Art of Almost

Album: The Whole Love (2011)

Songfacts®:

  • The opening track of Wilco's eighth studio album The Whole Love is a two part rock freak-out comprising an electro free-form jam with clattering drums, followed by a rapidly building charge featuring Nels Cline's fuzzed-out guitar. Tweedy told Spin magazine the inspiration for the seven minute sprawler came from Neil Young. "It's a sort of atmospheric song you might hear on Tonight's The Night" he said. "I don't know what happened to that song, to be honest. It just sort of morphed over time into something that's a lot more interesting to us now."
  • Critics have compared this multi-part track to previous Wilco epics such as Wilco: The Album's "Blue Black Nova." Speaking to Salon, Jeff Tweedy explained how Wilco build such a soundscape. Said the frontman: "'Art of Almost' started as a completely different song, and through a hodgepodge of approaches and accidents, we ended up with this collage that we spent months and months and months refocusing our eyes on, adding parts and taking parts away. A few things happened pretty early on -- like the drumbeat and the bass line, the pulse of the song -- and that became the core. After that, we could all envision where it could head and where it was going -- it was just patiently, collectively, coming in weeks apart and saying, 'We're going to nail this outro now' or 'Let's make sure the sound cloud that the vocal emerges from is rich enough' or 'The third verse sounds much too similar to the first verse. Let's make it a totally different texture.' It's very rewarding to work that way and make a real studio-sculpture-type collaboration."
  • The song started with a demo that Tweedy played to the rest of the band on an acoustic guitar and they learned the chords, which remained virtually the same on the final recorded version. However, according to Tweedy, "the band has an openness to accidents, or not being too precious about songs," and are willing to let them evolve in a different direction than was originally envisaged. Asked by Salon to give an example of "a typical happy accident," he replied: "Well, at some point Glenn (Kotche) and Mike (Jorgensen) started playing this vaguely Germanic drumbeat. I don't know, I had this impulse to hear what the lyrics and the melody would sound like over it. I didn't even sing it; we just moved it in the computer, flipped it around and just said 'Hey, let's see if this works.' It fit really well right off the bat without a whole lot of editing or manipulating. That's when everybody could see, 'Well, this could be something completely different. Let's do this.' At one point we were still going to work on the other version and call it 'All of Almost,' but this song became such a focal point for us that I think we forgot about finishing the other version."

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