Through the years, I’ve developed a ritual for every new Wilco release. Before I press play, I ask myself: which Wilco do I want to hear? Am I hoping that their alt-country roots will come through the soil, or would I rather hear electronica reminiscent of their 2002 hit record Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? Am I craving something with complex piano parts, a la 1999’s Summerteeth, or something more subdued, along the same lines as 2019’s Ode to Joy? It all comes down to the reason why this band is my all-time favorite: they have been, and continue to be, many different bands playing many different types of music.
As a female fan of a band that’s often referred to as “dad rock,” I’ve been saying for ages that Wilco ought to collaborate with a woman. So imagine my delight when I discovered that Welsh artist Cate Le Bon is producing Wilco’s new record, Cousin, due out at the end of September.
I attended the 2019 Solid Sound Festival where Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy first met Le Bon. That summer day in the Berkshires, Le Bon’s set felt daring and surprising—two saxophonists, soaring vocals, and a totally mesmerizing collection of songs. When Tweedy joined Le Bon onstage for two cover songs (Arthur Russel’s heartbreaking ballad, “I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face,” as well as “Strangers” by The Kinks), there was serious synergy between the two. Le Bon is also no stranger to the Wilco songbook, having completely reimagined the underappreciated tune “Company in My Back” for the Wilcovered compilation in 2020. She’s the perfect candidate to give this veteran rock band, approaching their 30-year band-iversary, a healthy push toward a musical future.
“Evicted” is the first single we’re hearing from Cousin, and fundamentally, it feels like a Wilco single. Sturdy acoustic guitar. Effects-heavy electric accents. An intentional rhythm section. The trebely trills that cushion the chorus feel decidedly Le Bon-influenced but don’t compete with Tweedy’s vocals, which have gently softened with age. Playful and distant backing vocals give a clear picture of the in-studio experience with Le Bon: you can always tell when a band is having fun making music, and on “Evicted,” the fun is evident.
So when I asked myself which Wilco I was hoping to hear before pressing play on “Evicted,” the answer was any Wilco that Cate Le Bon wants me to hear. I’m always looking forward to the next Wilco record, but Cousin has fresh anticipation surrounding it.
Cousin is available for pre-order now. It will release on September 29.
You can hear new music from Wilco, and music from local, regional, national and international artists on our music discovery station The Independent 89.9 HD4. And you can follow our Fresh Squeeze playlist on Spotify to stream all the best new music, updated every month.