The closest Wilco have come to their best form since their classic 2002 release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Ode to Joy is an album that utilizes a familiar stripped down instrumentation with the right amount of an atmospheric tone to feel like a more fleshed out sound for the group.
Wilco have spent a little less time this decade really filling out the musical space. An album like Star Wars was far more heavy in sound and therefore had little space to fill to begin with, and Schmilco was such a simplistic and natural sound that the space being filled would have sounded perhaps jarring. Here, though, things just seem to feel fleshed out with more complexities and a larger sound than the group have utilized in what feels like an eternity. Tweedy's voice coupled with this more filled out sound just seems to click, and the album as a whole benefits from this.
Keep in mind that this fleshed out sound doesn't not necessarily feel like it makes this a massively complex piece of music. It is still Wilco at their most stripped back, not sounding too wiry or raucous. The fleshed out nature of it is really honestly done in a simple way. Take the final track, Empty Corner, in which the instrumentation is dwindled down to the simplest bits of guitar and focused drums that don't crash too hard, but the light piano in the background is so faint yet really allows the sounds to reverberate and build into something more thorough. Similarly, Quiet Amplifier, one of the bigger tracks of the album, is laced with these buzzing tones over a similar instrumental background.
It is hard to disagree that this is the Wilco album that their fans needed at this point in their career. After nearly 25 years of music, this is the kind of music you would expect from such powerhouses. Their experience translates into this record not like a group merely experimenting but a group filling out their sound and leaving it in a place it was always meant to be.
Favorite track: Everyone Hides