When: Sun., Dec. 18, 8 p.m. 2011
"Art of Almost," the shape-shifting opening track from The Whole Love (dBpm), is as experimental as anything Wilco has ever done—its analog-synth gurgles, resonant cimbalom strikes, orchestral Mellotron chords, and guitar fuzz all spread luxuriantly yet insistently across the terse, motorik grooves of drummer Glenn Kotche. Like Wilco's best music, the song mates a beautiful, accessible melody to a multitiered construction. It's an epic, energizing way to start an album—when guitarist Nels Cline starts shredding, it turns into a high-velocity rocker—and it reaffirms that Wilco are holding fast to their desire to push their music into new places. Nothing else on the album matches "Art of Almost" for spirit or adventure, but even on the basic, hooky garage rocker "I Might," Mikael Jorgensen's faux-Augie Myers organ licks are juxtaposed with delicate glockenspiel, lacerating slide-guitar stabs, warm synth washes, and a catchy melody from Jeff Tweedy that would sound at home on a mid-70s Wings album. The middle of the album veers toward the sort of easygoing, conventional rock that the band has been falsely accused of playing for years—from the Randy Newman-ish prerock pop amble of "Capitol City" to the pretty folk-rock ballad "Open Mind"—but even then, little flourishes in the arrangements or writing prevent the songs from fitting any kind of blueprint. The Whole Love closes with the ballad "One Sunday Morning," where piano and guitar embellishments lap at Tweedy's sorrowful meditation on family discord, so that the sweetness in the music soothes the pain in the words.—Peter Margasak See also Tue 12/14, Wed 12/13, Fri 12/16, and Sun 12/18.