Monday, July 27, 2009

2002 : 30-32 Aught Music Roundtable: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco

Roundtable Part One: "Poor Places" (First Pass)

It makes no difference to me
How they cried all overseas
When it's hot in the poor places tonight
I'm not going outside

I listened to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot everyday for a year. From the day I purchased it, in April of 2002, until April of 2003, I put this album on every day. Often I listened to it first thing in the morning or last thing before going to bed. For a year, it was part of my everyday life. I do not think any album ever had this effect on me.

I could have picked five or six different songs from this album to write about. "Poor Places" is a great example of everything I love about this album. It is an expansive soundscape, it is personal, it is well produced, it is distorted, it is familiar, it is unexpected all at the same time. In the documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, Jeff Tweedy is asked about his yet-to-be-released album. He says, "Yes, it will have a lot of tape loops and electronic music. No, it is not a techno album."

I remember someone saying to me back in 2002 about this album, "Oh, Wilco, they're an Alt-Country band, right?" All I could do was tell them to listen to the album and tell me if they are still an Alt-Country band or not. The album was so good because I felt there was no sub-genre that covered it.

If the question is "what did 2002 sound like?" this album has a huge part of that answer to me.

Rich Thomas

Roundtable Part Two: "Heavy Metal Drummer"

He played guitar, not drums, and it wasn't heavy metal really, but all the same I can't help but feel nostalgic listening to this.

Along with my other two 2002 picks ("Golden Age of Radio" and "Jenny",) this song makes up the first three songs in my ultimate driving mix. It's always evolving and it never quite gets finished, but these three songs have been on it since I first heard them. To me upbeat tunes with a dose of melancholy or longing in the lyrics make the best driving music.

April Walker

Roundtable Part Three: "Poor Places" (Second Pass)

There's really no need to explain the importance of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, not to mention its almost immediate placement on any list of the best albums of the aughts. Every song on the disc is worth mention on this blog, and there are genres abound within the span of the running time: experimental, electronic, classic rock, et. al. "Poor Places," at first glance, is probably the simplest song on the album, yet is arguably the most beautiful. The music works as a full spectrum: it starts off lush, with barely noticeable hints of drum and guitar supporting Jeff Tweedy's voice, but as the song progresses, it increases in contribution and volume, reaching a crescendo of mechanical noise, with the haunting vocal of "Yankee... Hotel...F oxtrot..." closing it out. Tweedy's vocals are the closest they'll ever be to perfect here, and the lyrics alone would work as a poem:

There's bourbon on the breath of a singer you love so much
He takes all his words from the books that you don't read anyway

Despite my earlier statement that the song is simple, the lyrics offer much for interpretation: family, depression, love, and creativity. In short: Wilco at its best.

Jamie Yates

Listen: Wilco >> "Poor Places" | "Heavy Metal Drummer"

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