Go back and submit to Dom

The year was 2010, lofi surf rock had been inescapable in the indie rock soundscape, and a year earlier MGMT managed to be omnipresent thanks to a handful of huge singles off of debut album Oracular Spectacular (an album that is still stupid fun, and I think maybe a little better for being a tongue-in-cheek project by art students), and Chillwave, the genre that never really was, somehow managed to become a buzzword.

Somehow, some slackers from Massachusetts led by a man, who refused to divulge his name, managed to embody the best aspects of each genre du jour. Dom put out a ridiculously fun EP, Sun Bronzed Greek Gods that was scuzzy, catchy and included songs about a semi-feral house cat, making out with Jesus and a ragingly jingoistic would-be anthem.

 

 

Obviously, sweet pop music with just enough edge about intentionally bizarre topics was irresistible to me, and I loved this band’s music, but equally importantly, I really enjoyed the weirdo persona the group cultivated.

A lot of bands can create some DIY grooves and give a great interview, but not everyone starts a party line or posts ads to Craigslist looking for a platonic matronly figure.

The next year, still riding a wave of goodwill, Dom released Family of Love an awesome five-song EP that covered extremely similar terrain to their first release–parties, apathy, fake electro anthems. But the second EP showed some recording quality growth and included a few style experiments (using a touch tone phone as an instrument and bringing in a guest speaker were particularly successful) that suggested Dom was actually building toward something.

Then, nothing.  Dom is still making music as a solo artist and under a different name.I can’t say I’ve really enjoyed his newer stuff as much as I enjoyed those first two releases. I’ve seen plenty of bands I love fizzle out, go on extended hiatus or fail to deliver on the promise of early EP’s, but it’s always really bummed me out I never got to hear what the major studio version of Dom’s brand of anarchic pop would sound like.

The 11 songs across two EP’s seem to be the totality of the group’s work, and I fully recommend obtaining all of them and creating on full-album length playlist of weird, electronic-tinged indie pop.

Checking back in with Hospitality

I forgot how much I love Hospitality’s eponymous album from 2012, probably because it’s a super solid, vaguely quirky indie rock release, and I’ve listened to way too many of those.

Luckily, because of arbitrary self-imposed writing restraints, I was tasked with endorsing bands that started with the letter H, and I remembered really digging it at the time.

The whole album definitely stands up, but I found them most interesting when they dialed the energy up a bit. “Friends of Friends”, the lead single, got a bit more buzz and did some interesting with horns, but I definitely prefer “The Right Profession”.

For me, this is decidedly the standout track from the album, it’s delightfully bouncy and detours into a sort of angular art-rock terrain, which is way more prevalent on other songs on this album. It’s also got by far, Hospitality‘s strongest hook, so of course I’ve listened to it about a dozen times this week.

Somehow, I think it may have been almost three entire posts since I posted  a short, punchy female fronted, jangly guitar pop.

 

My favorite Bowie song

I was raised to revere the music of David Bowie, and I’ve always been a fan, but even more than his hallowed studio albums that are indisputably part of the rock canon, the bonus discs released with a reissue of Station to Station–recordings of a powerhouse performance at the Nassau Coliseum in ’76 has always been my favorite Bowie album.

It encompasses most of the essential tracks that would appear on any reputable Bowie greatest hits collection, but this absolute jam of a Velvet Underground cover might be my favorite track on the collection.

This is in part, because, well, listen to the song and try not to smile. It’s amazing,

It’s also partly because Bowie’s career was defined in a pretty major way by his relationship to other artists.Mott the Hoople can pretty much attribute the royalty checks that come in the mail to the benevolence of Bowie, and as an arbiter of cool, his influence shed light on varied, artistically interesting sounds and bands.

Plus he was friends (or in some cases rumored to be more) with Paul McCartney, Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, Mick Jagger and Lou Reed.

Knowing he’s covering one of his friends songs, hamming it up and injecting some pseudo-inspirational spoken word makes that total romp of a song even more enjoyable.

