***1/2 (out of four)
The beloved Chicagoans open their eighth studio album with the seven-minute long “Art of Almost” (a beautiful, sophisticated groove that left turns into a full-fledged Nels Cline guitar freakout) and ends with the lovely and sad, 12-minute “One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend).” But “The Whole Love” isn’t an exercise in lengthy experimentation. Tracks 2-11 are all three or four minutes and change, finding the group as cohesive and inspired as they have been in years. A Wilco record rarely feels so diverse, stretching from the playful ‘60s organ of “I Might” to the road ballad “Black Moon” to the quietly moving “Rising Red Lung,” in which Jeff Tweedy sings, “Car radio dial is intimate as a kiss over the phone.” This is a fulfilling, generous record that captures a band in control of everything it does best, able to pepper straightforward songs with unusual arrangements and spin the genre wheel within songs. Glenn Kotche’s flexible percussive stylings dazzle again, and the album heaves with focus and warmth. I hope that’s here to stay.
In concert: Dec. 12 at Civic Opera House