Wilco drops free record over the summer

Digital distribution has really changed a lot about the music industry. For one, pirating is far easier than it has ever been. It is an oft-spoken response among free-usage proponents that musicians don’t make much of their profit on sales anymore – that touring is the only means of monetary success. So… why not just give music away for free?

Wilco’s Star Wars is a 2015 alternative rock album. It’s the second record to be self-released under their own label, dBpm, and to critical acclaim nonetheless. After two releases that have played it relatively safe, the band, without any warning, put the album up as a free digital download on their website, recognizing itself as the mainstream forefront for this practice that indie artists have utilized for years. The audio of Star Wars is rough. It intentionally provokes the thought: “Was this recorded in a garage?” The sound sometimes seems as if it is under a dampened echo, with low-key, low-pitch whining coming from a rustic guitar. To contrast this, the vocals are clear and underdone, not always melding that well with the instrumentals. Given the choice, as someone who doesn’t view lyrics as an end-all-be-all, I would prefer that the vocals were rougher and more adventurous.

The eleven tracks, all relatively short, that make up this record are all rather independent, able to stand on their own if necessary. Nevertheless, the overall sound is rather uniform and the placement is arranged in such a way that each individual song works to compliment both the tracks before and after it. The opener, ‘EKG’, is a succinct, wailing piece that showcases the garage rock sound that the album strives for. It is immediately follow by four tracks that all work to make the listening experience a memorable one, with the last of which is ‘You Satellite’, acting as the heart of the work. ‘Where Do I Begin’ also manages to be a stand-out track, serving as the slower and more patient of the pieces seen in the release.

The album runs short and sweet, at just over half an hour. It is easily accessible and has catchy, repetitive rhythms that play throughout each song. Star Wars is easy to recommend, not only due to the widespread appeal that I believe it possesses, but due to the fact that you can acquire it digitally for no cost. It is of course available on CD as well (as an order-option on their website).

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