Thu. Jul 9th, 2020

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Album Review: Wilco – What’s Your 20

2 min read

What’s Your 20 is one of the two brand new Wilco collections released in celebration of the band’s 20th anniversary. The best-of compilation has arrived hand in hand with Alpha Mike Foxtrot, a 4CD box-set of rare studio and live recordings. While Grammy-nominated Cheryl Pawelski produced both, the two collections differ greatly, each capturing the band’s transformation over the past two decades through vastly different approaches.  Alpha Mike Foxtrot emphasised the band’s eclectic and ever-changing sound, exposing the contrast between their alternative country origins and the punk and folk rock styles of Wilco’s more recent years. However, What’s Your 20 provides a far more cohesive and compact overview of their discography from their formation in 1994 to the present day.

Wilco What's Your 20Despite Wilco having never really produced a hit song, the release of What’s Your 20, essentially a greatest-hits style collection, works in favour of the band. This compilation samples from the band’s full eight-album catalogue, and also features three tracks off the Mermaid Avenue collection of Woody Guthrie-penned tunes set to music by Wilco in conjunction with Billy Bragg. From the upbeat alternative country sounds of I Must Be High, to the moving acoustic vulnerability of How To Fight Loneliness, and the heavier and raw, but honest, Hate It Hear, every song makes an impression and demonstrates frontman Jeff Tweedy’s inexhaustible song writing skills.

Alpha Mike Foxtrot is certainly targeting a market of Wilco’s most serious and passionate fans, as it gives a detailed, behind-the-scenes style insight into the progression of the band over these twenty years. It’s sheer scale, at 77 songs, is enough to exclude those who do not consider themselves die-hard fans of the group. What’s Your 20 remedies this.

The 2-disc collection compiles all the fan-favourites and standout tracks of Wilco’s eight great albums, but in a way that identifies and responds to a consistent sound throughout this body of work. Instead of emphasising the dramatic changes the band has gone through over the years, this release seeks to reconcile Wilco’s ever-transforming style. In doing so What’s Your 20 becomes a record that is inclusive to both long-standing Wilco fans and newcomers, giving them an effective introduction to the band’s vast discography. No matter where you stand in regards to their fan base, for celebrating two decades of music from these talented musicians, What’s Your 20 is certainly worth a listen.