After months of having their say, the collective wisdom of AUK’s writers generated a shortlist of the best americana albums ever. That shortlist has now been whittled down to a top 10. Today we begin the process of revealing the culmination of that process. Over the next fortnight we will reveal the top 10, one per day, in reverse order. To kick us off, Paul Villers, who ranked this album at number 1 in his personal choices, offers his take on Jeff Tweedy’s masterpiece.
In our twenty years of existence it’s only taken us until now to decide to come up with a definitive top ten americana albums of all time. The reasons are obvious and the pitfalls many. But we did it anyway and it’s my pleasure to speak up for Wilco’s ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’.
It’s difficult to know where to begin and harder to know where to end with this record. Much like its hard to know what, exactly, they were thinking when they made it. But I’m glad that they did. It is transcendent in its appeal and overarching in its aims. It takes your expectations, trifles with them, beats them over the head and then fulfils them with a joyous disregard for the consequences. Everything is here: the musicality and lyricism are at one and the same time simple and yet complex. You are invited in, given a lethal cocktail and invited to either leave or stay as you see fit. Leave and no one will mind – the doorman will hand you your coat with a smile and a knowing wink. Stay and you will be rewarded with joys beyond belief. One can simultaneously tap one’s foot and question one’s cognitive ability to understand the term ‘dissonance’. It’s all there and frequently three times within the same song. Stay and everything will make sense. Stay and (even if only ‘eventually’) you will get this thing. Everything is on offer: tunes, poetry, musical wizardry, recording studio mastery, outstanding song-smithery and more. Having been there at the birth of the thing we came to call ‘alt. country’ and remain at the heart of ‘americana’ Jeff Tweedy and friends present here a magnum opus of the genre(s). Take all of the best bits that you love, put them through the prism of genius and sit back and enjoy.