last wilco album you liked was". Which I thought was pretty astute. I've seen "best Wilco album since" Yankee, A Ghost Is Born, Sky Blue Sky, and The Whole Love. At this point I think we have to admit while we might have personal feelings, objectively, Wilco has been very consistent. 

 

The other thing I'm enjoying about it is there was a time years ago when I was discovering some of their great B-sides. Songs like 'More Like the Moon', 'Panthers', or 'The High Heat' felt like an image of the band that I wanted to explore more. Away from the bombast of an acclaimed rock band on a big stage, they sound more like an art-folk ensemble winding sounds in a carpeted room around some emotionally direct songs. That's where this album lands to me for the most part. 

 

This is the best observation I've seen yet.

I would also disagree with the sentiment that it sounds like Warm(er). Except for maybe An Empty Corner. Which is the last song, so I guess I can understand how that impression might get stuck with people.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...