Wilco: SKY BLUE SKY (2007)

Sky Blue Sky
2007; Nonesuch Records

My Rating: 10/10

Have you ever bought a record that you listen to once, scratch your head, but back on the shelf for a year, pull out again, and listen to non-stop for the next year? When I first bought SKY BLUE SKY upon its release in 2007, I was immediately disappointed. Sure, A GHOST IS BORN wasn’t great, but there was enough to like about it and I could respect a dip in inspiration following on the heels of the glorious YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT. But by the time SKY BLUE SKY rolled out in 2007, I was ready for WILCO to find their footing and deliver another left-field masterpiece. Instead I discovered what I thought at the time was a band on cruise control.

The thing is, you won’t find anything strikingly revolutionary on SKY BLUE SKY, but that may in fact be the most wonderful thing about this record. It took me selling my copy of this record and then re-buying it to discover that SKY BLUE SKY is in my Wilco Top 3, and when all is said and done, may be right on top. SKY BLUE SKY is the sound of a band arriving. The lineup TWEEDY employs on this record came together shortly after the release of A GHOST IS BORN, and has been with him since. With SKY BLUE SKY, Tweedy makes the boldest statement of his career: “My songs and this band are so strong that I don’t need anything to make a great record but a few microphones and a room big enough for the six of us.”

From the opening, there is something sweet and pastoral about this record. The interplay between Tweedy’s songs and the rest of the band is effortless. Opening with the softly swaying “Either Way”, the band quickly finds the zone with “You Are My Face” and never lets up. “Impossible Germany” is one of the album’s highlights, featuring the best three-guitar interplay of any Wilco record and some of the best I’ve ever heard anywhere. The title track keeps things soft and dreamlike, while “Side with the Seeds” is another album highlight. Thought I hesitate to say it, “Shake It Off” might be the album’s low point, although even it feels integral to the record’s progression.

The album’s second half features another handful of soft, dreamy tunes in “Please Be Patient With Me,” “Leave Me,” and closer “On and On and On.” “What Light” is as sunny and optimistic a song as you’re likely to hear from Tweedy, while “Walken” and “Hate It Here” lend a little more drama to the album’s second half.

All in all, it’s understandable why many people walked from SKY BLUE SKY after its initial release, but in my view there is no other record so deserving of a second chance. I love this record, and given enough time, so will you.

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