My 25 favorite songs of 2015

This is 90 minutes of my favorite music from this year. I tried to pick something from all genres, and let my iPod’s play count be my guide.

This means I am woefully under-representative of country and top 40 pop. Although, Yo La Tengo’s cover of “My Heart’s Not In It” at least approaches country .Also, I really enjoyed that one David Guetta song featuring Nicki Minaj, and Wand is what top 40 sounds like in Hell, so, there’s that.

My favorite take away from making this playlist is that Car Seat Headrest named a song after an alleged subliminal Disney message. I had previously just pressed play and listened to the whole punchy, guitar-driven album, but when searching for a standout track, I realized “psst, teenagers take off your clo” was the title of the song that always warranted replays.

Anyway, without any more rambling preamble here’s the playlist:

 

 

 

Holiday-sized rundown of my favorite albums of 2015

This year saw an incredible slate of releases from a ton of different genres.

So, instead of a typical five or 10 item list, I’m naming an album of the year, and then giving some shine to the glut of great tunes from this year.

My anticlimactic pick for album of the year is:

I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty.

I gushed about this album when it came out, and I sung its praises when I did my half-year roundup. Unsurprisingly, I still hold this album in high regards. It’s a collection of excellent ’70s troubadour love songs performed  with a bitingly sarcastic viewpoint. The acerbic observation often turns inward, as Josh Tillman demonstrates he’s not above a world he largely sees as vapid and ridiculous.

 

 

 

Despite all the vitriol and bile evident on songs such as “Ideal Husband” and “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartmet” the album’s hardly bleak, as the title track, gentle closing ballad and super funny “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Cow” underscore the central theme of the album, which is Tillman’s incredulity that a thoroughly modern jackass could find a classically happy love.

On to the other albums I loved this year:

Rose Mountain by Screaming Females

Sore by Dilly Dally

Painted Shut by Hop Along

Feels Like by Bully

Art Angels by Grimes

Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett

Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars by Beach House.

This year was an awesome year for female-fronted rock bands, and that’s without  mentioning  the Waxahatchee album or  the Sleater-Kinney release. I liked both albums, but didn’t particularly love either one.

Also, I know Claire Boucher is sort of a genre-hopping, singer-songwriter-producer, but listen to “Scream” and tell me Deafheaven wouldn’t be proud to have provided the instrumentation for that beat. Therefore, based on that stylistic choice and attitude, I’m lumping her in with the rockers.

I recommend just making one really long Beach House playlist using both their albums from this year, getting real cozy, maybe a little drunk, or maybe just taking some over the counter sleep aids and sitting in the undulating, shimmering swells of this music.

Bully, Screaming Females and Dilly Dally all mined similar ’90s alternative rock veins. If you like Hole, you’ll like Bully. If you like The Pixies’ Kim Deal songs you’ll like Dilly Dally and if you like The Smashing Pumpkins but wish anyone but Billy Corgan was in charge, so you didn’t have to hear his voice and songs would be less meandering, Screaming Females are the platonic ideal. Dilly Dally absolutely have a loud-quiet-loud dynamic going on, and their music tends to move in surprising direction.  Alicia Bognanno’s vocals pretty much ensured every review of Bully’s great album included a comp to Hole,but Hole never released an album quite this even, and Screaming Females branched out to some new sonic territory without abandoning punchy, crunchy guitar noises on a characteristically strong album.

Painted Shut came damn close to getting my album of the year nod. The incredible third album by Hop Along is the simple, jangle rock music I love, and Frances Quinlan’s singing is unlike anything else released this year or really any other year. Painted Shut and Art Angels  remind me of each other because both feature wildly fluctuating points of view, focus and scope presented by gutsy singers using their voices in almost every imaginable way.

Courtney Barnett’s debut album paints detailed scenes with lyrics and rocks in a very straight-forward way that belies the sophistication of Barnett’s insightful, funny songwriting. It’s a great paring and an incredibly confident first LP.

