Over their two-decades-plus run as one of America's most consistently rewarding bands, Wilco have rarely sounded as hushed, as restrained, as relaxed as they do on their tenth studio album. But don't let that fool you — this is as challenging a record as the Chicago sextet have ever released. After the boisterous garage alt-rock of last year's Star Wars, with Schmilco — a nod, perhaps, to Harry Nilsson's 1971 masterpiece Nilsson Schmilsson — Wilco have offered up a progressive folk curve ball: an album of alienated campfire jams.
Fitting in comfortably with frontman Jeff Tweedy's recent solo work (and his records with side project Loose Fur), much of Schmilco combines sparse acoustic confessionals with unsettling sonic flourishes and accompaniment. Throughout, Tweedy's tragic, offbeat lyrics plumb loss, estrangement, distance and ache as his crack band builds pillows of sound, only to let them pull apart and slip into the ether. The result is a moving, disquieting experience, sweetness and fear mingling together as the summer fades into autumn. (Anti)
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