Sometimes, the best way to impress people is to surprise them. Instead of building anticipation through a series of calculated marketing moves, a band will often get more bang for its buck by releasing a new album with no advance notice – as long as it doesn't drop the album onto your iPhone without giving you an easy way to delete it. And it doesn't hurt if the album is free
Wilco did just that late last week when it released its ninth studio album, Star Wars, via a free download. With a running time of just under 34 minutes, the disc gets in, blasts its way through 11 tracks, and leaves the listener wanting more.
The disc opens with the noisy instrumental "EKG," and includes highlights "Random Noise Generator" and "Pickled Ginger" (which frontman Jeff Tweedy performed with fake band Land Ho! on Parks and Recreation). Speaking of Tweedy, the disc often feels like an extension of his 2014 side project Sukierae (on which he and his son Spencer performed under the name Tweedy.
If there's a single word that best describes this disc, it is "weird." The disc veers from the old-school country sound on "The Joke Explained" to "Taste The Ceiling" (which feels like a lost Paul McCartney track) to the meditative "Where Do I Begin." What the tracks on the have in common is a layered richness. Star Wars doesn't feel like a throwaway release by any means. Rather, its eclectic nature seems to mark something of a change in the band's direction, a pop pastiche that benefits from its lack of bloat, even if you're not always sure how it all comes together.