The Agent Intellect by Protomartyr

The Most Lamentable Tragedy by Titus Andronicus

Know America by Obnox

b’lieve i’m going down by Kurt Vile

Teens of Style by Car Seat Headrest

Protomartyr continue to make post-punk music that sounds vital and interesting, which is no easy feat. The Agent Intellect also contains the super personal, super sad “Why Does it Shake?” which derives its name from a real question about tremors caused by aging.

Titus Andronicus swung for the fences with a sprawling double-album and mostly connected. The Most Lamentable Tragedy contained some of the best songs in the band’s oeuvre and some really fascinating takes on what it’s like to battle mental afflictions.

I haven’t seen a ton of love for Obnox’s newest album, but it’s weird blend of hip-hop, blues and scuzzy rock with commentary on race relations made it sort of a lofi To Pimp a Butterfly and a totally captivating listen.

Kurt Vile scaled back from his last effort, but Vile is thoroughly hilarious when pontificates on a largely mundane existence and “Pretty Pimpin'” might be his best single ever.

If you like Julian Casablancas, you’ll love Car seat Headrest, who make a fun brand of garage rock I can’t not endorse.

I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside by Earl Sweatshirt

Mr.Wonderful by Action Bronson

Summertime ’06 by Vince Staples

To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar

For me, this was a year that saw a lot of rap releases I liked, but not a ton I loved. Donnie Trumpet was interesting, but really didn’t do much for me. Drake sold a million albums and still, as always, sucked.

Earl Sweatshirt got even darker and more insular, and it really worked. If you want to feel super bleak, look no further than his album from this year.

Action Bronson revealed he apparently listens to more blues and Billy Joel than I would have expected on a super fun, well-made album.

Vince Staples continues to be almost uncomfortably real about his upbringing and proximity to gang violence, but he’s always clever and fairly catchy.

Kendrick Lamar turned out what most people consider to be the album of the year with his politically minded, not particularly commercial release. I actually liked it more than his last album, but I’m still not a huge fan of the re-heated G-funk and Flying Louts aping. Still, the album was pleasantly weird and grappled with some big-picture topics and is definitely worth a spin.

Some albums that just missed the cut: Before the World Was Big by Girlpool, Ratchet by Shamir, Untethered Moon by Built to Spill, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper by Panda Bear, The Things We Do to Find People Like Us by Beach Slang and StarWars by Wilco.

 

 

 

 

…or Grimey, as she liked to be called

I’m a little late in getting this post up, because I’ve probably been listening to the new Grimes record in high frequency for the past two weeks, but this is my blog, and I’ll articulate my love for music whenever I feel like it.

Claire Boucher, AKA Grimes, broke through in 2012, with the album Visions. It was a weird, ethereal but undeniably catchy take on EDM.

It’s success also allowed the not at all reticent Boucher to develop a bit of a cult of personality.

Almost four years later, Art Angels is finally out, and it’s a wildly different album.

The best way to describe it as the Yeezus of girl-pop albums. It’s aggressive, weird pop made entirely to the artist’s whims.

 

 

Of course, critics of the album might knock it for cribbing some obvious pop influences, but with lyrics about butterflies coping with deforestation, an entire song without English lyrics, and the catchiest reference to eye laceration since “Debaser” it’s hard to see this as a shameless bid for mainstream success or as being anything other than Boucher making art that pleases her.

Besides there’s fluctuations between genre country, EDM, rock and Taiwanese rap all enjoy moments.

This album finds Grimes pushing her music in new directions, with Boucher singing in ways I had no ideas she could.

Boucher produces her voice as another instrument in the mix. She bizarrely channels Chris Cornell on “California”, she beys like a hound to provide structure to “Flesh Without Blood” and simply sings some inimitably catchy hooks on songs such as “Belly of the Beat”.

The eclectic vocals are exemplified on “Kill v. Maim”. There’s bubble gum cheerleader chants, screams, chipmunk hooks and a conspicuous gender fluidity to the lyrics that makes for a truly singular listening experience.

It’s nothing like the slow-building, dreamy synth pop that came before it, but Art Angels is it’s own extremely dense, extremely enjoyable pop oddity.

