Since Wilco's humble beginnings as alt-country banner-wavers with 1995's "A.M.," and 1996's "Being There" it's been increasingly hard to pin the Chicago band down. From the shift toward Beach Boys-like pop on 1999's "Summerteeth," to the experimental breakthroughs of 2002's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," to the guitar prowess of 2004's "A Ghost Is Born," and 2007's "Sky Blue Sky," Wilco has evolved into one of America's most adventurous groups.
So what does the title of their latest release, "Wilco (The Album)" reflect? — The cutting-edge studio artists of "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," or the veteran live act of "Sky Blue Sky"?
The answer is somewhere in the middle, with all of it satisfying. On highlights "One Wing" and "Bull Black Nova," the band returns to the soaring guitar solos and paranoid rhythms of "A Ghost Is Born," while gentle ballads such as "Deeper Down" and "You & I" — a delicate duet with Canadian chanteuse Feist — lean heavier on Wilco's singer-songwriter roots.
Then there's "You Never Know," a straight-on classic rocker straight from a vintage AM radio. With "Wilco (The Album)," the group has come full circle — or perhaps paused just long enough for the rest of us to catch up.
With seven albums down, it's anyone's guess where they'll head next, but we can count on Wilco (The Band) to keep us singing along this summer.