In October, Wilco will release their eleventh album and their first since 2016’s excellent Schmilco. It comes with an ambitiously universal titled, Ode to Joy. “Nobody needs more Wilco music,” Jeff Tweedy says in a statement. “But at the same time, if you use that as motivation, that’s a lot of energy to push forward and try to make something that is worth sharing, to challenge yourself to make something that has meaning to you. As an artist, I think that’s your fucking job.”
What emerges on Ode to Joy is an attempt to wrestle with our uniquely awful times in vividly personal and introspective songs that feel at once rugged and warm. The first single released from the album is “Love Is Everywhere (Beware),” one of its more serenely pretty moments. Musically, it recalls the early Byrds and Beatles of Rubber Soul, a reflectively lovely waltz-time acoustic tune swirled in sunny jangle. Yet, as is often the case with Wilco, there’s unease and worry lurking beneath the comforting sound, images of sadness in the country and “riots raining down.” Love is everywhere, Tweedy assures us. But its hard to feel that way in a world of hate, racism and Donald Trump; at the same time, it’s in not giving in to such a crushing daily reality where real personal and political change can begin to happen. That’s a pretty powerful message for one easeful little folk tune, and one more example of the way this long-running band can keep finding new ways to hit us where we live.