Album: A Ghost Is Born

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Album:

A Ghost Is Born

Artist: Wilco
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Label: Nonesuch

The infectious twang and pop hooks of Wilco’s former efforts may be fading fast, but A Ghost Is Born is still a rewarding effort that demands repeated listening. The group’s fifth album extends upon the experimentalism of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot with angular, blues-soaked guitar riffs (“At Least That’s What You Said,” “Hell Is Chrome”), a handful of sparse, yet catchy tunes (smack dab in the middle of the disc) that will surely keep college radio stations smiling, and a lengthy track that descends into mere static (“Less Than You Think”). Frontman Jeff…

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The infectious twang and pop hooks of Wilco’s former efforts may be fading fast, but A Ghost Is Born is still a rewarding effort that demands repeated listening. The group’s fifth album extends upon the experimentalism of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot with angular, blues-soaked guitar riffs (“At Least That’s What You Said,” “Hell Is Chrome”), a handful of sparse, yet catchy tunes (smack dab in the middle of the disc) that will surely keep college radio stations smiling, and a lengthy track that descends into mere static (“Less Than You Think”). Frontman Jeff Tweedy’s songwriting continues to evolve: “Hummingbird” is a dreamy Randy Newman-styled love song; “The Late Greats” is a sly ode to the world of pop tacked onto the end of the album (as if using such a fun song on this understated disc was an afterthought). Meanwhile, producer extraordinaire Jim O’Rourke manages to make the most complicated arrangements here sound minimalist and laid-back. All told, it’s another great addition to the Wilco canon. —Jason Verlinde

On A Ghost Is Born, Wilco singer, songwriter and supreme commander Jeff Tweedy leads his former alt.country colleagues on another journey towards the leftfield, with Sonic Youth’s Jim O’Rourke once again handling co-production duties. But in many ways, it represents a slight backstep from the direction hinted at on its acclaimed successor Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. This is by no means a bad thing. Like Lambchop’s best work, it’s an album that’s full of clever experimentalism and understated studio trickery, yet one where Wilco’s very human and very organic core is highlighted, most likely because of Tweedy’s dusty past with alt.country mavericks Uncle Tupelo. To Wilco’s credit, the songs on A Ghost Is Born never suffer from over-production or wilful contrivance. Even on a 10-minute epic such as “Spiders”, they manage to keep the listener’s interest with a simple, driving rhythm and gradual layers of guitars, before the song bursts forth in the fourth minute. It’s an extended jam, sure, but it’s never dull—a remarkable feat in itself. In fact, A Ghost Is Born harks back to Wilco’s altogether excellent second album, Being There, an innovative and original take on country rock and pop. That alone puts it up with the best of their work. —Robert Burrow

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