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If Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born were Jeff Tweedy flexing his Lennon/McCartney muscles, then Sky Blue Sky switches the weight to his Dylan side.

Sky Blue Sky is reminiscent of earlier Wilco records like A.M. or Being There. The deluxe version of the album includes a DVD with a short documentary, and Tweedy says in the interviews that he just wanted to make a more straightforward record--something his wife would want to listen to, something less cryptic and complex. Sky Blue Sky does all of this, and does it well. It's the first studio record recorded with the new solid Wilco lineup, which includes longtime bassist John Stirrat, guitar virtuoso Nels Cline, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, drummer Glenn Kotche and pianist Mikael Jorgensen, with the occasional help of Jim O'Rourke, who also did the string arrangements. It's the same lineup that appears on 2005's live Kicking Television, and Wilco is a band that truly shines when they're performing live. Sky Blue Sky is Wilco settling into a comfortable place, and the songs resonate with calmness and simple brilliance.

But the thing about this more relaxed, more comfortable Wilco is that, even as Sky Blue Sky is the fruit of one of the greatest modern rock bands, as the documentary on the deluxe version shows, the already-amazing songs are much better live. The live performances of these songs make the album versions sound strangely lackluster, despite their obvious excellence. So, ultimately, Sky Blue Sky is just a small taste of Wilco, the band at their almost-best.

More by Annie Holub


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