Grimes bats 1.000 on this album, as there is not a single unenjoyable track.

This is quite possibly my favorite album of the year.

 

Do Dilly Dally

For once in my life, I can advocate Dilly Dallying. Cue rim shot.

Dilly Dally’s new album Sore is great.

The Toronto four-piece’s newest album mucks around in a sort of dark ’90s Alternative-inspired rock that’s immediately familiar without being rote or banal.

Bully, Courtney Barnett and Hop Along all follow a similar formula of excellent female vocals+interesting lyrics+’90s rock to excellent effect, but Dilly Dally feels dangerous in a way those artists don’t.

Lead singer, Katie Monks,tends to snarl in a way that could be best described as Kim Deal appropriating Frank Black’s sneering howl.

The music also embraces the darker spectrum of the alternative influence. Sore has more in common with Laughing Hyena, Slint, Jaw Breaker and, of course, The Pixies (in “Bone Machine” mode) than with Dinosaur Jr. or Hole.

There’s also a good bit of influence from The Pretenders in the album’s spirit.

It doesn’t translate to the song’s sounds, but it’s hard not to think of Chrissie Hynde given Sore‘s frank depiction’s of female desire. This subversion of the status quo of the rock song as a male expression of lust is pretty much omnipresent on Sore.

Despite the dark tone and male-objectifying lyrics (“I want you naked in my kitchen, making me breakfast”) this album isn’t a bleak, psycho-sexual landscape.

There is definitely a strong vein of humor present in Sore, and the songs are always too melodic to be fully threatening.

Sore is an excellent addition to a year already boasting an embarrassment of strong, feminist rock records.

Recipe for an earworm

  1. Mournfully bay about your social status.
  2. Repeat Step 1
  3. Come precariously close to plagiarizing Ke$ha by reformatting the “Die Young” buildup with jangle guitar
  4. Stay somber, ethereal and detached
  5. Follow a classic loud-quiet-loud to tremendous affect
  6. Keep it under 2 minutes 30 seconds.

Place the song on repeat and listen until your ears bleed.

Stop collaborate and listen (in this order): Ranking 2015’s joint-effort releases

As the world becomes more and more united through technology, humanity’s inherent good shines through in a glut of musical cooperation this year.

Not only have their been vaguely interesting cover albums and cat-sound remixes of last year’s hits, which required the work of multiple artists, but there has been a bounty of collaborative albums.

Of course, this may have less to do with collective goodwill bubbling over and be more attributable to how easy it is to record and email a high-quality vocal track in this digital age, but I’m not cynic.

What I lack in cynicism, so I’ve decided to rank this year’s collaborative efforts from worst to best.

5. Jack Ü by Jack Ü ( Skrillex and Diplo)

This album isn’t for me, and I suspect it isn’t for anyone.

I had a long, angry diatribe about bad haircuts, crappy music and how these two kindred spirits might be the musicians(?) I’d be least happy to meet, but it was obnoxiously mean-spirited.

Instead, I’ll just say their album isn’t good and shouldn’t be listened to.

4.What a Time to Be Alive by Drake and Future

It isn’t quite as instantly disposable as the average Aubrey Graham effort, but it’s also not as good as,  say a middling Future mixtape.

If you’re a modern Hip-Hop completist, give it a spin, but otherwise, it’s incredible easy and advisable to give this a pass.

3.Caracal by Disclosure

I suppose this is cheating, because technically, the brothers Lawrence aren’t collaborating with anyone in particularl, but almost every song on their sophomore effort features a guest providing vocals to match the glossy house beats.

The names are bigger this time around with Lorde and The Weeknd appearing, as well as old collaborator Sam Smith, but there’s nothing quite as catchy as Settle‘s earworms.

It’s not bad, but it is a bit let down. Instead of another A-album, Caracal represents a solid B.

2.Wavves x Cloud Nothings by Wavves X Cloud Nothings

This would have been a dream match-up for me in 2009, and in 2015, it’s actually still awesome. Nathan Williams and Dylan Baldi conspire together to create some super fun sneering, searing hooks. It’s a throwback to the fuzzy garage rock both Wavves and Cloud Nothings began with. It’s infectious as hell too.

