I Didn’t Have Time To Do A Real Review Of Wilco’s New Album Cousin But I Need To Get My Takes Off
Wilco are among my top five favorite musical artists of all time. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot changed the way I hear music forever. I’ve seen them in concert probably more than any other band; I lost count, but it’s got to be pushing 20 concerts at this point. (Yes, I am a 40-year-old Midwestern dad, why do you ask?) So every time they release a new album, I make it a point to weigh in. Today they released their new LP Cousin. All week long I’ve been trying to set aside a few hours to bang out a proper review of the thing, but it didn’t work out. I’ve still got takes, though, so instead of a Premature Evaluation, you get this — an Undercooked Assessment, I guess?
The headline with Cousin — other than Wilco’s insistence that the title has nothing to do with The Bear — is the involvement of Welsh art-pop great Cate Le Bon, the first outside producer to work on a Wilco album since Jim O’Rourke worked his magic on A Ghost Is Born 19 years ago. (Tom Schick, the house engineer at the Wilco Loft, doesn’t count. He’s George Martin or Nigel Godrich — basically part of the band.) A lot of people will tell you Le Bon has helped Jeff Tweedy and friends get closer to the sound and feeling of “old Wilco.” That’s wishful thinking, and it’s underselling the quality of the last couple Wilco records.
Cousin is an immensely rewarding album. So was Cruel Country. So was Ode To Joy. Are there some brilliant, surprising production flourishes on these new songs? Yes. Does Jeff Tweedy’s lyrical game just keep getting better the older he gets? Absolutely. Does lead single “Evicted” sound kind of like “Kamera”? Sure. But the dreary cloud that has been hanging over everything they’ve released since at least Schmilco continues to linger — in fact, the feeling of a gathering cloud is one of the consistent sonic motifs throughout the record. Tweedy still isn’t pushing his weathered voice anywhere near “I’D LIKE TO THANK YOU ALL FOR NOTHING!” range. Wilco sound creatively energized, but it’s not like they’ve once again become a band that explodes from the speakers. It’s thoughtful music. It’s chill. I’m grateful this record exists. But there’s no need to pretend it’s in the same league as Summerteeth or whatever, and anyone who enjoys this should really go back to the last two and try again.
Today is all about Cousin, though. Stream the album below, and sound off with your own perspectives in the comments.
Cousin is out now on dBpm.