I was 12 when Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out ten years ago, but I didn’t hear about the album until my impossibly cool ninth-grade crush mentioned it in passing—and I only understood the reference because of the posters that lingered on construction sites around New York. After I gave it a listen, I thought that much more of her, but then I got over her and thought that much more of it.
I didn’t know much about music then and I still don’t, but I feel safe saying that Yankee is one of the great albums of its time and a high-water mark when it comes to the right kind of Chicago rock going mainstream. That’s thanks to the quality of the songs and the myth of the self-made and tragically human band that a certain documentary helped create; more than that, I loved the album for helping me make sense out of the chaos and noise that came after 9/11 (even though it was mostly finished beforehand). Wilco certainly doesn’t make sense without Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: It couldn’t have sustained even one five-night stand in Chicago without the album, Jeff Tweedy wouldn’t have jammed with Rahm Emanuel or Mavis Staples, and Tweedy and the late Jay Bennett would have swapped career arcs. More than that, though, everything Wilco has done since Yankee just feels after-the-fact. The album was a moment of catharsis for a great many people, and its greatness, I think, lies in bringing that sense of resolution back with every listen.