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- 1Infinite Surprise05:43
- 2Ten Dead03:55
- 5Sunlight Ends03:53
- 6A Bowl and A Pudding04:04
- 9Soldier Child04:17
- 10Meant To Be03:55
Info zu Cousin
“I’m cousin to the world,” frontman Jeff Tweedy confesses. “I don’t feel like I’m a blood relation, but maybe I’m a cousin by marriage.” Produced by the singular Welsh artist Cate Le Bon, Cousin marks the first time Wilco have handed the reins over to a producer outside their immediate circle of collaborators since Sky Blue Sky. Le Bon’s influences — among them the inclusion of saxophone, cheap Japanese guitars, and a cinematic, New Wave-style drum machine — drive the album into the future. The result is Wilco’s most pointed and evocative album, one related but not tied to our present moment, truly new ground for a band that has tested musical boundaries throughout its lengthy career.
Longtime admirers of each other’s work, Wilco and Le Bon first met at the band’s Solid Sound Festival in 2019, where they formed an immediate connection, inspiring Tweedy to invite Le Bon to the band’s famed Chicago studio, The Loft, in 2022 to work on Cousin. Le Bon pushed the band to take risks, repurposing Wilco’s established strengths and challenging them to oppose habits — all the while maintaining what has, for the last thirty years, defined Wilco as a band, their fearlessness, made possible by musical virtuosity and the secret language only a family shares. “The amazing thing about Wilco is they can be anything,” Le Bon says. “They’re so mercurial, and there’s this thread of authenticity that flows through everything they do, whatever the genre, whatever the feel of the record. There aren’t many bands who are able to, this deep into a successful career, successfully change things up.”
Le Bon arrived in Chicago to rebuild: to create a scaffold with Glenn Kotche’s architectural drumming and John Stirratt’s contrapuntal bass lines; a scene with Mikael Jorgensen’s cold, lonesome synths, Pat Sansone’s plaintive piano work, and guest instrumentalist Euan Hinshelwood’s mangled saxophones; and a topographic pattern out of Tweedy’s electric guitar bends and Nels Cline’s textural explosions, which Le Bon describes as “the weather,” to carve a path for Tweedy’s yearning lyrics.
“Cate is very suspicious of sentiment,” Tweedy says, “but she’s not suspicious of human connection.” With Le Bon’s direction, Cousin evolved into something icier and more nighttime-ish than anything Wilco have created before, while retaining the earnest quality of Tweedy’s lyrics and voice. Tweedy delivers his feelings, now, from an environment that reflects the one we live in and the one inspiring the songs in the first place. The album’s statement on human connection is writ small, revealed in vignettes of the lowest social unit: a pair. “Evicted,” the album’s first single, sees a narrator grappling with his responsibility for losing love counterpointed by Marc Bolan-inspired guitars. “I guess I was trying to write from the point of view of someone struggling to make an argument for themself in the face of overwhelming evidence that they deserve to be locked out of someone’s heart,” comments Tweedy. “Self-inflicted wounds still hurt and in my experience they’re almost impossible to fully recover from.”
“It’s this feeling of being in it and out of it at the same time,” Tweedy says of Cousin. In and out of it. Hoping, expecting, and then despairing. Smiling through antidepressants, feeling bad in warm weather even when others tell you it should be making you feel happy. Cousin is Wilco’s most emotional, worthwhile expression yet of the pain of trying to be connected to other people when we fall short so often; the joy of catching understanding in someone else’s eye, however fleeting; and the immutable truth that all of us are related, whether we honor or dishonor or forget or remember.
Jeff Tweedy, vocals, guitar
John Stirratt, bass
Glenn Kotche, drums
Mikael Jorgensen, piano, keyboards
Nels Cline, guitar
Patrick Sansone, guitar, keyboards
Euan Hinshelwood, saxophone
Cate Le Bon, additional bass, piano, synthesizer, backing vocals
Spencer Tweedy, additional percussion, backing vocals
The Chicago rock band founded in the mid-’90s by singer, guitarist and songwriter Jeff Tweedy last year launched and headlined the inaugural Solid Sound Festival, while Tweedy produced and wrote two songs for the Grammy- winning release by soul legend Mavis Staples, You Are Not Alone, which won Best Americana Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards in February.
Staples joined Wilco, Avi Buffalo, Vetiver, the Baseball Project and more to perform at the first Solid Sound Festival, held Aug. 13-15, 2010, on the grounds of MASS MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), a converted textile mill in North Adams, tucked away in the scenic Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.
Wilco has already announced the second incarnation of Solid Sound June 24-26. Along with a pair of headline performances by Wilco, this year’s version features the Levon Helm Band, Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, New Zealand rocker Liam Finn, alt-country duo The Handsome Family and folk couple Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion. Also performing are soul singer Syl Johnson, jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas and Chicago retro-soul band JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, plus indie-rockers Here We Go Magic, Sic Alps, Purling Hiss and a rare live set by Pillow Wand, a collaboration between Moore and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline. Comedian John Hodgman hosts this year’s Comedy Cabaret, featuring Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac and comics Eugene Mirman and Morgan Murphy. Tickets are available via solidsoundfestival.com.
Also, Wilco this winter founded dBpm Records, headquartered in Easthampton, MA, to release future Wilco albums. Speaking of which, the band is currently recording the follow-up to its Grammy-nominated 2009 release Wilco (The Album) at the band’s studio in Chicago, The Loft.
It’s the latest chapter for Wilco, which Tweedy founded in 1994 after the dissolution of his previous group, Uncle Tupelo. From its raucous roots-rock origins, Wilco over the years has expanded its sound to encompass classic pop and genre-spanning experimentalism on acclaimed albums including 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (the subject of Sam Jones’ 2002 film I Am Trying to Break Your Heart) and 2005’s Grammy-winning effort A Ghost is Born. Wilco also teamed with English singer Billy Bragg in the late ’90s at the invitation of Woody Guthrie’s daughter, who invited them to collaborate on setting to music some of the folk icon’s previously unrecorded lyrics, resulting in a pair of highly regarded Mermaid Avenue albums.
The current Wilco lineup solidified in 2004 with the addition of guitarist Nels Cline and guitarist/keyboardist Pat Sansone, who rounded out a roster featuring Tweedy, founding bassist John Stirratt, drummer Glenn Kotche and keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen. Kotche joined the band during the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and Jorgensen helped with live sound manipulations on that tour before switching to piano and becoming a full-time member of Wilco.
In life beyond Wilco Stirratt and Sansone play together in the folk-pop group Autumn Defense, Jorgensen fronts the pop-rock band Pronto and Cline performs in multiple side projects, most notably with the free-jazz instrumental group The Nels Cline Singers. Kotche performs with bassist Darin Gray in On Fillmore and as a composer and a solo percussionist. He has also collaborated with Tweedy on the Loose Fur side project.
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