Wilco: Pat Sansone (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Jeff Tweedy (vocals, guitar); John Stirratt (vocals, bass guitar); Nels Cline (guitar); Mike Jorgensen (keyboards); Glenn Kotche (drums).
While Wilco's fifth studio album, A GHOST IS BORN, didn't come equipped with quite the same artsy, experimental flourishes as the album's infamous predecessor, YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT, it made officially clear that the band's days in the world of alt-country had long since passed. SKY BLUE SKY (2007) finds the band not so much in a holding pattern, but rather a state of artistic contentment. The album moves one step further away from Jim O'Rourke's atmospheric production style, and finds a pleasant mid-tempo groove that reminds one of PRETZEL LOGIC-era Steely Dan, mid-period Dylan, and even certain elements of John Lennon's solo work.
Of course this is still Jeff Tweedy's band, which means SKY BLUE SKY never strays too far from what has emerged as a basic Wilco template. The constantly shifting Chicago ensemble (in its umpteenth incarnation by the album's release) still displays an instrumental precision and studio professionalism while working within a newfangled roots template, and Tweedy himself remains as searching as always, both lyrically and musically. With nary a rave-up in sight, the album could be criticized for being overly serene, but in a career marked by nearly constant tumult and controversy, it's more appropriate to see this as Jeff Tweedy's much needed and well-earned rest.
Rolling Stone (p.87) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[O]ften beautiful, disarmingly simple music; it really sounds like six guys playing in a room, and no doubt that's how they wanted it."
Rolling Stone (p.116) - Included in Rolling Stone's "50 Top Albums of the Year 2007" -- "[There is] a psychedelic grace and communal warmth both in the music...and Tweedy's lyric optimism."
Spin (p.89) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]his is a near-perfect album by a band that seems, finally, to have found their identity."
Alternative Press (p.159) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Cline positively smolders, ebbing and flowing between the rest of the band, laying intricate groundwork for these songs..."
Alternative Press (p.128) - Included in Alternative Press's '10 Essential Albums Of 2007' -- "[With] Jeff Tweedy's 'I've been to hell and back' vocals and Nels Cline's delicately constructed fretwork..."
Magnet (p.112) - "Jeff Tweedy has never sounded more at ease than on the aptly named SKY BLUE SKY....The album's tone is set by the gentle string swells and delicate, jazzy guitar solo punctuating opener 'Either Way'..."
The Wire (p.68) - "Cline is one of the best things to have happened to Wilco, his improvisational style bringing some spontaneity to the group's [sound]....SKY BLUE SKY is a step forward for Wilco..."
No Depression (p.87) - "[T]he way Tweedy and company work the details is satisfying, and often inspired. 'Either Way' links musical sections together in a manner that lays out the album's strategies."