My Top 1000 Songs #358: Box Full Of Letters

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

My understanding is a lot of Uncle Tupelo fans were underwhelmed by Wilco's 1995 debut A.M., preferring Jay Farrar's Son Volt debut to Jeff Tweedy's initial work. Me, I find A.M. underrated, a fine collection of songs that seem like a natural progression from Tweedy's Tupelo contributions, albeit not giving much hint of the truly innovative and at times astounding work he'd produce in the years ahead.

But standing apart from the pleasant Americana of the rest of the record, "Box Full of Records" found Wilco in surprising territory, a jangly power-pop track that owed a lot more to Big Star and Matthew Sweet than Gram Parsons. It reminds me of "What Is Life," on George Harrison's post-Beatles debut: If you had a song this insanely catchy in your back pocket, no wonder you needed to break out on your own!

While Wilco would explore pure pop melodies in the records that followed (particularly 1999's wonderful Summerteeth), "Letters," with its crisp hooks and sing-along chorus, feels like an outlier in the catalog. It's a song designed for mixtapes, perfect for the car, or the beach, or a party. Just enduringly charming.

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