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A Ghost Is Born
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A Ghost Is Born
It's hard not to wonder if Wilco's breakthrough 2002 release, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, would have been such a critical success and so eagerly embraced by the indie rock community if it hadn't become such a cause célèbre thanks to the band being unceremoniously dropped by Reprise Records, and then signed by Nonesuch after the album had become a hot item on the internet. Much of the critical reaction to the album, while almost uniformly enthusiastic (and rightly so), had an odd undertow that suggested the writers were not especially familiar with Wilco's body of work, registering a frequent sense of surprise that an "alt-country" band would make such an adventurous album while ignoring the creative shape-shifting that had been so much a part of Jeff Tweedy and company's approach on Being There and Summerteeth. The irony is that 2004's A Ghost Is Born, the eagerly awaited follow-up to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, is also the Wilco album with the strongest stylistic link to its immediate predecessor, as if their new fans are being given a moment to catch up. A Ghost Is Born hardly sounds like a retread of YHF, but the languid, ghostly song structures, the periodic forays into dissonance, and the pained, hesitant vocals from Jeff Tweedy that were so much a part of that album also take center stage here. But while much of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot had a cool and slightly removed feeling, A Ghost Is Born is considerably warmer and more organic; the extended instrumental breaks in several of the songs (two cuts are over ten minutes long) sound more like a group in full flight than the Pro Tools-assembled structures of YHF.