The term “wilco,” refers to an act of compliance or agreement, usually used in military terms. Therefore, it seems ironic for the term to serve as the name of an alternative rock band that sings about going against government institutions.
However, Wilco is one of the more successful bands in the alternative rock genre, being nominated for multiple Grammys and in 2005 won Best Alternative Music Album, with “A Ghost is Born.”
Most of the band’s accolades come from its music in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, most notably their album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” which has sold over 670,000 copies. However, the band has been making music continuously since its first album “A.M.,” was released in 1995.
On Friday, Oct. 4, Wilco added to its discography with “Ode to Joy,” the band’s 11th album and first release since 2016.
“Ode to Joy” is a slower, melancholic album with the familiar weary-voiced sound Wilco has had since the band started in 1994 in Chicago. Something that could be looked on as a negative are the album’s lyrics. The lyrics of the group’s latest record can be somewhat repetitive. However, this album thrives in tone through the lyrics and melodies. It gives off the sensation of seasons changing with a cozy tone throughout with its soft, acoustic instrumentals. It creates a sonic atmosphere that blends perfectly with the fall season.
This soft tone is set with the very first song of the album called “Bright Leaves.”
“Somehow we're bright leaves/You and I beneath the old snow/Being set free by the winter rain/And I know it'll never change,” lead singer Jeff Tweedy sings.
Tweedy compares a damaged relationship where no one is willing to change to bright leaves. He makes this comparison to signify that some things never change, whether that’s a broken relationship or bright leaves under snow. The leaves stay the same, just as the relationship stays the same and doesn’t get better.
The unwillingness to change, in terms of bettering oneself, is a theme that continues on “One and a Half Stars.” Tweedy explains how he has the desire to change. In fact, it’s his only desire. However, it’s hard for him to change, especially since he can’t even get out of bed. He also doesn’t see the problem with staying in bed, saying that he can’t escape his domain anyways due to his bed feeling two stories high.
Something Wilco is known for is sneaking lyrics of unease and sadness behind a comforting beat and sound. One song that they do this in from the album is “Love is Everywhere (Beware),” which seems to have an uplifting title and beat, but has lyricism with an opposing somber tone.
“Seeing myself as something more mean/Out in the country/Sadness wants me/Further away from the scene.”
Tweedy consistently sings about how love is everywhere, but also tells the listener to beware of how much love there is. The amount of love that already exists can make someone indolent and prevent them from creating more love in the world.
Wilco is a band that delivers lyrics in a dilatory way throughout each song. This leads to a lack of lyrics in the group’s songs, but the alt rockers show that less can be more. The band makes up for the lack of lyrics with beats and instrumentals that relax the listener, giving them an opportunity to reflect on personal experiences while the record serves as a soundtrack to human introspection.
At first, the lyrics can seem monotonous and tedious to listen to, but keep on listening and the album provides introspection for the listener through lyrics that touch on subjects like depression and frustration with the world.
“Ode to Joy,” could be named as such due to the band’s appreciation of joy. It’s a sensation that combats all these unsettling emotions that are sung about in this album, and helps get through those hard times.
If listeners want to hear these songs live, Wilco is set to perform at Omaha’s Orpheum Theatre on Nov. 20.