To no one’s surprise, I grew up listening to what my parents listened to in the car or around the house. I feel like a lot of kids do, but thankfully my parents love a very wide range of music and for that I will be forever grateful. I wasn’t stuck listening to the same old CDs every day or whatever. My parents make it a habit to listen to new music and try to stay up to date as much as they can, even with their hectic schedules and busy lives. They listened to everything, but only a few CDs really sunk their teeth into me. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco was one of those.
Wilco was founded in Chicago by Jeff Tweedy, guitarist and singer, after the break up of his previous band Uncle Tupelo and included all the same musicians from the previous band except for the lead singer. Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt, bassist, are the only two remaining members of the original lineup. The band started out with much more of a country rock sound and then eventually developed into a alt/indie rock style dropping much of the country sounds for a more experimental tone. The CD I’m talking about, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, is arguably where they took the most dramatic turn in their musical style and ultimately ended up getting them national attention and frequent radio play. It also was eventually put on multiple lists as one of the greatest albums of all time. Ironically, their record label disagreed and asked them to leave before its release feeling the album wasn’t strong enough. To this day, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is still Wilco’s best selling CD.
I vividly remember being introduced to Jeff Tweedy through his other project, Golden Smog, and through earlier Wilco albums such as Summerteeth and Mermaid Avenue (which was a collaboration between Wilco and Billy Bragg), but it wasn’t until Yankee Hotel Foxtrot that I was really impressed and moved by their sound. Tweedy’s singing remains to be one of the most unique I’ve heard and really helps pull the emotions right out of the lyrics.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot remains to be my favorite album by Wilco to this day. Songs like “War on War” with lyrics that state “you have to learn how to die if you wanna be alive” still intrigue and haunt me twelve years after first hearing them. But I honestly think it’s just the energy of the CD that keeps me going back to it. My favorite songs on the album “Heavy Metal Drummer” and “Pot Kettle Black” bring out this raw power that explode in each of their respective choruses.
There are a great many reasons why I love this CD, but what it really boils down to is that it wasn’t like everything else I was listening to at the time. You could feel the sadness in the songs, not just in Tweedy’s voice or lyrics, but with each strum of the guitar or smash of a cymbal. You could sense the search for happiness in some of the tracks and as I was growing up while listening to this, it really hit home.
Here are my favorite tracks from the album:
“War on war”, “Jesus, etc.”, “Heavy metal drummer”, “I’m the man who loves you” and “Poor places”