February 7th, 2012 1:00am

Subtract The Silence Of Myself

Wilco “Born Alone”

I’m always a bit confused by the fear of “dying alone,” at least in a literal sense. Being afraid of being lonely at the end of one’s life – I get that anxiety, and share it. But in terms of actual death, isn’t it ultimately something we can only really experience on our own? I think Jeff Tweedy is brushing up against this idea in this song, in which he concludes that he was “born to die alone,” drawing a loop from the beginning to the end of life, both of which are at least partly mysterious in how we actually experience them.

“Born Alone” is one of the best songs on Wilco’s eighth album, The Whole Love, a record that I’ve largely ignored up until recently despite being a fan of the band for over a decade. I’m still not fully sold on some of the tracks, which strike me as a bit flimsy and dull when compared to the highlights of Tweedy’s catalog. The best cuts call back to their Summer Teeth period, in which the group was just coming out of its alt-country Americana phase and heading into its artier peak period. The melody of “Born Alone” slightly echoes “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” – think of the “Bible-black predawn” line, and you’ll know what I mean – but it’s not deliberate, it’s mostly just that thing of musicians gravitating to certain types of cadence and progressions. A cool loud guitar break notwithstanding, it’s not one of Tweedy’s more ambitious songs, but it’s comfortable and comforting, with him easing the listener into lyrics that are both deep and self-deprecating.

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