Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Wilco (2002)

Verdict – 9.7

The fourth album by American band Wilco, led by singer Jeff Tweedy, was surrounded by a bit of controversy during its release, with the album being rejected by their music label at the time for being too experimental. Wilco then found another label to release the album a year later. Also, with the recording of the album actually finished in early 2001 (but released in 2002 as explained above), there are many things that seemingly ‘foretell’ or reference the 9/11 attacks. Regardless of all the happenings behind the scenes, we were left with one of the most adventurous, honest, sophisticated, catchy, chaotic yet most defined albums of the decade.

Tweedy manages to take complicated and sophisticated ideas and construct lyrics that perfectly convey the appropriate feelings. From abstract, obscure lyrics like, “Take off your band-aid because I don’t believe in touchdowns” (suggesting to someone new you meet, you may have been hurt before but bring down those walls you’ve built, I’m not looking to hurt you, I’m not looking to ‘score’) to honest lines like, “Distance has no way of making love understandable”, they lyrics are poignant and affecting. Alongside being the album’s best track with brilliant instrumentation and vocals, Jesus, Etc, is also the song that most closely references 9/11 (Tall buildings shake, voices escape singing sad, sad songs). Another highlight is the haunting Poor Places, which has a great tempo change near the middle, and closes the song with a radio transmission of a woman eerily saying, “Yankee… Hotel… Foxtrot”, repeatedly. Album closer, Reservations, is a stunning end to the album, which features the best lyrics on YHF with almost every line being quotable and relatable. The brilliant final line is about as perfect as any lyric can get, “I’ve got reservations about so many things, but not about you.”

YHF is experimental, alternative rock at its very finest. I enter this album every time thinking I have it too highly rated, that it cannot be that good, and leave the album finding the opposite, that I feel I have underrated it. Every song is near perfect, and repeated listens only reinforce the point. So, because you were right about the stars, because all my lies are always wishes, because if I could you know I would hold your hand and you’d understand, and because I’m bound by this feeling so easy to fake, I have come to the agreement that this album is simply, a masterpiece.

Top Songs – Jesus, Etc, Poor Places, Reservations


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