**Limited edition pink vinyl**
Since Wilco’s last album, 2016’s Schmilco, frontman Jeff Tweedy has been busy, releasing three solo albums (including one, Warmer, just three months ago) and writing an autobiography. Yet his creative well is far from dry. While the downbeat folk stylings that dominate here mean the exuberant pop sensibilities of 1999’s Summerteeth, and the envelope-pushing that defined his band’s 00s output, and earned their (unwanted) reputation as “the American Radiohead” seem a distant memory, Ode to Joy is still rich in ideas.
On the more austere tracks that start the album, Glenn Kotche’s drums are starkly foregrounded, sounding a military beat that deliberately evokes marching – a nod, Tweedy has suggested, to the authoritarian direction US politics has taken. The effect often seems at odds with the sparse instrumentation – primarily acoustic guitar – that only just fleshes out his gentle songs. But the further into Ode to Joy you get, the prettier the songs, the more generous the backing and the lighter the mood. There’s a real playfulness to Everyone Hides, while Love Is Everywhere (Beware) and Hold Me Anyway are irresistibly upbeat.
Nels Cline’s overloaded guitar on We Were Lucky, meanwhile, recalls the magnificent At Least That’s What You Said on 2004’s A Ghost Is Born. It all adds up to yet another winning set from a band still to release a subpar album in a 25-year career.