While it may never top the creative leap it made with 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – the band's masterpiece of sonic exploration and roots-rock brilliance – with its newest album, Sky Blue Sky , Wilco proves that it still has new artistic horizons to explore.

Its previous release, A Ghost Is Born , found frontman Jeff Tweedy lacking an instrumental collaborator after noise tinkerer, musical mad scientist and multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett disbanded. However, the addition of jazz guitarist, Nels Cline, finds the group in peak form and sounding tighter than ever.

The album is its most mature work to date, in its compositions, arrangements, exploration of dynamic shifts and commingling of styles both past and present, as well as Tweedy's lyrical thematics. Sky Blue Sky finds the group trading Ghost's Crazy Horse-influenced dissonant jams for Cline's fluid, melodic jazz runs and harmonized interludes that enrich the entire album, taking center stage on “Impossible Germany” and “Side With the Seeds.”

The new sound doesn't feel forced in the least, but rather comes off as the natural progression for a band that continues to grow and offers a unique experience with each new album.

Sky Blue Sky is a Wilco album, exploring the band's history while suggesting new roads for the future. The country sway of the titular track could've easily fit in on 1998's Being There , while “Walken” brings an infectious '70s groove that is funkier than any of the band's previous material.

The album closer, the hypnotic “On and On and On,” burns with a kind of otherworldly insight à la the Flaming Lips. “Hate It Here” is simply one of the band's brightest shining moments, a perfect, world-weary meditation on passing the time during a painful separation.

Tweedy again shows why he is one of the most exciting musical artists of the early 21st century and how in this age of easily packaged, disposable TRL product, watching one of your favorite artists grow can be both exciting and inspiring. And it can result in damn fine music that actually has a shot of sticking around long after TRL has become irrelevant.

Grade: A+