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Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
     

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

4.5 27
by Wilco
 

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The story of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot -- band records adventurous album, band gets tossed out on the street by multinational conglomerate label, album lands on critics' best-of lists the year before its release -- was one of 2001's more compelling showbiz melodramas. It pales, however, in comparison to the epic sweep of the long-delayed disc, easily Wilco's finest,

Overview

The story of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot -- band records adventurous album, band gets tossed out on the street by multinational conglomerate label, album lands on critics' best-of lists the year before its release -- was one of 2001's more compelling showbiz melodramas. It pales, however, in comparison to the epic sweep of the long-delayed disc, easily Wilco's finest, if not their defining, moment. Frontman Jeff Tweedy has come a long way from his alt-country days and his time revisiting Woody Guthrie on Mermaid Avenue, and while Yankee Hotel Foxtrot hasn't abandoned those roots entirely -- the steel guitar-laden "Pot Kettle Black" proves that -- he has certainly forged a challenging path for his bandmates and Wilco's listeners. There's a latter-day psychedelic edge to these Brian Wilson-inspired songs, where Tweedy's yearning melodies are subjected to all manner of studio deconstruction, thanks in part to the mix by Chicago's visionary Jim O'Rourke. "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" couches a portrait of severe emotional breakdown beneath a dizzying number of sonic layers and distorted notes. Distortion plays a big part in other tunes: "Radio Cures" wraps Tweedy's vocal in plenty of snap-and-crackle, all but obliterating the pop structure. Ditto the hypnotic "Poor Places," which seethes with a distant but palpable ache. While the album is dominated by dark tones, there are moments of sweetness and light as well. The brassy "I'm the Man That Loves You" fuses country and soul in a decidedly late-'60s manner, with Tweedy radiantly declaiming undying love in every verse. He's equally enamored on the nostalgic "Heavy Metal Drummer": "I miss the innocence I've known/Playing Kiss covers/Beautiful and stoned," he sings. Wilco go a long way toward recapturing innocent thrills here -- and not just because they pissed off their record company and scored great reviews. The adventurous sounds of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot are what moves this bunch. They will move you, too.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Zac Johnson
Few bands can call themselves contemporaries of both the heartbreakingly earnest self-destruction of Whiskeytown and the alienating experimentation of Radiohead's post-millennial releases, but on the painstaking Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco seem to have done just that. In early 2001, the Chicago-area band focused on recording their fourth album, which ultimately led to the departure of guitarist Jay Bennett and tensions with their record label. Unwilling to change the album to make it more commercially viable, the band bought the finished studio tapes from Warner/Reprise for 50,000 dollars and left the label altogether. The turmoil surrounding the recording and distribution of the album in no way diminishes the sheer quality of the genre-spanning pop songs written by frontman Jeff Tweedy and his bandmates. After throwing off the limiting shackles of the alt-country tag that they had been saddled with through their 1996 double album Being There, Wilco experimented heavily with the elaborate constructs surrounding their simple melodies on Summerteeth. The long-anticipated Yankee Hotel Foxtrot continues their genre-jumping and worthwhile experimentation. The sprawling, nonsensical "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" is as charmingly bleak as anything Tweedy has written to date, while the positively joyous "Heavy Metal Drummer" jangles through bright choruses and summery reminiscences. Similarly, "Kamera" dispels the opening track's gray with a warm acoustic guitar and mixer/multi-instrumentalist/"fifth Beatle" Jim O'Rourke's unusual production. The true high points of the album are when the songwriting is at its most introspective, as it is during the heartwrenching "Ashes of American Flags," which takes on an eerie poignancy in the wake of the attacks at the World Trade Center. "All my lies are always wishes," Tweedy sings, "I know I would die if I could come back new." As is the case with many great artists, the evolution of the band can push the music into places that many listeners (and record companies for that matter) may not be comfortable with, but, in the case of Wilco, their growth has steadily led them into more progressive territory. While their songs still maintain the loose intimacy that was apparent on their debut A.M., the music has matured to reveal a complexity that is rare in pop music, yet showcased perfectly on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
New York Times - Jon Pareles
"On 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,' named after a sample of a shortwave radio broadcast on the album, Wilco's new songs about love, America, apocalypse and self-invention unfold in richly enigmatic arrangements. The music provides eerie terrain for Mr. Tweedy's homey melodies and his careworn voice, as songs drift from the familiar sounds of guitars and drums through layers of stray instruments, electronics and noise.... There's nothing as simple as a comeback on 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.' The songs no longer seek the refuge of revived 1960's styles or the security of a clear-cut, vanished past. This time, the music wanders across odd, rewarding frontiers, where, at any moment, things can change."
Rolling Stone - David Fricke
...an earthy, moving psychedelia, eleven iridescent-country songs about surviving a blown mind and a broken heart. In Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, [Wilco] actually bring you the enchanting sound of things falling apart -- and gingerly, doggedly coming together again. This is an honest, vivid chaos, and it tells a good story.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/23/2002
Label:
Nonesuch
UPC:
0075597966923
catalogNumber:
79669
Rank:
4496

