Wilco Songs 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 songs ranked.

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14. You are My Face (Sky Blue Sky, 2007)

“I think this song is about Jeff being a father. The title makes sense – his sons look just like him. “the doors screams I hate you” goes along also and then the part about “I’ve let you down too many times….” Could refer to the pre-rehab days when I doubt Jeff was as intuned with his family and sons. That interpretation just makes the most sense to me.”

13. Heavy Metal Drummer (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002)

“This song is like a quick snapshot into adolescence, especially going to see bands that may or may not have been making good music, but you and your friends worship these bands nonetheless. The music could be mediocre, but the way you liked the music then, the way it was being played then, the way you were dancing then, are all very dear memories that may have been “air-brushed” over time to be made out as better than they actually were.”

12. War on War (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002)

“One of the many great songs on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It has a good political message, but it also has some fantastic melodies. The hook is pop perfection. It also has a sort of weird guitar sounds towards the end which surprised me the first time i listened to it. Makes for a great upbeat song but with a strong message.”

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

11. Misunderstood (Being There, 1996)

“Misunderstood prematurely breaks the fourth wall, and it’s paid off in Wilco’s fame: frontman Jeff Tweedy sings directly to fans looking at pictures of him in a CD, arresting them in their state as capital F Fans naked of Rock & Roll as relating quitely to art which in turn arrests them in their loneliness; their misunderstood-ness.”

10. Radio Cure (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002)

“Radio Cure is pretty brilliant and whaddya knows sounds a bit like radio static but with guitars and some more droll vocals on it, I love it. His feeling when he delivers repeatedly “cheer up, honey I hope you can” is so mixed is so down-putting and addicting and I can still feel full honesty.”

9. Via Chicago (Summerteeth, 1999)

“Wilco go all pop on us and take a detour away from the Americana and country that initially formed their sound. In reality, they had done this in a sense already on the double “being there” without too much pop, but here they go all after a 60s pop sound with loads of Beatles style mellotrons, beach boys harmonies, and power-pop hooks. it’s not a million miles away from what jellyfish tried .”

Wilco's 'Summerteeth' Turns 20

8. California Stars (Mermaid Avenue 2012)

“Absolutely convinced this is the best piece of alt-country/ Americana out there. Ironically, while this particular track is perhaps the song that most immediately invokes ‘America’ to me, it was made in collaboration with Billy Bragg (another landmark and favourite artist). He’s English. Very, very English – “A New England” might be amongst the most ‘English’ tracks you’ll find yourself listening to. So, “California Stars” is a somewhat bizarre creation; but one I’m very glad exists.”

7. Handshake Drugs (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002)

“This is a song that so utterly exemplifies how i feel sometimes, when walking in the city, when really knowing what a loose end is, when just looking for something for something or someone to do. Mostly it means for me the achingly long summer holidays when London is gorgeous and I’m when i can go for weeks without rearing a sober head. Its that lethergy of sun bleached bones, its exactly not having washed behind your ears.”

6. Ashes of American Flags (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002)

“”Ashes of American Flags” documents a short concert swing from about a year ago, with Wilco playing such classic small Southern venues such as Tipitina’s in New Orleans and the Ryman Theatre in Nashville. They filmed five shows in their entirety, and picked out the best performances from them. “

Wilco's Being There Turns 20

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5. Theologians (A Ghost Is Born, 2004)

“A Ghost Is Born is not so much a step up or a step down but a step out. The group achieve another batch of songs of largely the same quality, maybe not as resonating or sequenced with as much discipline. They give more prominence to guitar and they attempt some new styles which mostly come off but occasionally turn awry.”

4. Impossible Germany (Sky Blue Sky 2007)

“”Impossible Germany” is the peak of their dad-rock powers. Probably a top-10 Wilco song and worth listening to even if you don’t check out the rest of the album.”

3. Poor Places c

“I love how “Poor Places” flows from one part to another, part moody Indian dirge, part piano-pop, part freakout with a robotic female voice repeating “Yankee… Hotel… Foxtrot.” Good, good song.”

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

2. Jesus, Etc. (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002)

“Jesus, Etc.” is just that, and right now, I can’t think of a single song I could say that about. It’s unique in the way that it’s both entirely laid-back and off-the-cuff, and yet it sounds like every single second has been meticulously engineered to generate the same emotional effect – and that’s before we get to how indescribably pretty it is.”

1. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, 2002)

“Very fascinating documentary of a brief time around the making of the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album by Wilco. A ton of things seemed to unfold all at once, and it managed to be caught on tape. First, they seem to be thinking very hard on what the direction of their next record is going to be, with some minor inconveniences that come up here and there. The concert footage in between all this is also excellent, and some of the candid shots of the band or Tweedy were really well put together. They were given a huge advance and this next album was going to be perhaps something that gives the band the opportunity for more mainstream attention.”