Wilco Albums Ranked

Wilco is an American alternative rock band based in Chicago, Illinois. The band was formed in 1994 by the remaining members of alternative country group Uncle Tupelo following singer Jay Farrar’s departure. Wilco’s lineup changed frequently during its first decade, with only singer Jeff Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt remaining from the original incarnation. Since early 2004, the lineup has been unchanged, consisting of Tweedy, Stirratt, guitarist Nels Cline, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, keyboard player Mikael Jorgensen, and drummer Glenn Kotche. Wilco has released eleven studio albums, a live double album, and four collaborations: three with Billy Bragg and one with The Minus 5. Wilco garnered media attention for their fourth album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001), and the controversy surrounding it. After the recording sessions were complete, Reprise Records rejected the album and dismissed Wilco from the label. As part of a buy-out deal, Reprise gave Wilco the rights to the album for free. After streaming Foxtrot on its website, Wilco sold the album to Nonesuch Records in 2002. Both record labels are subsidiaries of Warner Music Group, leading one critic to say the album showed “how screwed up the music business is in the early twenty-first century.” Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is Wilco’s most successful release to date, selling over 670,000 copies. Wilco won two Grammy Awards for their fifth studio album, 2004’s A Ghost Is Born, including Best Alternative Music Album. Wilco released their eleventh studio album, Ode to Joy, in October 2019. Here are all of Wilco’s albums ranked.

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10. Kicking Television Live In Chicago, 2005

Kicking Television, Live in Chicago - Album by Wilco | Spotify

“A tremendous live album, this is currently my favorite Wilco album not because of its scope, grandeur, its influence or its uniqueness but simply because it rocks. It’s two hours of simply damn enjoyable music that manages to take gems from Wilco’s diverse career and throw them all right next to each other without missing a beat. Slower songs are beefed up with amp and energy to take on a whole new persona. A song like “I’m the Man Who Loves You” becomes dark, dirtier and carries more a bite. _Yankee Hotel Foxtrot_ may be their most accomplished release but this is the most fun.”

9. Wilco (The Album), 2009

Album Review: Wilco - Wilco (the album) / Releases / Releases // Drowned In  Sound

“Wilco (The Album) begins with tongue-in-cheek three minutes of hilarious self-referential. “Wilco (The Song)” is Wilco’s love letter to itself and the band’s fans. They’re the sonic shoulder to cry on when times are tough, they’re always there for you when the world’s beating you down because no matter what happens, Wilco will always love you. And it’s presented through the medium of a bouncy three-minute rocker. For those most familiar with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or A Ghost Is Born it sounds uncharacteristically upbeat: the Wilco here is definitely not the same one that’s having anxiety attacks or drowning in depression amongst electronic stutter. Instead, Jeff Tweedy is the world’s coolest uncle and he’s here to give you the time of your life.”

8. A.M., 1995

Wilco: A.M./Being There Album Review | Pitchfork

“A fine debut by Wilco, thats unfairly maligned and ends up suffering by comparisons to their later works. But this is still some very solid alt country with plenty of gorgeous ballads and rocking numbers. Jeff alternates between sentimental guy to country party, but he offers both styles well enough. Production and backing instrumentation is rather average and not too developed, and thats thing they would improve the most going forward. But for fans of the band this remains a must listen.”

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7. Star Wars, 2015

Wilco: Star Wars Album Review | Pitchfork

“To me, this is the most natural that Wilco has ever sounded. Some of their earlier efforts that most people have more affection for sound canned, sterile and a bit stuffy to me. “Stars Wars” sounds vital, animated, a briskly paced carbonated carefree endeavor. Maybe its breeziness has been mistaken for laziness and turned off some long time fans. I find it sparkles pure and easy. Very entertaining. My favorite Wilco recording.”

6. The Whole Love, 2011

Album Review: Wilco - The Whole Love | The Current

“The Whole Love opens and closes with such an astounding set of bookends that the album feels like a landmark release solely because of them: the kind of songs that find their way in the top ranks of “best songs by the artist” lists almost right from the first listen. “Art of Almost” is a neurotic, buzzing, twitchy, twisted, and yet so irresistably groovy beast that feels like a fever dream and sounds like a journey, right from its fuzzed-out beginnings to its raucous end dominated by Glenn Kotche’s robot-precision drumming and Nels Cline’s unrestrainedly howling guitar. It’s a microcosm of all of Wilco’s most sonically stretching moments.”

5. Sky Blue Sky, 2007

Sky Blue Sky: Amazon.co.uk: Music

“Personally, this is my favorite Wilco release. I actually enjoyed it (slightly) more than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The album is great as a whole, and it has some absolutely fantastic tracks. Five of my ten favorite Wilco songs are on this album: Impossible Germany, Side With the Seeds, Shake It Off, Walken, and You Are My Face. I cannot understand why this album is rated lower than some of their other releases, because I think it is absolute perfection.”

4. Being There, 1996

Wilco's Being There Turns 20

“This album is a few songs too many, but outside of those too many, it’s pretty good (this problem continued to follow Wilco throughout their career, though on later albums they managed to maintain the length but improve the quality by a little bit). Now, I tend to prefer the rock and alternative sides of this to the country sides (such as “Monday”), but even the country pieces are pretty decent at times.”

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3. A Ghost Is Born, 2004

A Ghost Is Born: Amazon.co.uk: Music

“The magic of Wilco is their refusal to be tied down to any style and joyful determination to grow artistically. This has also caused much conflict among fans as to what their best work is, many finding “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” a happy medium between the somber pop of “Being There” and the intense atmosphere of an album like this one. “A Ghost Is Born”, while not their most accessible record, is the band’s masterwork.”

2. Summerteeth, 1999

Wilco's 'Summerteeth' Turns 20

“First the good news: this is almost as good as Being There, and guitarist Jay Bennett really comes into his own. Now the bad news: Jeff Tweedy is starting to give into the self-indulgence and mightier-than-thou attitude that will shortly sink the band for me. In particular, nearly all of these songs are way too long and meander on for a good minute or so after they’ve reached their natural conclusion. A shame, because when it’s good Summerteeth is really, really good.”

1. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002

From The Vault: Wilco - “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” (2002) - It's Psychedelic  Baby Magazine

“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the culmination of 10 years or so of Jeff Tweedy testing the limits and potential of country tinged music. It is brimming with hooks, still holds the odd bit of twang, yet takes the sound into the 21st century with an array of sonic and electronic arrangements. Songs range from brooding, slow yet instrumentally chaotic burners to pulsing pop rock songs, all maintaining that element of acoustic twang-rock.”