Tracks

  1. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
  2. Kamera
  3. Radio Cure
  4. War on War
  5. Jesus, etc.
  6. Ashes of American Flags
  7. Heavy Metal Drummer
  8. I'm The Man Who Loves You
  9. Pot Kettle Black
  10. Poor Places
  11. Reservations

Album Credits

Customer Reviews

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Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
If I could give it six stars I would. If you are a true music lover, I highly recommend you search for reviews on YHF and read ALL of them that you have time for; in this way you will begin to get an idea of how complex and beautiful the album is... I'm not saying that critics are gods or anything like that, but hey, they may notice things that you don't even after several listenings; after all, they notice things for a living. A particularly insightful review was that of S. Renee Dechert for Pop Matters, focusing on the overarching themes of difficulties in communication, backed by the recurring motif of radio. If you like to think about music, read it. Two things that made a big impression on me that I haven't seen mention of yet: 1) In Poor Places, the (guitar?) distorion at the end when the english female voice is repeating ''Yankee Hotel Foxtrot'' sounds to me like an old recording of WWII german buzzbombs, or perhaps the engine of an old prop plane that is going down... Maybe the voice could then be coming from an airbase/landing strip? Have I been watching the History channel too much? 2) At the end of Reservations, the very last line shifts from ''I've got reservations, but not about you'' to ''IT'S not about you''. This ambiguous statement seems to bring in the possibility that the speaker has no reservations about his partner because there's nothing there to have reservations about... ''It'' is not about her; doesn't this imply that the reservations, of which she is no part, are taking center stage in his life; i.e. they are ''it'' and she is not? I've seen a number of critical reviews that mention Tweedy's undying pledge of devotion at the end of the last song, but I'm not so sure they're seeing the whole picture...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This will go down as Wilco's 'Document:' a distinct departure and representative of their ongoing evolution, but still Wilco in one of their finest hours.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been listening to Tweedy since his Uncle Tupelo days when they were playing any gig they could get around Belleville, Illinois. Always hoped this was in him somewhere. Awesome music.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After a few spins of this cd it's obvious why Reprise dumped Wilco. What the heck was Tweedy thinking? No wonder Coomer & Bennett are gone. Tweedy's ego got in the way big time on this one & the record suffers because of it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't agree more with some of the other reviews: This album is not something to put on as background music while you read a magazine or pay the bills. This album must be listened to very intentionally or you won't get it. This album is best when you listen to the entire disc through. I also agree with the reviewer who said that it sounds best with headphones. There are many brilliant subtleties that you might miss unless you eliminate all background noises. Once you give this CD the time it deserves, you won't be disappointed. It has everything: catchy guitar riffs, foot-tapping pop melodies, interesting but melodic and understated synth noises. It wanders into dark and confusing places, but never for too long. Just as it drifts, so does it return to the tight rock n' roll sound that propelled Wilco to its success.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What is all the fuss about? Hype has driven people insane. This is a boring, self-indulgent record - no wonder the band split up and the label told them to take a hike. I can just see what went on in the studio: ''Oh, yeah, that feedback is so cool. Let's pan that back and forth...'' That's a whole lot easier than having to craft melodies.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like always, Wilco impresses me more and more with every release. Even though on a 'poppier' side of the scale (but who can TRULY call wilco pop? Nobody call call it anything more than 'perfect') this is a deffinite plus for any music lover...true music. I loved this cd, and even though cd 2 of being there is my favorite, this one is high up there too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thanks to Wilco for making me happy to be alive in 2002. This is one of the best records I have ever heard. Wilco will not work for everyone, but then again there is only so much room on the bandwagon and you'd better like Creed. This is an evolution for Wilco and for music in general; Radiohead has tried this type of music but they didn't do it as good as Tweedy and Co. This is cohesive, emotional, and thought provoking - so if you don't like those concepts DO NOT BUY this record (more for us and less for you). I don't agree that this needs multiple listens to be accessible but it does get deeper with time. Thanks again Wilco for not selling out - but then we wouldn't have listened if we thought that would happen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am total "old school". Usually all I listen to was recorded before 1973 but this is one incredible CD. Its smart, moving, heartfelt, catchy, entertaining, rocking, melodic, addictive, fun.......in short everything so much contemporary rock and roll is not. Its my favorite record in the last ten years. And I say that having listened to it nonstop for the last 8 months. It is just incredible. I have never written an online review but I love this CD so much I just had to let it out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wilco is a brilliant band from Chicago that really originated out of Uncle Tupelo. But everyone knows the story I'm here to talk about their best record Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Coming out in 2002 it stole the hearts of many because it was a experimental tribute to America. Noises displaying the blood spilled for our homeland. Also how we should take what we have for granted and how we should be more aware of the state that our country is in. Wilco's YHF means something to everyone it isn't just an array of different sound manipulation it