To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.
2007 – #2. Wilco – Nonesuch
Wilco were one of my favourite bands of the 90s. Those high school and just after years. My beaten up copies of Summerteeth and Being There went with me just about everywhere. Through them I discovered a world of American music. In 2001, with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, they became a different band. They had the same emotional intensity, but a very different sound. So it was with extreme pleasure that Sky Blue Sky came along. It doesn’t sound like their 90s stuff exactly, but it harkens back to that simplicity – and takes it somewhere new.
I played this album to death. It’s so warm and engaging. This is exactly the kind of stuff I like, and that most of my friends can’t stand. Dudes singing in tight harmonies, guitars strummed and not riffing, someone in the band might have a beard. I remember that first listen, walking home through Notting Hill, hearing those excellent songs, and how easily that meal went down.
Which is slightly odd because Wilco has always been a band that challenged me. And they didn’t do it with this record.
(Have you heard my You Am I/Wilco, best friend/lover theorem? Well, I have two favourite bands. Australian band You Am I and Wilco, and for very different reasons.
You Am I strike me close to the bone, as if they sing with my voice and about my thoughts. I can go years between albums and pick straight up where we left of. There’s no new language to learn, we speak the same one. In short, You Am I are like a best friend.
Wilco however, challenge me. I had never heard such drones and noise til I heard Misunderstood. Or an album as sprawling and wonderous as Being There. The thick sunshine pop of Summerteeth. A man named Woody Guthrie. Those amazing lyrics. So Wilco is like a lover, someone you are scarmbling to keep up with, that you want to impress, and improve yourself for. Someone who makes you want to be better than yourself.
I spend a lot of time thinking about music.)
Lead Wilcan Jeff Tweedy said, about this record, that he wanted to write songs that his wife would actually like. And in that, it reminds me of something Beck said about Bob Dylan‘s Nashville Skyline. What’s happening here is a a bunch of guys who can do almost anything they want sonically, just kicking out a couple of tunes.
The tunes are some of Tweedy‘s best. Either Way, You Are My Face, Please Be Patient With Me (later used so well in the movie Ghost Town), What Light – the acoustic guitar was back in Wilco‘s arsenal. But there’s plenty of fireworks too. The guitar theatrics of Impossible Germany and Walken make them live staples for years and years to come. I know Tara’s favourite is On And On And On, a song for Tweedy’s father after the death of his mother.
For me though, my favourite is Sky Blue Sky. It has that lazy Grateful Dead-ish shuffle, and an amazing lyric. So happy to leave what was my home. I line that resonated, of course. But later that year after I had a nasty car accident – I survived/that’s good enough for now. Thirteen years and how ever many songs later, they still pull one out that goes straight into the top 5 Wilco songs.
I didn’t love Wilco (the album) as much as this one. And the last time I saw them live, they drifted into indulgence. I shouldn’t doubt. They’ve proven me wrong before. But this love affair that started in 1995…can it survive into the next decade?