Wilco’s Star Wars and My Personal Helicon


Only Wilco could make something this eruptive feel so comfy, like a steel-wool security blanket.

Source: Wilco’s New Album: Star Wars | Rolling Stone

I’ve been enjoying the heck out of this album over the past week. I was skeptical at first … it being a “free” and “surprise” album with a cutesy yet askew title that Wilco just dropped on us all last week.

After listening to it in the office throughout the week then on replay during a 5 hour drive (the album is just over 30 mins, which is something of a miracle in itself for a Wilco production), I’m a believer.

To make it completely personal and anecdotal, Tweedy’s lyrics and the band’s music reminds me that even though I’m heading into my 37th year of being here and continue to find my own way in business while working with my clients, there are still opportunities to explore the cracks in the sidewalk and allow myself to be creative. I’ve smoothed over those moments of opportunity. I’ve wasted my words and openings for personal and work actualization. This album has helped me realize that.

It’s not enough to coast. Sky Blue Sky, Wilco (The Album) and The Whole Love were fine albums in their own rights. But they didn’t cause the type of “woah, wait a minute … think about how these lyrics and this music can get you to explore your own space, Sam” moments that made me start listening to Wilco in the first place.

The first time I heard Misunderstood from Being There, I was in college and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. So, I got a religion major. It made sense at the time. That song was a part of that decision that seemed so flippant yet daring looking back on my younger self. “I would never do that today,” I think to myself as I take my multivitamin supplements and do my morning stretches while looking at my agenda.

Shortly after I took my first office job, my friend Jon said I needed to listen to something and slipped me a CD (it was the style of the times). While sitting in my fluorescent cubicle, I plugged in my headphones and the first cacophonous notes of  I Am Trying to Break Your Heart from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot entered my consciousness. I started blogging. My career took me on a path I could have never imagined. That song could be a metaphor for my 20’s (at least in my own head) both in terms of work, exploring my creativity, and relationships. It still gives me chills. It, like Misunderstood, was a strange reflecting pool where I could see myself askew and needed to explore that further before I could look away.

The songs on Star Wars are pushing me to that type of mirror pool reflection. The trick, I think, as I turn 37 is to realize that there will be other songs to push and pull me later, but I need to enjoy these for now and see where they go. Creativity in work, and life, is a blessing and a curse as it seems to come as quickly as it goes. You’re thinking up the color of the tech world at 27 and then you realize you’re 35 and still using the same palette.

It’s time to push the obtuse in my work, and find the angles that I smoothed over.

Then, I have to walk on and find the next mirror pond of songs before settling in as I did before:

Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.

Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.

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