Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is probably one of my all-time favorite albums, so it says a little about the Sour Cream Pecan Coffee Cake that Kasey is featuring today on eating/sf that I chose this album for a pairing. Specifically, it decidely indicates that this coffee cake recipe is fantastically delicious, sure-fire, somewhat rustic and features an upbeat and not-too-sweet flavor profile. Put another way: this isn’t some corner-store cellophane-wrapped coffee cake: this is another homemade home run. Similarly, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is famously Wilco’s most DIY, hard-earned success. It is a beautifully lush, genre-spanning, painstakingly layered masterpiece that married avant garde experimentation to pop music. Without any question, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is to alt-country what Radiohead’s Kid A was to rock.
My guess is that there is little need to reiterate the story of the long, complicated birth of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Nonetheless, in case you’ve been living in a small internet-less cabin in a remote region of the world, or just discovered music outside the radio/MTV, I’ll offer a relatively brief recap. For Wilco, the recording sessions for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot were especially acrimonious and divisive, and the differences that arose amongst the band members eventually led lead singer Jeff Tweedy to dismiss long-time band mate and songwriting collaborator Jay Bennett from the band. The subsequent process of releasing the album was equally challenging, and when the band brought the finished album to their label, Reprise (a subsidiary of Time Warner), the studio executive in charge at the time apparently disliked the album. It was rejected and Wilco was even asked to leave the label. Following this dismissal, the tracks were streamed on the band’s website, leaked to Napster, and were hungrily consumed by music fans across the world. It became an online hit and one of the most talked about albums of the past decade. Subsequently Nonesuch Records (another Time Warner subsidiary) purchased the album from the band, and it was finally released to commercial success and vast critical praise.
From the gorgeous opening track, “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” you get a sense of what is in store: the track opens with bells, ambient static, and layered, noisy background percussion alongside a more traditional alt-country acoustic-guitar and piano-based melody. Track two – “Kamera” – is ridiculously catchy and sugar-sweet, as is the ringing, upbeat psychedelic-country tune “War on War.” The haunting “Ashes of American Flags” is sincere, evocative and can alone justify the expense of a good pair of headphones. What else can I say: every hook is a hit, every melody is infectious, and every song is a comeback. If I could, you know I would, just hold your hand and you’d understand.
Head back to eating/sf to read the recipe for Kasey’s Sour Cream Pecan Coffee Cakes.