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Music / Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

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Tall buildings shake, voices escape singing sad, sad songs.

Oh, distance has no way
Of making love
— "Radio Cure"

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the fourth studio album by American indie rock group Wilco, released in 2001 after one of the most notoriously troubled productions in music history.

Under the working title of Here Comes Everybody, it originally consisted of a six-track demo before conflict began to arise over Ken Coomer's drumming. Proposed by singer Jeff Tweedy and unanimously agreed upon almost straight away by the rest of the band, Coomer was replaced by Glenn Kotche, whom Tweedy had performed with a year earlier in the trio Loose Fur.

The album featured a sample from The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations, specifically the fourth track Phonetic Alphabet - Nato. The woman repeating the phrase "yankee hotel foxtrot" was sampled and included in the track "Poor Places", which would later prompt a lawsuit from the copyright owners, Irdial-Disc. Tweedy brought experimental musician Jim O'Rourke (whom he had collaborated with in Loose Fur) to mix the album; O'Rourke won over the rest of the band with his mixing of the album's opening track, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart". Constant arguments between Tweedy and Bennett prompted Tweedy to kick Bennett out of the band after the album's completion. By early 2001, after a very stressful process, the album was finished and ready to be released.

Then Howie Klein, Reprise Records' president, and a big Wilco advocate, was fired.

The AOL-Time Warner merger resulted in the new executives terminating 600 jobs, including Howie Klein's role as president. His replacement was David Kahne, who dismissed the band due to lack of commercial success. Wilco's lawyer negotiated a buyout for the album: while the initial pricing was $50,000 for the rights to the album, Reprise later dropped the price altogether. Originally set for release on September 11, 2001, the group streamed the whole album on their website for free a week later to prevent low-quality MP3 rips from circulating on file-sharing sites, and Wilco would sign with Nonesuch Records to distribute the album after receiving offers from both major and independent labels. note  The album was finally released physically by Nonesuch on April 23, 2002.

Despite seemingly everything working against it, Tweedy's decision to stream the album ended up being a major benefactor. Critical acclaim and positive word-of-mouth resulted in the corresponding tour generating a huge outcome (with the band noting that fans already knew the words to the songs). Reviewers couldn't stop giving the album perfect scores, and the album ended up being certified gold, becoming Wilco's biggest-selling album to date. Dubbed "the Apocalypse Now of music", Yankee Hotel Foxtrot has since gone on to be considered one of music's biggest success stories, and one of the greatest albums of the 2000s.


  1. "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" (6:57)
  2. "Kamera" (3:29)
  3. "Radio Cure" (5:08)
  4. "War on War" (3:47)
  5. "Jesus, Etc." (3:50)
  6. "Ashes of American Flags" (4:43)
  7. "Heavy Metal Drummer" (3:08)
  8. "I'm the Man Who Loves You" (3:55)
  9. "Pot Kettle Black" (4:00)
  10. "Poor Places" (5:15)
  11. "Reservations" (7:22)

Principal members:

  • Jeff Tweedy - vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, programming, harmonica
  • Jay Bennett – programming, acoustic and electric guitar, piano, keyboards, synthesizers, organ, bass, drums, percussion, lap steel, glockenspiel, vibraphone, bells, vocals
  • John Stirratt – bass, vocals
  • Leroy Bach - piano, acoustic and electric guitar, organ, glockenspiel, vibraphone, bass, percussion, horns
  • Glenn Kotche - drums, percussion, cimbalom, siren, chimes

I trope like a toothache when I hear myself sing:

  • Album Title Drop: "Poor Places".
  • Alliterative Title: "War on War", "Poor Places".
  • Call-Forward: "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" contains a snippet of "I'm the Man Who Loves You" in its ending meltdown.
    • "Ashes of American Flags" ends with warped fragments of the piano from "Heavy Metal Drummer"... the next track.
  • Digital Piracy Is Okay: This attitude benefited the band in a great way; the band streamed the album for free on their site, and the tour that followed (as well as the album itself when it was released physically) was a success.
  • Epic Rocking: "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" and "Reservations" are both over 7 minutes long.
  • Last Note Nightmare:
    • "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" goes completely Off the Rails.
    • "Ashes of American Flags" combines this with Call-Forward, as warped snippets of "Heavy Metal Drummer" can be heard near the end.
    • "Poor Places" actually includes an Album Title Drop in the middle of its concluding noise freakout.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: "Reservations", the album closer, clocks in at 7 minutes and 23 seconds.
  • Military Alphabet: The album's title is the NATO Alphabet spelling of "YHF"; it is taken from a Numbers Station broadcast sampled in "Poor Places".
  • One-Word Title: "Kamera", "Reservations"
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Tweedy's voice has a low drawl, particularly on "Reservations".
  • Rockumentary: I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, about the album's recording.
  • Sampling: "Poor Places" samples a radio broadcast from a Numbers Station, originally from a compilation of Numbers Station recordings called The Conet Project.
  • Shout-Out: "Heavy Metal Drummer" name drops KISS.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Tweedy's lyricism is one of the things that sticks out about this album; the opening line to "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" has become somewhat memetic among Wilco fans:
    I am an American aquarium drinker, I assassin down the avenue