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Wilco surprises with free 'Star Wars' album

Wilco surprises with free 'Star Wars' album Wilco surprises with free 'Star Wars' album

US alternative rockers Wilco surprised the music world by releasing for free an unexpected new album, entitled "Star Wars", AFP reports.

Reinforcing the band's reputation for innovation, Wilco announced its ninth studio album late Thursday on social media and invited fans to download it on the group's website for free for an unspecified limited time.

Frontman Jeff Tweedy said there was little reason behind the move other than the obvious.

"Why release an album this way and why make it free?" he wrote on Facebook.

"Well, the biggest reason, and I'm not sure we even need any others, is that it felt like it would be fun. What's more fun than a surprise?" he said.

The title of the album was considerably less obvious.

"Star Wars" has no apparent connection to the classic science-fiction movie series of the same name. The cover depicts a blinking white cat in front of a vase of flowers.

However, the album has hints of space rock with sci-fi effects on tracks such as "Random Name Generator" and "Pickled Ginger."

"Star Wars" also shows the continued direction of Wilco firmly into indie rock and away from the country influences earlier in the career of the band and its predecessor, Uncle Tupelo.

The Chicago band released "Star Wars" on its own label, dBpm, through which it also put out its previous album, 2011's Grammy-nominated "The Whole Love."

Wilco was involved in a high-profile dust-up in 2001 when the major label Reprise backed out of releasing its album "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot."

The incident set the stage for Wilco to experiment in how it releases music, with "The Whole Love" first streamed on the band's website before its commercial release.

Wilco has also designed its own music festival, Solid Sound, which in contrast to the rising number of music events around the United States stays deliberately small.

For the latest edition, held at the sprawling Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Wilco for the first time played a fully acoustic set.

Wilco is also known for the "Mermaid Avenue" collaborative albums with English protest singer Billy Bragg that recorded for the first time some of the lesser known works of folk legend Woody Guthrie.

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