Wilco, Summerteeth (1999)

This was the album that made me a Jeff Tweedy true believer.  I thought AM was pretty decent ("Box Full of Letters" is perfect power pop), and the sprawling and occasionally brilliant Being There permanently elevated him from "the other guy in Uncle Tupelo" to a bona fide rock star in his own right.  But the third Wilco album was the charm for me, the one that convinced me that Wilco was an indie rock powerhouse for the ages.

The range covered here (as was the case on Being There) is pretty staggering, but it's the quality of the songs that makes this one of the decade's best albums (and still my favorite Wilco release), with Tweedy (and then-bandmate, the late Jay Bennett) drawing more from the Lennon-McCartney playbook than the Americana/roots rock from which Wilco was birthed.

There is a veritable fist-full of top notch power pop songs, any of which would make great stand-alone singles (i.e. "Can't Stand It," "I'm Always In Love," "Nothingsevergonnastandinmyway," "ELT," and the joyously bubblegum "Candyfloss" tucked in at the end as an unlisted bonus track).  There are the dark, haunting ballads ("She's a Jar," "Via Chicago," "How to Fight Loneliness").  And most notably there are the intricate, baroque mid-tempo pop tracks like "When You Wake Up Feeling Old" and the title track, which conjure lazy summer afternoons lying on a hillside in the sunshine.

And rising above everything is Tweedy's finest moment, "A Shot In The Arm," a piano-driven groove, an ode to rising up from existential angst that I can hear over and over and still want to play just one more time.

The only negative to this album is the somewhat listless production; I've seen Wilco live dozens of times, and almost all of these songs fare much better in performance than they do on record.  But the magnificence of the songs is more than sufficient to make up for that one flaw.

Here's "A Shot In The Arm":
... and a more recent performance of "Summer Teeth":


Buy it on Amazon.

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