Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #63 Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
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#63 Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Wilco began in the mid-90's after Jay Farrar, lead singer of Uncle Tupelo, parted ways with the band. Jeff Tweedy took the reigns and formed Wilco, which carried on the same alt-country sound that occasionally inspired, but usually tended to bore. But, in 2002, Wilco released their masterpiece, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was a fucking mess compared to Wilco's previous efforts and this was precisely what made it so brilliant. Even the name alt-country sounds boring, but when combined with a sophisticated experimental angle, it can be the one of the most entertaining and inspiring sounds of the decade. Such was the case with YHF, an album that was, at its core, a cute folk record, but, on its surface, was an unprecedented experimental album that dirtied, yet, ironically, shined Wilco's best attributes.
The opening track, "I am Trying to Break Your Heart," begins like a toy marching boy gone haywire, with a careful drum beat, followed by a robotic guitar chord and a steeply dipping bass line, all layered above a pulsating drone. Bells and other odds and ends twinkle in and out as Tweedy sets the tone for the album with his bizarre lyrics. "I am an American aquarium drinker. I assasin down the avenue." Even though the majority of Tweedy's lyrics are indecipherable on YHF, they are delivered in way that effectively relays the heart of his message. Along with this delivery, the music accents and suppresses the tone of Tweedy's voice and words so perfectly. It could be a droning organ below Tweedy's mumbles or a static noise above Tweedy's shouts. In any case, it's a seamless blend of the bizarre and the norm and this theme is applicable to each song and the album as a whole. The album goes in and out of the norm. From the clamor of "I am Trying to Break Your Heart" we trot into to the simplicity of "Kamera" - from the closing freakout of "War on War" we fall gently into the soft charm of "Jesus, etc." YHF never fails to take you for a turn to a new surprise.
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