Wilco takes a casual approach on this latest album, which was made available for a free download about two months ago. Even stealing the name Star Wars seems like an offhand joke since it doesn’t have any relevance to the material, and why they used a portrait of my cat Junie on the cover is a mystery. Rather than being a blockbuster release, this 34-minute effort feels like hanging out with vocalist-guitarist Jeff Tweedy in the studio. But considering his knack for crafting infectious melodies and intriguingly cryptic imagery, that’s still an engaging experience.
“It’s a staring contest in a hall of mirrors/I sweat tears but I don’t ever cry,” Tweedy sings in a talky vocal style on “The Joke Explained.” It’s one of a series of easygoing, catchy tracks on Star Wars, along with “Cold Slope” and “King Of You.” “Magnetized” is more solemn, and builds to an orchestral arrangement, while “More . . .” evokes the 1970s with a mix of acoustic and electric guitars. “Taste The Ceiling” has that unmistakable allure of a classic Wilco song as Tweedy sets lines like, “Why do our disasters creep so slowly into view” to a melodic arrangement. “Pickled Ginger” and “Random Name Generator” are more energetic and fun, serving as the strongest moments on this welcome gift from Wilco.