On Friday, September 29, the band Wilco released Cousin, a defiant response to the assumed irrelevance that comes with being “past prime.” With 16 albums already under their belt, Wilco’s genius lies in their ability to create an album that doesn’t fall through the cracks.
Cousin does not do anything revolutionary. Rather, Wilco returns to their roots by featuring a compositional inventiveness that has been muted in projects from the last few years. Wilco reminds listeners of their aversion to convention that has defined their brand since they independently shared the purported “career ender” Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on the Internet against their label’s wishes. Reminiscent of Foxtrot, Wilco dedicates Cousin to experimentation as they masterfully layer together seemingly incongruent techniques and sounds throughout the album. Wilco pushes the boundaries on music’s definition by incorporating sounds that forsake pop culture’s idea of what music “should be.” They are not afraid to explore the artistic potential of distorted crackling or pitch and volume modulation in “Infinite Surprise,” interlace delicate guitar lines with crashing synth waves in “Pittsburg,” or embrace nontraditional percussion instruments in “Soldier Child.”
Photo Credit: Wilco
Cousin may be compositionally excellent, but its lyrics fail to reach anthemic eloquence. Thankfully, the album’s merit and charm still endure as the multidimensional richness of each track’s soundscape distracts from lyrical shortcomings. At its heart, Cousin is a treatise on musical nonconformity and a tribute to an enduring career.
Sydney Worrell is a Junior in the SFS studying Culture and Politics with a minor in Film and Media Studies.