Wilco - Cousin

Regular price $ 28.99

Wilco are a band who thrive on self-sufficiency -- they have their own recording studio, they run their own record label, and they're unusually hands-on in terms of ticketing, merch, and outreach to their fans. They've figured out how to do most of the big stuff themselves, and they like it that way. Not surprisingly, from 2007's Sky Blue Sky onward, they've also produced their own albums. 2023's Cousin represents a genuine shift for the band as they've ceded some control over their recording process for a change. Wilco invited expressive pop experimentalist Cate Le Bon to produce the sessions and sit in on keyboards, and it's a collaboration that flatters all parties involved. More than any other album in their catalog, Cousin recalls 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in its sturdy yet graceful melodies and the way they've dressed up the performances with clouds of carefully manicured noise (as in the opener "Infinite Surprise") and artful soundscapes (the ominous last act of "Ten Dead"), though never so much that the musicians are struggling for attention on their own album. Cousin never sounds like they're aiming to re-create YHF, but Le Bon adds a sense of adventure and an outsider's perspective that recalls what Jay Bennett brought to the group before his failings began to outweigh his strengths. Le Bon's ideas never threaten to dominate the music -- if anything, Cousin is a superb ensemble work from Wilco, with the various instrumental flavors combining to make a seamless whole, and while one might miss the wild card guitar soloing from Nels Cline (who is relatively subdued but in excellent form), this music is a reminder of just how good and keenly telepathic a band can become if they stick together long enough, and after nearly 20 years together, these players know how to make the whole more than the sum of the parts. Wilco fans have doubtless gotten used to hearing Jeff Tweedy's moody side by now, on Cousin he makes the most of his sadness on the heartsick "Evicted," the battle between numbness and rage in "Ten Dead," and the despairing uncertainty of "Pittsburgh." (And he does find some room for hope in "Meant to Be" and the title cut, a subtle embrace of the chosen family.) Wilco never quite pulls out all the stops and rocks on this album, and it's hard to imagine any of these songs immediately becoming crowd favorites, but as a carefully considered mood piece, Cousin is a powerful, affecting work that once again shows how many great things Wilco can do -- and how well they respond to the right kind of creative direction.

A1 Infinite Surprise
A2 Ten Dead
A3 Levee
A4 Evicted
A5 Sunlight Ends
B1 A Bowl And A Pudding
B2 Cousin
B3 Pittsburgh
B4 Soldier Child
B5 Meant To Be