Usually, good free stuff comes with a catch. (Buy two, get one free. Absolutely free, with confirmed credit score. Free coupon, expired yesterday.) Not the case with Wilco's surprise album Star Wars, released on July 16. This album came out of left field for many, as Wilco self-released it without fanfare. Bam! It was there. And for free. A mysterious, fluffy white cat at their website wilcoworld.net invites patrons to download the album in its entirety without charge—oh, for a limited time only, though.
This isn't the first time the alternative rock/alternative country group has given away its goods. Before the band's best-selling album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which also happened to win Wired's Rave Award in 2003, was officially released in 2002, Wilco streamed it on its website. They did the same with their next album, A Ghost is Born, before its official release in 2004, though it streamed on Apple's website instead. A Ghost is Born won Wilco Grammys for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Recording Package in 2005. They continued on that trend with albums Sky Blue Sky (2007) and Wilco (The Album) (2009), the latter of which included the No. 1 single on the AAA chart, "You Never Know," which was their first number one song in 12 years. Their most recent album until two weeks ago, The Whole Love, was also streamed live on their website and released in 2011, along with being nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2012. It would seem that Wilco believes it is better to give than receive, and their generosity has benefitted them well.
Wilco famously formed out of the breakup of the country music group Uncle Tupelo in 1994. Current lead vocalist and guitarist Jeff Tweedy and bassist/backup vocalist John Stirratt are the only two who are still members from the original Wilco lineup. Most of the current band members—Glenn Kotche (drums), Mikael Jorgensen (samples, sound manipulation, keyboards, synthesizers, effects, piano, and organ), Nels Cline (guitar, loops, lap steel), and Pat Sansone (keyboards, rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals, synthesizers, maracas and tambourine) have been a part of Wilco since the early to mid-2000s.
Joining Wilco in Bend is Speedy Ortiz, a Northampton, Massachusetts-based band, who recorded their debut album, Major Arcana, in a speedy four days. Its release in 2013 was heralded by Pitchfork Media as the "Best New Music" and they've been likened to 1990s grunge and alternative rock groups Pavement, Helium, and Dinosaur.
That band started as lead vocalist and guitarist Sadie Dupuis' solo project while she was teaching songwriting at a summer camp in 2011; she recorded her material on her laptop. And, as if the band's lyrics weren't already saturated in thoughtful wit, she recently completed an MFA in poetry at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, on top of Speedy Ortiz's touring schedule. The rest of the band consists of guitarist Devin McKnight, bassist Darl Ferm, and drummer Mike Falcone.
Their second album, Foil Deer, came out earlier this year, and has been enjoyed by fans and critics alike. Mike Katzif of NPR said in his April review, "What makes Foil Deer truly crackle is the way Dupuis' words interlock with the band's barreling energy and turn-on-a-dime arrangements." That sounds about right according to a recent "text interview" with MTV12, where Dupuis says the band runs at "100 mph (speedy speedy)."
Wilco with Speedy Ortiz
6:30 pm, Saturday, August 8
Les Schwab Amphitheater, 520 SW Powerhouse Dr.