One of the greatest albums of all time is Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I say this advisedly. It’s been two years, and I still find myself leaving it in the CD player often for weeks at a time — and every time a song comes around, I find a new reason to love it. I actually end up taking it out because it’s not fair to my other CDs!
When a band puts out an album that good though, it puts a lot of pressure on them to follow it up with something just as good, if not better. And often, despite a band’s best efforts, everything after that high point can only be a letdown. So it was with both impatience and trepidation that I’ve awaited their follow up, A Ghost is Born, due out June 21st.
Turns out impatience won out, because when I saw that Wilco has gone and put a big chunk of their album up as streaming audio, I had to go and listen. And it’s good, it’s really fucking good! Tracks from advance copies are also floating around on the file-sharing networks — I’m sure you can find the whole album if you try (I may or may not have done so, depending on who’s asking).
See, Wilco gets it. They know that people like me are driven by music, not their career goals. Yes, I will probably buy the album in June, or if not, sometime soon after. I’ll want the liner notes, the packaging, the better sound quality. And I’ll go to their shows, if any band I liked was ever to show up in Vegas (amazing that a city with over a million people in it can’t pull the bands that Madison, WI, with only 200,00 gets!). And I’ll buy magazines with Wilco on their cover, and I’ll buy albums that Wilco namedrops in interviews, and I’ll buy music that people say “hey, if you like Wilco, you should give x a try” and I’ll buy buy buy. And what I don’t buy, I’ll get otherwise, DRM or not, legally or not (not that I would ever break a law, mind you!). Because while I am a consumer, no getting around that in today’s world, I am first and foremost just a fan. Jeff Tweeedy and his bandmates know that if they just wanted to make money off me, there are lots of less risky ways than making an album of rock songs! If making money off music fans in Vegas were their primary goal, they’d have invested in Nevada Power stock! Guaranteed profit. No, they understand that the primary thing is the music, and that to the degree that they embrace our relationship as musician and fan, they will make a living.