Wilco may set the standard for eclectic indulgence. Shedding its Americana visage with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in 2002, the band successfully redefined itself as an experimental outfit dealing in atmospheric soundscapes and sonic contradiction. This daring was rewarded with a pair of Grammy nods for the followup, A Ghost Is Born, while in 2005, Kicking Television: Live in Chicago showed the group's savvy outside the studio. Still, those who found the band's shift in direction somewhat daunting can take comfort in its latest outing, a surprisingly mellow encounter that harks back to its earliest efforts. "Maybe the sun will shine today, the clouds will blow away," Jeff Tweedy sings hopefully on the opening track, "Either Way," and from that point on, there's little trace of the cosmic disturbances that took Wilco slightly off kilter. Indeed most of the album is spent in an easy drift, with only "You Are My Face" and "Shake It Off" working up any sense of distortion. Fortunately, though, they don't drift entirely into the ether. "Walken" finds a jaunty groove, not unlike the breezy spin of Jerry Garcia helming the Grateful Dead, while "What Light" recalls Wilco's rootsy origins, a lovely ballad with a winsome embrace. In fact, with Sky Blue Sky, it's rare to find any trace of turbulence.
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Lee Zimmerman