wilcoAfter being declared “America’s band” eight years ago in the wake of the release of Yankee Foxtrot Hotel, it’s probably been a bit daunting being Wilco sometimes, with great expectations being heaped upon every subsequent album. Wilco (the album), as its title may indicate, is a notably relaxed affair, however, despite some advance press characterizing it as being “experimental.” There are some songs where they go where they haven’t gone before, as with the hard edged, eerie “Bull Black Nova,” but in general, it’s a easygoing pop album, with just the right mix of the lighthearted and the serious minded, sometimes in the same song. There are no real rockers, but there are some terrific midtempo numbers like “One Wing,” “You And I” (featuring Feist on vocals), “You Never Know” (the current single) and the lovely country and soul inflected number “Solitaire.” They close on a bittersweet, close to perfect note with “Everlasting Everything.” Wilco (the album) is perhaps not an album to change the world, but it’s certainly an album that will make you feel better about being a part of it, and when it comes down to it, maybe that amounts to the same thing, really.

http://www.myspace.com/wilco

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Thoroughly enjoyable new album from Toronto based singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith finds him working with Cuban musicians Amaury Perez, Alexander Abreu and Joaquin Betancourt, expanding though not radically changing his easygoing folk rock sound. Consider their contributions more of an enhancement, as the string arrangements and horn sections are subtle and tasteful additions to his established sound. One track, “Brandy Alexander,” is a collaboration with Feist, which is a highlight as well. Lyrically, the songs are often topical in nature, though Sexsmith doesn’t take political stances so much as he offers up emotional, but still literate responses to a turbulent world climate. All in all, Exit Strategy of the Soul is top notch work from one of his generation’s most esteemed and accomplished songwriters. Standout cuts: “This Is How I Know,” “Ghost Of A Chance,” “Brandy Alexander” and “Impossible World.”

http://www.myspace.com/ronsexsmith