Sometimes and artist needs 12 more songs to summarize their career. Case in point...
The Wilco of the '10s was pretty befuddling, honestly. While on one hand the line-up that has been together since 2007's Sky Blue Sky contains the best and most stable group of musicians the band has ever had, their albums have swung wildly in style, from pop traditionalism to experimental maximalism to hushed minimalism.
Once again, I've avoided any tracks which were on What's Your 20? (1994 - 2014), which kept "You and I," "Wilco (The Song)," "You Never Know," and "I Might" off this list.
Before diving in, give a look at the original 12 by Wilco.
1. "Bull Black Nova" (from Wilco (The Album), 2009)
Why not start off with a weird one? When I saw them in concert recently, the band played this song, and a fan in the front row held up a handwritten sign with the song's title on it and showed it to the audience. I hadn't seen the sign before that moment, so I don't think he'd been using to to show the band as a request. That means he brought it for the express purpose of holding it up in the event the band played the song.
2. "One Wing" (from Wilco (The Album), 2009)
A relationship post-mortem that's heartbreaking but also very pretty.
3. "I'll Fight" (from Wilco (The Album), 2009)
Where "One Wing" seems resigned to the end of a romance, this one seems determined to make it work.
4. "Art of Almost" (from The Whole Love, 2011)
Wilco go Radiohead, with intriguing and hypnotic results.
5. "Dawned On Me" (from The Whole Love, 2011)
The band revisit that Summerteeth sound. I love the contrast between the fuzzy verses and the wide-open chorus, and of course the way the whole thing gives way to a "semi-ironic Beach Boys vocal pad."
6. "Random Name Generator" (from Star Wars, 2015)
Did they use a random name generator to name this album?
7. "Magnetized" (from Star Wars, 2015)
Star Wars is the first Wilco album I've had trouble connecting with, but "Magnetized" is a standout. It has the shambling-but-lovely feeling of the the Beatles circa the White Album.
8. "If Ever I Was a Child" (from Schmilco, 2016)
A deceptively simple, acoustic stunner with introspective lyrics exploring the ways the narrator is broken: "I hunt for the kind of pain / That I can take."
9. "We Aren't the World (Safety Girl)" (from Schmilco, 2016)
A wobbly little tune that pairs well with "If Ever I Was a Child" thanks to the charity-single aping chorus: "We aren't the world / We aren't the children."
10. Love Is Everywhere (Beware)" (from Ode to Joy, 2019)
Ode to Joy is a low-key, unassuming album, and this waltz is no exception. It only gets showy on a repeated chiming guitar figure. Not-so-fun fact: Tweedy wrote the lyrics after participating in the 2017 Women's March and having a panic attack the same day.
11. "One and a Half Stars" (from Ode to Joy, 2019)
Ode to Joy was written, recorded, and released right before the COVID-19 pandemic, but this song seems perfectly suited to the days of quarantining: "I can't escape my domain."
12. "Everyone Hides" (from Ode to Joy, 2019)
From its title, this one also seems prescient of the pandemic, but it's actually about the ways everyone engages in some degree of outer and inner deception. Kind of like an update of Billy Joel's "The Stranger."