Monday, March 22, 2010

CD of the Day: ‘Summerteeth,’ Wilco (1999)

Wilco’s third proper album overflows in memorable melodies. To these ears, there are seven gold-standard, five-star songs here, comprising some of the best work Jeff Tweedy’s ever done (thanks to his collaboration with Jay Bennett).

What stand out the most, though, among all this excellence are the little moments: the harmonica solo from “She’s A Jar”; the fuzzy start to “Shot in the Arm” that leads to a few bars of pure piano; the high-pitch whine from “I’m Always in Love”; the “doo doo, doo doos” from “How to Fight Loneliness”; and my favorite spot on the entire CD, the transition from “Via Chicago’s” deconstructive ending to the shimmering guitar/synth beginning of “ELT.”

You have to really pick some nits to find flaws on “Summerteeth.” Sure, maybe “My Darling” and “When You Wake Up Feeling Old” isn’t the best one-two combo on earth; maybe “We’re Just Friends” is a momentary momentum-killer; maybe I still don’t understand the need for a “Shot in the Arm” reprise at the end of the disc; but … come on! A charmer like “Candy Floss” is buried at No. 16—that’s how great this disc is. Even my least favorite track, “Pieholden Suite,” has that wonderful fanfare outro.

This is Wilco’s pop/rock masterpiece. Though I slightly prefer the other masterpiece that followed a few years later, it’s easy to make the argument “Summerteeth” is Wilco’s best album.

Grade: A

Favorite Track: “Via Chicago”

Least Favorite Track: “Pieholden Suite”

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