Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Record Label: Nonesuch
Release Date: April 23, 2002
After seeing Wilco last night, I felt obliged to write about the album that not only introduced me to the band, but really changed my whole outlook on music. I can’t even begin to say what this record did for my musical tastes, or how this band has changed so much of what I believe to be relevant in the music world today.
I went into my first year of college with a pretty narrow scope of music in general. A friend suggested Wilco to me a few weeks into my first semester, and told me that this was the first album I should listen to. I immediately was hooked by not only the incredible songwriting of Jeff Tweedy, but also the unique sound that the band exhibited.
The first song, “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”, was a sort of awakening for me. I was just blown away by Tweedy’s ability to take such simple phrases and ideas, and turn them into these incredible songs, and portray them in such original ways. The line that really brought me in was “Still I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t easy/I am trying to break your heart”. On paper, this seems like a basic line, but the delivery and the music behind it are something that no one else can pull off.
The second track, “Kamera”, is a fairly basic alt-rock song that I really enjoyed. And then, right on cue, “Radio Cure” comes along and blows me away all over again. “Distance has a way/Of making love understandable”. Wow. It’s lines and songs like this that make me love music to the degree that I do.
The next three songs are the Wilco we’ve come to expect, with “War On War”, “Jesus Etc.” and “Ashes Of American Flags”. All of them take a basic musical composition to begin, and take them over the top with their incredible lyricism and descent into chaos by their end. No band makes noise sound as beautiful as Wilco, and this album portrays this better than any.
This is followed by, possibly, my favorite run of 3 songs on any album. “Heavy Metal Drummer”, “I’m The Man Who Loves You”, and “Pot Kettle Black” run together so seamlessly that you forget how great the rest of the album is. “Heavy Metal Drummer” tells the story of growing up going to shows, something that really hits home for me. “I’m The Man Who Loves You” provides what is probably the best guitar work on the album, with a lead guitar part that flirts with complete nonsense while holding the entire song together. “Pot Kettle Black” is another fantastic lyrical song with lines like “I myself have found/A real rival in myself” and “It’s become so obvious/You are so oblivious to yourself”.
The album ends with “Poor Places” and “Reservations”, which flow perfectly from one into the next, providing a perfect conclusion to a perfect album. “Poor Places” builds to a chaotic finish, with a voice naming out the album’s title. “Reservations” is a piano-driven song, with a final line of “I’ve got reservations/About so many things, but not about you”, before concluding with a piano and noise filled finish.
Enough has been written about this album to explain the impact it has had on so much of the music around today, but little is mentioned of the impact it has had on listeners like myself, who have changed their musical preference solely from this record. I hope that you would listen and experience the same thing. And if you already have heard it, I hope you appreciate it’s brilliance.