Jeff Tweedy and Co. follow-up 2016’s Schmilco and the singer/songwriter’s pair of solo albums, Warm and Warmer, with Wilco’s eleventh studio effort, Ode to Joy. Featuring eleven new songs written and produced by Tweedy and recorded by Wilco at The Loft (Chicago, IL) in January 2019, Tweedy and Glenn Kotche were the launching pad from which most of the songs on Ode to Joy materialized – Kotche’s percussion propels the music forward while Tweedy’s measured words flesh out the cleared paths. As a result, the album is comprised of “really big, big folk songs, these monolithic, brutal structures that these delicate feelings are hung on,” notes Tweedy.
Across the entire album, drums pound and plod with a steady one – two pulse, meant to mimic the movement of marching – a powerful act utilized on both sides of the authoritarian wall. There’s also a sense of comfort that comes with the rhythmic marching sound. Whether our joy is measured by sparks felt when clutching old sweaters to our chests, by the number of tiny digital hearts earned from a shared photograph, by a guitar solo or a drumbeat or a piece of cotton on a stick in your ear, or by something even greater, Wilco wants to sincerely remind us to wear that feeling loud and proud. This is Ode to Joy: pick it up, hold it tight.
Tweedy describes the extrospective lead single “Love is Everywhere (Beware)”: There must be more love than hate. Right?! I’m not always positive we can be so sure. In any case, I’m starting to feel like being confident in that equation isn’t always the best motivation for me to be my best self – it can kind of let me off the hook a little bit when I think I should be striving to contribute more love outside of my comfortable sphere of family and friends. So…I guess the song is sort of a warning to myself that yes, love is everywhere, but also beware! I can’t let that feeling absolve me of my duty to create more.”
Engineered and mixed by Tom Schick at The Loft. Mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering (Portland, ME). Artwork by laddesign.net.