Wilco (the album) is the seventh studio album by American alternative rock group Wilco which was released June 30, 2009. Prior to release, Wilco streamed the album on their website. The album was nominated for an Grammy Award for Best Americana Album.
After Wilco released their sixth studio album, Sky Blue Sky, in 2007, they spent the following two years touring to promote the album. In August 2008, Billboard reported that Wilco had been playing two new songs, "One Wing" and "Sonny Feeling", at recent shows in anticipation of a new studio album. Rolling Stone revealed the title of the album on April 28, 2009.
The album was recorded in Neil Finn's recording studio Roundhead Studios in Auckland, New Zealand. Members of Wilco were present to record material for a 7 Worlds Collide compilation album to benefit Oxfam. Guitarist Nels Cline and multi-instrumentalist Mikael Jorgensen provided overdubs once the band returned to Chicago, Illinois. The album was produced by the band and Jim Scott, who worked as an engineer on Being There, Summerteeth, and Sky Blue Sky. The band joined Scott in Valencia, California to mix the album. According to lead singer Jeff Tweedy, the band "allow[ed] [themselves] a little bit more leeway in terms of sculpting the sound in the studio and doing overdubs and using the studio as another instrument".
Wilco (the album) included the first duet to be featured on a Wilco album, "You and I", which was recorded with Canadian indie folk singer Feist. The band met Feist at the 50th Grammy Awards and found they had a mutual appreciation for each others' music.
On May 13, 2009, the album leaked on the internet, and Wilco promptly responded by streaming the album for free on their website. The stream resulted in over 100,000 visits to Wilco's website on the 13th. The band also suggested that those who downloaded the leaked copy make a charitable donation to Inspiration Corporation, an organization that assists low-income families in Chicago. Blogger Mike Masnick praised Wilco for their response to the leak, contrasting it to the reactionary response from 20th Century Fox following the leak of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
The album has been invariably described as the band's most accessible and upbeat since their early albums, with The Independent stating that it "recall[s] the simplicity of the band's early LPs A.M. and Being There." Matthew Perpetua of Pitchfork Media concurs, arguing that on the album "the disparate strains within the group's catalog have somehow flowed together into a unifying aesthetic", with the album touching on all of Wilco's various styles and guises in the past, which Perpetua identifies as "alt-country, Americana, neo-folk, quasi-experimental, and, if you insist, "dad rock."" Critic Jonathan Cohen also noted "Deeper Down" for its "wealth of sonic details".
Tweedy summarised the main theme of the album as the acceptance of life's uncertainties, stating
I think there's a liberating nature to that concept [...] It allows for a playfulness and an engagement in life that is more enjoyable than the alternative. I've aspired to convey some of those things for a long time now, maybe not so clearly before because it hasn't been so clear to me. But I do believe that the greater ability you have to tolerate ambiguity, the more successfully you can steer your life. The alternative point of view – the complete dismissal of ambiguity, trying to rationalise irrationality – can be very destructive.
This theme is manifested, for example, in the line from "Deeper Down" which goes "I adore the meaninglessness of the 'this' we can't express."
The album's lyrics portray both dark and light subject matter, from "Bull Black Nova", which is written from the point of view of a man who just killed his girlfriend, to the Feist duet "You and I", which treats two lovers trying to keep a relationship together.
The album was named after the band because it "[felt] like what the band was meant to be". According to Tweedy the band "struggled with a lot of other titles that felt more exemplary of what the music was. But nothing else felt quite so succinct."
Wilco appeared on The Colbert Report to play "Wilco (the song)" and promote 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama. Wilco embarked on a twenty-one show tour to promote the album starting on June 12, 2009. The tour concluded with a performance at the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.
The song "You Never Know" was released as the first single. They performed the song on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien on June 24, 2009. The song reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Triple A Chart
The song "You and I" was performed on the Late Show with David Letterman on July 14, 2009.
Track listing: All songs written by Jeff Tweedy except where noted.
1."Wilco (The Song)" – 2:59
2."Deeper Down" (Tweedy, Sansone) – 2:59
3."One Wing" – 3:42
4."Bull Black Nova" – 5:39
5."You and I" – 3:26
6."You Never Know" – 4:21
7."Country Disappeared" – 4:02
8."Solitaire" – 3:04
9."I'll Fight" – 4:23
10."Sonny Feeling" – 4:13
11."Everlasting Everything" – 3:58
iTunes bonus track
12."Dark Neon" – 4:24