1.Big Grams by Big Grams (Big Boi and Phantogram)

Phantogram showed up on Big Boi’s eclectic Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors to fairly positive effect, but the duo’s contributions were lost in the shuffle of a scattered album, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

Whatever vague notions I did have about the Big Grams project certainly didn’t prepare me for how much thoroughly I enjoy this spacey electro-rock-rap mix.

The surprise was especially compounded because Big Grams begins fairly inauspiciously.

Opening track”Run for Your Life” is basically a Big Boi song with a decidedly not hip-hop beat. While Big Boi’s mercurial cadence could probably keep time with anything, somehow his flow and the beat never quite mesh. It’s not a total fiasco, but it didn’t really inspire great confidence.

Of course, the next song absolutely knocks it out of the park and rights the ship dramatically.

Second track”Lights On” is more or less a Phantogram song with a few Big Boi bars tacked on the end, but his verse happens to be an appendage for an utterly fantastic Phantogram song that somehow manages to remind me of both Keyboard Cat and “Trip Inside this House” by Primal Scream.

From Track 3 on things seem to totally gel, particularly on “Goldmine Junkie”. It’s a slightly raunchy, very sweet love song that features Sarah Barthel and Big Boi exchanging talk-sing rap verses. It’s  all oddly perfect.

To add a level of collaboration to the whole affair, Run the Jewels tandem El-P and Killer Mike show up for “Born to Shine” and add appropriate bravado.

Big Grams totally subverted and surpassed my expectations.

Go listen to Big Grams.

Wilcoast to Coast: Summerteeth

This took so long, maybe this post about Wilco’s excellent third album should be called Autumnteeth.

Anyway, below is prattling about Summerteeth in the form of the third installment of Wilcoast to Coast–an aimless conversation between my friend Jimi, something of a Wilco expert, and myself, a guy who has heard every Wilco album and has loosely formed but entirely too strong opinions.

Jimi: After branching out with the expansive, uneven Being There, Wilco found themselves in a strange place: they were a critically respected, modestly successful alt-country group for the first time. Where would they go after a double album? They were gifted with an answer in the form of Billy Bragg tapping them for support Mermaid Avenue, a project that found them supplying music for previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie songs. This project helped establish them as one of the most buzzed-about bands in America.

Picking up after recording sessions in Willie Nelson’s studio that produced several demos, Jeff Tweedy and Co. moved back to Chicago and experimented with recording the songs live and adding overdubs using Protools. This approach caused much friction within the group: drummer Ken Coomer and bassist John Stiratt found their roles in the group minimized as Tweedy and multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett began abusing painkillers and producing the album themselves.

It’s easy to see Bennett and Tweedy both growing musically on the album. Bennett’s perfectionist tendencies turn the songs into mini-masterpieces of power pop, while Tweedy’s lyrics bring introspection and ugly feelings (inspired by literature, his own feelings of isolation, and his relationship with his wife) into the mix. The result? An album that was hailed as a masterpiece, while underperforming commercially, even with a radio-friendly edit of lead-off track “Can’t Stand It” that the band’s label tried to turn into a hit.

As perhaps hinted above, I consider Summerteeth to be one of Wilco’s best albums. How do you feel about the album? And do you think the friction within the band was essential to the album?

Ben: I absolutely love Summerteeth. It’s my second favorite Wilco album, and it would probably be most other band’s signature work.

The influence of Bennett is definitely extremely important, and I think the overdubbing and perfectionism yield results more sonically interesting than the band’s previous work.

I’m always a believer in the idea genius flourishes with constraints and slight dilution. It’s why I think Kanye West is an incredibly savvy musician to create via think-tank. He fills his recording sessions with experts and experienced professionals. He works concepts and bounces ideas until he’s satisfied, but the work isn’t produced by one fevered brain. The hired hands are brought about to push a vision, and it all works.

