Should Wilco be worried about Jeff Tweedy? The shaggy-dog singer wanted to call this album Get Well Soon, Everybody, but he could maybe take that advice himself. On his acclaimed band’s eighth studio set, he’s letting his brain run off the rails (”Dawned on Me”), popping pills (”Born Alone”), and thinking about setting the kids on fire (”I Might”), while the avant-Americana music echoes the peals of static and feedback that the longtime migraine sufferer likely hears in his head. It’s a far cry from 2009’s Wilco (The Album), on which the band’s I’m-okay-you’re-okay folk jams came on like a dad-rock mood stabilizer. And it’s also Wilco’s most sonically adventurous work since 2004’s A Ghost Is Born. For the first time in years, it’s clear that Tweedy’s actually feeling something.
With The Whole Love, Wilco make noise-pop exciting again, perhaps because the pop part doesn’t come easy. For them, there’s always more triumph in finding a pretty hook when it’s buried beneath sirens, whistling teakettles, and church bells — and there’s always more meaning in a love song once some good old-fashioned resentment’s built up. With its Byrds-ian melody and gnarled guitars, ”Dawned on Me” is a testament to a long, hard marriage where ”every night is a test.” On ”Rising Red Lung,” Tweedy finds comfort only in the anxious hiss of his own compositions. ”Sadness is my luxury,” he admits on ”Born Alone,” and when you listen to The Whole Love, it’s easy to understand what he means. If there’s a good kind of sadness, this is it. A-