By Natalie Harmsen
Ode to Joy
The title of Wilco’s eleventh record, Ode to Joy is a bit deceiving, given its downcast thematic content. But the Chicago six-piece aren’t seeking to make a record that’s hopeful, or that radiates sunshine, and that’s perfectly okay—the tracks are reflective of the times, and it’s Wilco’s call to stay afloat despite them.
Minimalism is present throughout, with drums being the constant unifying thread within the album. Are they a subtle nod to protests or revolution? Yes, but a restrained one. Wilco doesn’t have to shout to the rooftops about everything wrong in the world because we know well enough—we’re living it.
Ode to Joy starts off slow but kicks up after “Everyone Hides” and stays melodically upbeat. Led by frontman Jeff Tweedy, the group takes a stripped-back approach to songs that split open to reveal lyrics splayed out over acoustic instruments. This is perfectly captured on “Hold Me Anyway” and “Love is Everywhere (Beware).” It’s endearing, but there’s a desire for a deeper exploration.
It’s an album with a message, but by no means the next great American record. And that’s kind of the point. The songs lean less towards politically charged commentary on American life, instead weighing more heavily on finding moments of happiness when all seems lost.
Best Track: Hold Me AnywayJeff Tweedy, Ode To Joy, Wilco