Produced by Sonic Youth guitarist Jim O'Rourke, A Ghost Is Born might just draw its name from the mythical status Wilco attained after 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It also finds the band feeding off the negative vibes of the past few years (namely, rehab and the departure of Jay Bennett) like a poltergeist and channeling them into a heavier, more possessed sound. As he did on Foxtrot, Jeff Tweedy spins tales of lyrical gold to conjure this Ghost. On "Spiders (Kidsmoke)," a bass-thumping heartbeat meters Tweedy's admission that "Spiders are singing in the salty breeze/Spiders are filling out tax returns/Spinning out webs of deductions and melodies," before it dissolves into a cacophonous, eight-minute guitar crash. There are still gloriously layered songs like "Company in My Back," "Hummingbird," and the opener, "At Least That's What You Said," where Tweedy gets straight to the point: "I thought it was cute/For you to kiss/My purple black-eye/Even though I caught it from you."
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Wilco has birthed something more tangible than a ghost on this album. On the last song, "The Late Greats," Tweedy sings, "The best songs will never get sung/The best life never leaves your lungs/So good you won't ever know/You'll never hear it on the radio" with such resolve, you can't help but smile when the hair on the back of your neck stands up. -- Audra Schroeder