In its first collaboration with an outside producer in nearly 20 years, Wilco has enlisted Welsh musician/producer Cate Le Bon to man the controls for its upcoming 13th studio album, Cousin. The musicians met at Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival in 2019 and began working on the LP last year at the band’s Chicago studio, the Loft. It will be released on Sept. 29 on Wilco’s own dBpm label.
Le Bon’s backing vocals (and production fingerprints) are immediately apparent on the first single, “Evicted,” a jaunty but regretful number flecked with saloon piano, bright electric 12-string arpeggios, Euan Hinshelwood’s saxophone, and the buzzing strum of acoustic guitars.
“I guess I was trying to write from the point of view of someone struggling to make an argument for themself in the face of overwhelming evidence that they deserve to be locked out of someoneʼs heart,” Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy says of the track. “Self-inflicted wounds still hurt and in my experience theyʼre almost impossible to fully recover from.”
Fans craving the more experimental side of Wilco’s sound, as best heard on 2001’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and its 2004 follow-up, A Ghost Is Born, will find a lot to love on Cousin, which is accented with vintage drum machines, guitars imported from Japan, unexpected melodic progressions, and ear-pleasing, texture-building production touches.
“The amazing thing about Wilco is they can be anything,” observes Le Bon, the first producer Wilco has made an album with since Jim O’Rourke worked with the band on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born. “They’re so mercurial, and thereʼs this thread of authenticity that flows through everything they do, whatever the genre, whatever the feel of the record. There arenʼt many bands who are able to, this deep into a successful career, successfully change things up.”
Cousin also stands in marked sonic contrast to Wilco’s last album, 2022’s Cruel Country, an unabashed celebration of the band’s often obscured country leanings. “I’m cousin to the world,” Tweedy says. “I don’t feel like I’m a blood relation, but maybe I’m a cousin by marriage. It’s this feeling of being in it and out of it at the same time.”
Wilco is touring extensively this year both before and after the new album’s release. International dates resume Aug. 10 in Cochran, Belgium, while a North American leg will get underway Sept. 25 in Wichita, Ks., and run through Oct. 27 in Bentonville, Ar. The group’s long-running Sky Blue Sky destination festival in Riviera Maya, Mexico, will cap its 2023 roadwork on Dec. 2-6, with a lineup featuring Father John Misty, Sylvan Esso, Built to Spill, Lucinda Williams, Kevin Morby, and Waxahatchee.
Also forthcoming is Tweedy’s third book World Within a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music. Out on Nov. 7 through Dutton, the tome is centered on more than 50 songs that have been core to the artist’s career. It follows 2020’s How To Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back and his 2018 memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc.
Here is the track list for Wilco’s Cousin:
“A Bowl and a Pudding”
“Meant To Be”