Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CD of the Day: ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,’ Wilco (2002)

“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” is now surrounded by so much lore, the reason for all that buzz can get lost: This is a great album.

When the weakest song out of 11 is “Radio Cure,” then Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett had something going very right in the studio, even if whatever that was ended up separating them. This album is either good or great at every turn, with a perfect mixture of simple, catchy rock and roll and dense, challenging work. One thing’s for sure, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” is never boring; all of that variety leads to rewarding listens even many years later, where a song like “Poor Places" can all of a sudden jump out at you once you’ve finally moved past all the more accessible stuff.

It was written so well in the first place, the excellent live version of Wilco we have today builds on that amazing framework and takes these songs to even greater heights, specifically “Ashes of American Flags” and “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” I also love the narrative flow to the record, which finds Tweedy acknowledging his own faults in the opening track, then on finale "Reservations" recommitting himself to, I'm assuming, his wife. Ironically, one of Tweedy's most plainspoken love songs concludes one of his most difficult albums.

This is one of many reasons why “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” only gets better with age.

Grade: A+

Favorite Track: “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”

Least Favorite Track: “Radio Cure”

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