Review of the new record from renowned indie band Wilco
By Carter Bagley
I have to admit that Wilco has never really been on my radar. Despite having a fondness for 90’s bands and especially liking the 90’s indie scene with bands like Pavement and Guided By Voices, it seemed that Wilco always had a different vibe to them. Not one I don’t like by any means, just one that I’m not familiar with. The first album of theirs I heard was their debut album “A.M.” through the subscription service Vinyl Me, Please. You could tell they definitely had soft country roots and then evolved it into more of a folk alt-rock sound that still comes out now. They have this sort of folk indie rock sound that’s very welcoming. I’ve heard only two other albums of theirs, one being Summerteeth which I must say I wasn’t too impressed with despite a couple great songs and the other being Yankee Hotel Foxtrot which blew me away from first listen. For one reason or another I just haven’t delved that deep into the rest of their discography, but since they have a brand new album released today titled “Schmilco”, I decided to give it a proper review. Right from the opening track “Normal American Kids” I was instantly interested. It’s relatively short but has a very soft charm mixed with a delightful nostalgic feel to it. It seems as though lead singer Jeff Tweedy is reflecting on his childhood and his own experiences. It has a soft lead guitar and his folky vocals really add to it. The second track, also the second single for the album, “If I Ever Was A Child” also really impressed me maybe even more so than the opener. It is a little more upbeat with great lyrics although still continues the same feeling as the first. It has the very recognizable soft indie rock sound that Wilco helped establish and is a song I’ll definitely return to. The next few tracks aren’t nearly as good as the first two although they’re not bad whatsoever. “Cry All Day” and “Nope” are decent they’re just a tad generic but they’re solidly performed enough to give a listen to. It’s “Common Sense” that I didn’t really care for all that much as it has this unnerving sound to it that gets quite annoying after only a minute into the track. The song that comes after was the third song released from the album “Someone To Lose”. The instrumentation is pretty basic but still catchy and the main thing here to listen to is the vocals and the drumming. Despite the drumming being very simple it still holds the beat very well and makes you enjoy the song for what it is. Track 7 “Happiness” manages to be a very subtle yet fantastically raw song that might go unnoticed by many. The lyrics are interesting and weirdly sweet, and the chorus is honest and beautiful. The instrumentation is mostly just acoustic with some soft piano in the background that lifts the song up above what other artists would’ve just kept it as. Track 7 and on is when the album really picks up steam again after the few songs that came before it. “Quarters” sounds like a basic folk song although it’s still a nice listen but it’s “Locator” and “Shrug and Destroy” that got me invested in the album again. The former was the lead single for the album which is understandable as it’s one of the most marketable on the whole record. “Shrug And Destroy” is a truly lovely song that after multiple listens my enjoyment has only increased. The final two songs (“We Aren’t The World (Safety Girl)” and “Just Say Goodbye”) finish this whole record off really well too. They both have fairly similar sounds which is nice as they play into each other very well. Despite a couple tracks that I didn’t necessarily enjoy, there’s enough very good songs on “Schmilco” that I will indeed return to it a few times and I now have interest to check out the rest of the bands catalog. Lead singer and songwriter Jeff Tweedy seems to be reminiscing on childhood memories throughout the entirety of the album and that seems to be the theme. Although some memories being beautiful, some of them are just completely normal and boring and others are even a little weird. This is what gives “Schmilco” it’s charm and despite Tweedy often reminiscing, it’s that back and forth nature of the kinds of memories he shares with us that makes it not necessarily nostalgic, it’s just a man recollecting some old times. The comically sweet cover art also represents the album’s feel very well too and I’d say Wilco’s “Schmilco” is an interesting album with themes about love, growing up, and looking back on past experiences. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re interested and if you’re not I’d say you should give a listen to a few of the songs because if not, you’re missing out on some lovely music.
Highlights: If I Ever Was A Child, Happiness, Locator, Shrug And Destroy, We Aren’t The World (Safety Girl), Just Say Goodbye
Lowlights: Common Sense, Nope, Someone To Lose