1.) Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001 and 2002)
Well, the journey ends here and in a pretty predictable manner, unfortunately.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot has been such a constant in my life since its release that, truthfully, this was one of the easiest decisions I've ever had to make. I've defended the record to detractors, listened with like-minded friends, pored over every single nuance for years and years - I have lived with this record as such an essential part of my fabric that I don't even know that I can be objective about it anymore.
I adore every fractured moment of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and though its mythology is far reaching and descriptive of its inaccessibility, I happen to think its way, way overstated. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is, at its core, a pretty damn fine pop record. "Heavy Metal Drummer", "I'm the Man That Loves You", "Reservations" - come on! These are not difficult songs to digest. Never were. That's the thing though, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is certainly a different side of Wilco, but the press would have had you believe the record they were making was unlistenable. Instead, it was just an alt country band making a pop record.
But enough about what the record sounds like. Much like Kid A before it, you already know. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was for me and for many others the unofficial soundtrack to our post 9/11 world. This would sound like a bad thing, but it wasn't. YHF was the record I was listening to that kind of helped deal with the whole thing. Music being the savior as it tends to be. The record was released after 9/11, but was completed before and in fact the band were streaming it on their website for free that September. Having said that songs like "Ashes of American Flags" and "Jesus Etc" weren't devised to mean what they would come to, if that makes sense.
9/11, as terrible as it still is to talk about, is still the event that will define this decade for America, especially for those of us who are from and were in New York while it happened. Wilco - an American band if ever there was one had this record - this record already steeped in controversy, that would come to sound like that sad time. I can see the rubbled streets of downtown in the spareness of "Jesus Etc" but there was also hope in Tweedy's voice in "Heavy Metal Drummer", you know? It sounded like we did when we rallied around each other and decided to move on. To never forget, but to celebrate the people and places damaged by the horror. That's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to me. Sad, weird and at times cryptic, but ultimately hopeful and downright pleasant. That a record can achieve each of those emotional touchstones makes it great, that it still sounds amazing all these years later makes it indelible. A one of a kind record from one of the great bands of this generation. And easily my favorite record of the decade.
Thanks for reading, I'm back over at PatDSez next week.
Posted by Pat Driscoll