Pop & Rock 2011: 30 Best Albums
Even as The Whole Love lands as another stunning example of Wilco's significance in contemporary pop music, it also serves as the culmination of a ten-year arc that has invariably been coupled with the notion of "challenging" one thing or another. The band's 21st century was marred/heightened early on by a David-vs-Goliath battle with Warner about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which the label saw no commercial potential for, even as the record grew into one of the most accomplished, inventive, and emulated albums in rock. Wilco won that public battle even as some in their fan base grumbled about their newest songs, which tended more towards lyrical abstraction, squalls of noise, and virtuoso, prog-y musicianship, as opposed to the "alt-country" scene Jeff Tweedy was spawned from. So, in summary everyone, at some point, seems to believe that Wilco is working against them, even though the band itself is rather populist and giving in nature. Their primary shield against haters has been an unwavering belief in itself and that it's okay to evolve with every passing year ― something that Tweedy in particular has a deep investment in. "I've never been that big of a Paul Simon fan, but there are things about his new record that I've found really inspiring and really hopeful for somebody that's not particularly young anymore, like myself, and somebody still working hard at challenging himself and still giving a shit," Tweedy told Exclaim! in September. "I just wanna see people that still give a shit. To be honest, I wanna see young bands that give a shit! That's the part that's really more disturbing than an older guy not giving a shit any more, but I see a lot of bands and I'm like, 'Really? How am I supposed to care if you don't care,' y'know? I don't get it." Challenge! The words come from a reformed punk rock enthusiast who figured out that you actually should learn how to play your instrument and hone your craft. For his part, Tweedy has many gifts as a songwriter, chief among them is a knack for infectious hooks, verses, choruses, and an ability to infuse sweet sounds with a gritty edge. As such, The Whole Love is the most nuanced Wilco album yet, subtly adopting punk free-form with new wave vigour and the sensitivity of seasoned folk, blending together and coming the closest in line to the daring of the Beatles without shamelessly mimicking them or anyone else.
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