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Wilco Sky Blue Sky

The rap on this new Wilco album is that represents a step back toward the mainstream for Jeff Tweedy and company, and indeed with its occasional country/folk leanings, it is more immediately accessible than the group’s past few discs. Still, Tweedy’s songs seem no less personal, and he continues to surprise in song after song—he and the band manage to take conventional structures and turn them in unexpected directions, whether it’s blending an alt-country feel with some Beatles-inspired progressions, or having guitarist Nels Cline drop in a searing, Neil Young-ish solo as a coda to an otherwise quiet tune. The group plays tastefully and imaginatively throughout, and Tweedy brings lots of variety to his lead vocals, even sounding like John Lennon on a couple of tracks.

Producers: Wilco. Engineers: T.J. Doherty (tracking), Jim Scott (mixing). Studios: The Loft (Chicago; tracking), PLYRZ (Santa Clarita, CA; mixing); Sear Sound (NYC; strings). Mastering: Bob Ludwig/Gateway Mastering & DVD (Portland, ME).