Four or five listens in, I figured it might be useful to postpone the new playlist for a day and blog some preliminary thoughts on the new Wilco album, “Wilco (The Album)” (not crazy about the title). Jeff Tweedy has already been talking it up as something of a return to more “experimental” terrain which, at this point, seems to be a bit of a stretch.

Four or five listens in, I figured it might be useful to postpone the new playlist for a day and blog some preliminary thoughts on the new Wilco album, “Wilco (The Album)” (not crazy about the title). Jeff Tweedy has already been talking it up as something of a return to more “experimental” terrain which, at this point, seems to be a bit of a stretch.

But then I always thought that “Sky Blue Sky” was a deal more experimental than a lot of people made it out to be, albeit in a more discreet way than something like “Less Than You Think”. “Wilco (The Album)” marks the first time that the same Wilco line-up has stuck together for two albums (three if you count the “Kicking Television” live set), and perhaps consequently it feels that there’s been less of a conscious rethink of how the band sound this time out – less than ever before, maybe.

“Wilco (The Album)”, then, feels like an artful stretching of “Sky Blue Sky”’s mellow aesthetic. It’s not, as some of us might have hoped, a collection of jams that showcase this most skilled and intuitive of groups: like one of their obvious antecedents, The Grateful Dead, you sense that Wilco might be a band whose expansive potential generally only comes to the fore live.

It is, though, a fantastic collection of songs that suggest Tweedy is at peace with his entire career now, rather than feeling he has to rebel against it. In songs like “Wilco (The Song)” (come on, though…) and “I’ll Fight”, there’s that bright, bold sound, pitched somewhere between power-pop and the Rolling Stones maybe, that he managed so well on “Being There”. “Deeper Down”, meanwhile, is a gorgeous chamber-pop piece that hints at how “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” might have turned out had Jay Bennett got his way – ironic, given, that Bennett seems to looming ominously back into view if this Pitchfork news story is anything to go by. “Solitaire” even, delicately, could be described as alt-country if you were out of Tweedy’s earshot.

These are some of the most immediate and striking songs Wilco have come up with in years. “You Never Know” is gloriously anthemic, with hearty strums, keening riffs, faint Cockney Rebel “Make Me Smile” harmonies, a recurring observation that “Every generation think it’s the worst, thinks it’s the end of the world”, and a general vibe reminiscent of George Harrison circa “All Things Must Pass”. “Everlasting” compounds that, being a noble and towering love song that may be distant kin to “Isn’t It A Pity”. Keep listening, and the details come into focus: Glenn Kotche’s fluttery, empathetic rolls when Tweedy sings of waves; the ineffable delicacy of Nels Cline’s soloing on the fade, over a glimmer of horns and a second backwards guitars.

Once again, one of the great pleasures here is hearing such a great band playing with such harmonious intensity and economy. It’s Cline, though, who sneakily grabs your attention, not least on the precise, lyrical soloing on “One Wing”, a worthy successor to “Impossible Germany” on “Sky Blue Sky”. It’s “Bull Black Nova”, however, where he finally gets the free pass in the studio that’s been denied him in Wilco thus far.

“Bull Black Nova” is tremendous, with a metronomic swing like “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”, but an edgier feel, compounded by a distinct Sonic Youth clink to the thicket of guitars, Tweedy sounding more fraught and clenched than he has in years, and a sense that Cline has been allowed to bring all his wailing gizmos to the party. It’s here that the promise of a wilder record is most overt; elsewhere, I suspect the strangeness in the details of these lovely songs will reveal themselves more slowly…