Granted, Tweedy was not imposing mandatory formal attire and financing a Hawaii retreat, but some conflict, surrounding oneself with talented contributors, rather than yes-men and chasing a vision rendered impossible by the comprehensive nature of collaboration worked out great for Kanye and Brian Wilson.

This album doesn’t reach those dizzying heights of complex production, but it’s definitely a more complex sound and one I think ultimately fit Wilco like a glove.

That was my roundabout way of saying friction and different points of view were definitely a critical component of this album.

If I were to recommend a single album that best distills Wilco’s sound, it would probably be this one. It isn’t their masterpiece, but it might be the best representation of what this band is, and it was the first glimpse of Wilco operating at its highest(ha! get it?!? level.

Jimi: This is definitely a great place for Wilco beginners to start. It incorporates a more experimental sound into their work that was only hinted at before. It makes for an album that, paradoxically, doesn’t try so hard as their first two albums but succeeds more often than either A.M. or Being There. The album’s first half, composed mainly of power pop, gets an extra kick from the neo-soul flourishes that Wilco started using for the first time here (see the bells on “Can’t Stand It”).

It’s in the album’s more difficult second half that the album declares its classic status. “Pieholden Suite”  is classic Brian Wilson-style country piece, the title track has a breezy charm that belies the lyrics’ sublime portrait of loneliness, and “My Darling” is a sweet soul piece for Tweedy’s newborn son. The true standout is “Via Chicago,” probably one of Wilco’s three best songs. Beginning with an utterly chilling line (“I dreamed about killing you again last night/And it felt alright to me”), the song evolves into haunting Dylanesque lyricism and a noisy breakdown mirroring the character’s exhaustion and confusion. That haunting opening line evolves, by the end, into a badge of the character’s failure instead of his hatred: he’s been so beaten down by life that he would rather kill the woman he loved than have her watch him lose again.

Ben: The important question is: who wrote the better jar metaphor song, Wilco or Dinosaur Jr.?

Jimi: Well, while I worship at the altar of J. Macsis (as every self-respecting music lover should), I’m calling it for Wilco. Dinosaur Jr.’s song is a perfect piece of indie power pop, but “She’s A Jar” is such a weird, dark song. I mean, it has a haunting melody, perhaps the best harmonica solo of the past three decades, and some of Tweedy’s most Dylanesque lyrics.

Speaking of tracks that call to mind other artists, what do you make of Tweedy’s rewrite of “After the Gold Rush”? Is it just him paying homage to a favorite artist, or can you see some parallels between Young’s elegy for the failed idealism of the sixties and Tweedy’s tale of a murderous lover?

Ben: Probably both.

The parelells are easy to draw between a murderous lover and Baby Boomers killing the laudable if impractical ideals that led to the original summer of love.

Also, Tweedy obviously loves some Neil Young.

It’s interesting we’re discussing so many other artists, because to me this album is absolutely the mark of the sound that defines Wilco for me.

You tend to have a better idea about these things than me, what influence and events created the lightly experimental, breezy power pop on this album?

Also, has an album touching on domestic abuse and intravenous drug use ever been this pleasant?

Jimi: Well, I’m not quite sure what lead to the lightly experimental, breezy  power pop on this album, though if I had to take a stab in the dark, I would have to guess it’s the increased prominence of Jay Bennett. He was definitely the maddening perfectionist of the band (the chimes added to “Can’t Stand It,” while requested by the record company, have Bennett written all over them), plus the guy’s got an obvious love of pop-in-disguise post-punk. His first band (Titanic Love Affair) was named after a Billy Bragg line (and Bragg, despite his sparse instrumentation and far-left politics, certainly had a way with a hook) and his posthumous album was named after a line from a Boomtown Rats song (speaking of which, you could argue that The Fine Art of Surfacing is just as successful at marrying dark lyrics to big hooks).

