Wilco returned to their loft in Chicago to record a sixth studio album in 2006. Influenced by The Byrds and Fairport Convention, the band considered Sky Blue Sky to be less experimental than previous releases. Also unlike previous albums, the songs were created as collaborations.
Wilco streamed the album online on March 3, 2007, and offered the song "What Light" as a free MP3 download. To further publicize the album, Wilco licensed several songs from the Sky Blue Sky recording sessions for use in a Volkswagen advertising campaign. The move was criticized by both critics and fans; Wilco responded by noting that they had previously done advertising campaigns with Apple Inc. and Telefónica Móviles (Movistar). The album was released on May 15, 2007, and was a commercial success: it sold over 87,000 copies in its first week and peaked in the top five in the U.S. album charts. It also was a top forty hit in seven other countries.
Reviewer James Brubaker states that Wilco "shine on a handful of the songs" on Sky Blue Sky, such as the "light, and straightforward" songs. While he calls the album "great traditional rock and folk album at times", he states that "once you get past the handful of masterful and lovely performances... the rest of the record comes off at times as dull, and forced." The allaboutjazz review also had mixed comments. While praising the album as "deceptively insinuating, almost intoxicating to listen to" and noting its "impeccable sound quality," the reviewer claimed that "Sky Blue Sky becomes the first Wilco album that sounds too careful for its own good."
Pabs Hernandez, a reviewer for Lost at Sea praised the album's "breezy atmosphere and pacing," and noted that it is not "easily judged upon first listen." Overall, Hernandez stated that it "may be no masterpiece, but at worst it's a more than worthy entry into Wilco's laudable catalogue." Reviewer Greg Locke praised the record as "one of the best albums of the year," calling it a "timeless record, full of sweet, hopeful sophistication and class" and "a lean, mean, soulful album." Like Hernandez, Locke acknowledged that the album could not be properly judged just on the first listening. The NPR review also had a positive take on the record. While the NPR reviewer stated that the recording "isn't groundbreaking," they praised its "coherent musical expression" and emphasis on "solid songcraft without pretense" which created a "satisfying and melodically sound album."
In anticipation of the 2008 US presidential election, Wilco released a downloadable version of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" that they performed with Fleet Foxes. The MP3 was available as a free download from the band's website in exchange for a promise to vote in the election. The band also made an appearance on The Colbert Report to support presidential candidate Barack Obama. Wilco released a live performance DVD, Ashes of American Flags, on April 18, 2009, to celebrate Record Store Day.
In December 2008, Jeff Tweedy, Pat Sansone, Glenn Kotche and John Stirratt traveled to Auckland, New Zealand to participate in Neil Finn's 7 Worlds Collide sequel project, The Sun Came Out, joined by Ed O'Brien, Phil Selway, Johnny Marr, KT Tunstall, Liam Finn, and Lisa Germano. They wrote and recorded several new tracks for the Oxfam-benefiting album including "You Never Know", "What Could Have Been", "Over and Done" and "Don't Forget Me". Jeff Tweedy co-wrote "Too Blue" with Johnny Marr, and Glenn, John and Pat play on most tracks on the album.
Having enjoyed their time in New Zealand and the vibe of Finn's own Roundhead Studios, the four members stayed in Auckland through January to record the foundation tracks for their next album. Jim Scott, who acted as engineer and mixer for the Neil Finn project, stayed on in the same capacity for the Wilco sessions. Nels Cline and Mikael Jorgensen would later add overdubs to these tracks at the band's Chicago Loft.
Famous quotes containing the word blue:
“Mozart has the classic purity of light and the blue ocean; Beethoven the romantic grandeur which belongs to the storms of air and sea, and while the soul of Mozart seems to dwell on the ethereal peaks of Olympus, that of Beethoven climbs shuddering the storm-beaten sides of a Sinai. Blessed be they both! Each represents a moment of the ideal life, each does us good. Our love is due to both.”
—Henri-Frédéric Amiel (18211881)