has heart it is melodic and somber. It is the definition of a sober drunk drinking his last beer. It is Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wilco is one of the last truly great bands. There are still many other really good bands, but truly great? not too many. I love Tweedy's voice. I like quirky voices, like Wayne Coyne for instance. This cd has a lot more slow songs, the rockers, when they come, really grab you and the slow ones kind of creep up on you. You have to give this cd a little more than just a few spins to get the real feel of it. It seems that many really great albums take a while to grow on you. They're more subtle, there's multiple layers, there is more to it than just clever hooks and cute lyrics. Reprise was stupid to let Wilco go, Nonesuch scored big time. I figure Reprise must have put their cd on, let it play through the first minute of each song and thought, ''what the he_ll is this?'' (thanks a lot B&N censors)I wouldn't expect a bunch of suits to get this kind of music. People are so used to cra* (geez, I can't even say ''c_rap?'') these days that if it doesn't seem like it'll sell Pepsi and Old Navy clothes, then they aren't interested in releasing it. It's sad, really. So many great bands don't make a living simply because they won't compromise their artistic integrity. Wilco is one of the few that has managed to break into the mainstream, albeit brief, and still maintain their credibility and produce great art. This album is art, like a fine painting and it is meant to be truly enjoyed for people who have time to enjoy good music, and not just have it on for background music or to give to their 11 year old daughter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having never owned a Wilco CD, I picked this up without any expecations....it's been in my CD player ever since. An outstanding recording from a band that has the potential of doing even better things. I don't care one bit about band members leaving, fights with the record company, blah, blah,blah. All I know is, this is so good it is light years ahead of today's chaos we call "rock music" Every time I listen to "Ashes of American Flags", I think it may the best song I have heard in 10 years. This album has single-handingly given me a slight glimmer of hope that all has not been detroyed in popular music.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've had the mp3's for 6 months so I can say that this music has staying power. It's not only the best thing Wilco's done, it's the best anybody has done in a long time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Remember the first time you cued up ''Being There'' and heard ''Misunderstood'' - the bombastic drums, the cacophony of strings, the audible feedback, and Tweedy's voice? It's as though Tweedy & Co. have chosen that moment as a starting point and moved many steps forward. I don't know if YHF should be album of this year, or last year - probably both. This is a deeply layered disc that defies genre. (I'm sure YHF will send a number of No Depression-istas over the edge.) ''Pot Kettle Black'' is probably the most accessible song on first listen - though I call ''Poor Places'' and ''I Am Trying to Break Your Heart'' my current favorites. This disc is a very rewarding listen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up a used copy of this on a whim, not expecting much. That was over a year ago...it's still in my CD player. When I heard the dramatic guitar strums in the beginning of the opening track, I knew I had found gold. Any CD that starts off with the words, "I'm an Amercian aquarium drinker" is probably going to be good. I honestly think 'Ashes of American Flags' may be the best single in the past 20 years.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a record. Great in the car and better in the living room where you don't miss a thing. You have to have some honesty to really like this record. Hey Wilco - come to Columbia, SC....
Guest More than 1 year ago
Listened to most of it last night on my portable CD player with headphones. Listened to part of it again on the way to work this a.m. Headphones were better - my first impressions were that the album is a dense sonic consommé - like one of those fancy soups that appear to be clear, with a thousand unidentifiable bits of stuff floating in it, and when you go to get a spoonful you find out that it is not a liquid at all, but a congealed gelatin so artfully done that you were fooled right up to the point where the spoon hits the surface and you feel resistance instead of release. My second thought was that somehow, through the mere act of listening to the CD, the record company had found a way to alter my perceptions, to sonically soak THC into brain cells. Stoney.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this cd about 5 months ago, I'd guess. My first Wilco album. 4 months later I own all of thier cds... inlucing the Jeff Tweedy soundtrack to chelsea walls and the billy bragg collaboration albums. Wilco has skyrocketed to my favorite band. This cd catches you from the first track and does't let go.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is NOT Wilco's best album, in my opinion. But, who the hell am I? If you are a Wilco fan, you will adore this record. It will remind you of the adventures of ''Being There,'' bring you the excitement of ''AM,'' and move you like ''Summerteeth.'' ''...Foxtrot'' is not Wilco's best album, though. . . in my opinion. I do like how the guitars buzz, the organs creep, the bass sticks and slides, and the voices familiarly lull and soar at the same time. Thank God, Nonesuch realized this is not Wilco's best album and released it anyway. Buy it, you'll like it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Finally, a new album worth listening to. A work of art. Wilco joins Radiohead as one of the few bands today that can make smart, intelligent,and most importantly,good music. At least a few bands know what Rock'n'roll is supposed to be. The album has a lot of depth,layers and textures. At first, I liked it, after listening to it over and over for 3 days, I love it. With Wilco you never know what your gonna get, you can only be certain that is going to be good. Different than the earlier albums, but hey, aren't bands supposed to grow, change and evolve? Overall, it will go down as one of the top rock'n'roll albums ever. It's that good.
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