A new Wilco album is cause for high expectations, and a good one is cause for outright celebration. The Whole Love, Wilco’s latest, is a good one. Whereas the band’s previous effort, Wilco (the album), was overly self-conscious (Exhibit A: that title), The Whole Love is all about good songs with catchy hooks played by musicians at the peak of their form.
Unfortunately, in contrast to other recent Wilco albums, which have been models of natural recording, The Whole Love has sonic issues. The main trouble is that too many tracks sound grungy. In less severe cases, like the infectious title track, the CD and the HDtracks 96/24 download are sonically essentially indistinguishable—and fairly decent. But on the worst-sounding tracks, such as the equally-radio-ready “Dawned on Me,” the download is a bit cleaner, making it easier to enjoy. That’s reason enough to give the download the nod, but beforewarned that neither version is up to Wilco’s recent sonic standards.