Music Review: Breathy, mid-tempo Wilco returns for ‘Cousin,’ which is heavy on the slower tracks

If you like your Wilco mid-tempo, melodic and breathy, then “Cousin” is for you.

Taking yet another departure in tone after last year’s epic double album “Cruel Country,” the Chicago combo’s latest is more along the lines of 2019’s “Ode to Joy.”

Wilco enlisted Welsh artist Cate Le Bon to produce the 10 tracks on “Cousin,” the band’s 13th studio record. It marked the first time since 2007’s “Sky Blue Sky” that Wilco went outside the band for a producer.

The result is a deeply layered, musically rich record, albeit heavy on the slower tracks. At times, like on “Pittsburgh,” the soundscape is so thick it feels like an aural impressionist painting, with layer upon layer of music melded together to create a sonic image.

This is music for late at night, with the lights down low, a favorite beverage within reach, and no distractions.

“Infinite Surprise” is a standout, leading off “Cousin” slowly and then building to a cacophonous crescendo. But songwriter and Wilco impresario Jeff Tweedy quickly brings things back down with the next track “Ten Dead” that opens with, “I woke up this morning and I went back to bed/Ten dead/Ten dead/Now there are 10 dead.”

It’s got a catchy melody, but not exactly a tune to spin at a Friday afternoon happy hour. And that’s OK.

Wilco fans who like the rocking side of the venerable band will find a lot to like in the album closer “Meant to Be,” which is definitely destined to be a crowd pleaser live with the catchy chorus of “Our love was meant to be.” It wasn’t meant to be for the rest of “Cousin” to swing as hard, but there’s still plenty to love.


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