Another theory I have on the subject is that this was the album Tweedy and Bennett wanted to make all along. Now they could afford to do so. The label (which, at this point, was endlessly supportive of Wilco) was itching for a hit from a band they believed could deliver one and gave them increased resources, including ProTools, which was responsible for the large amounts of overdubs on the album. This also meant that Bennett and Tweedy could record much of the album themselves.

Overall, the album has a purity of vision and a sense of direction Wilco’s previous albums didn’t. The influences are still there (the Beatles, the Band, Neil Young, Brian Wilson), but they make the familiar feel fresh.

Ben: I’m not sure if he’s a fan, but there’s an element of Flying Burrito Brothers in there too.

Bennett and Tweedy as Hillman and Parsons, making Americana music just a little weirder and more honest.

Do you think Wilco would still be releasing quality music if they started 15 years later?

Could you imagine a record label supporting a band through two relative flops, then doubling down on Album No. 3 in the modern music industry?
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And of course, which songs are contenders to crack your 20?

Jimi: Well, honestly, it’s become simultaneously easier and more difficult for labels to keep artists like Wilco on their labels. On the one hand, if a band like Wilco were to flop commercially the first time, they probably would not be able to secure the major funding for a second or third “breakthrough” attempt. On the other hand, labels are much smarter about promoting bands like Wilco. It seems to be almost common knowledge now that a band takes 2-4 albums to really hit their stride. For instance, it wasn’t until the National started getting great reviews with Alligator that the label began promoting them more. And there’s the legendary story about how Merge was completely unprepared for Arcade Fire’s first album to sell as well as it did and responded by basically giving them anything they wanted for their second album.

I’m not sure if Wilco would still be as successful if they had existed 15 years earlier. A big part of the band’s success was using new studio techniques to enliven old, seemingly played-out genres. Without the sense of timing, they would probably be seen as a country-tinged alternative to The Replacements (instead of “an American Radiohead” [I plan on making at least one Radiohead reference in each entry of this series]).

In terms of songs that would qualify for my 20, “Via Chicago” has a guaranteed spot. “A Shot in the Arm” would probably be guaranteed a spot as well. “She’s A Jar” has some of Tweedy’s best lyrics. One song that would probably be on my personal 20 that probably wouldn’t be on anyone else’s is “I’m Always In Love,” a pounding jolt of pure joy that may curiously be one of Wilco’s most popular songs due to its use in an HTC commercial.

I know we’re both salivating to start on album No. 4, so let me ask you what songs go on your personal 20? Any final remarks on Summerteeth?

Ben: I realize I keep picking a handful of songs from every album, which does not bode well for actually producing only 20 Wilco songs.

With that being said, “Shot in the Arm” is awesome, although I slightly prefer the production of alternative mix. It sounds a little warmer to me with the guitar further up in the mix. I like the  charge of a hard strummed guitar replacing some of the swelling springs and the experimental blips and bloops are a bit more evident.

The album mix is prettier, but the alt. take just works for me a little bit better.

I like “I’m Always in Love” an awful lot, but a scant two albums ago, Tweedy sang “Should’ve Been in Love” I mean, make up your mind, Jeff.

Kidding aside, it’s sweetly sentimental and piercing screechy sounds keep time, which is all I could want from a Wilco song.

My off the radar pick, “We’re Just Friends” is enjoyably acerbic in its melancholy, which is always a frequency that resonates with me. Plus, I’ve always thought the song’s harmony, which occasionally seems to swell toward something before flattening back out matches the lyrical theme in a perfect way.

So, put me down for “Shot in the Arm (Remix)”, “We’re Just Friends” and “I’m Always in Love”

Both A.M. and Being There are both good-to-great albums, but honestly, this is the album I would suggest to someone looking to get into Wilco.

Until Television-lite guitars pop up a few more albums down the line, I would say this was really the last major evolutionary step Wilco took.

As you implied, I am ecstatic to move on to Wilco’s fourth album, because (controversial opinion alert) I think it’s at least kind of good. I mean it’s no Jefferson Starship, but it’s held up surprisingly well during the last decade or so.

Editor’s Note: We’ll see if we can knock out Yankee Foxtrot Hotel in fewer than three months.