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Liam Finn: Five Essential Wilco Songs

Liam Finn (photo by Tchad Blake, PR)

Liam Finn (photo by Tchad Blake, PR)


Liam Finn might call New Zealand home, but the singer and songwriter has a pretty canny sense for American bands. Notably, he has worked and toured with one of the finest: Wilco.

In addition, Finn and Wilco were also both on board the 2009 Oxfam charity album The Sun Came Out, as part of 7 Worlds Collide, the all-star collective organized by Liam's dad, Neil Finn.

But Liam Finn, who released his last solo album The Nihilist in 2014 (and visited FUV's studios for a memorable session), admits that he's especially fond of two Wilco albums in particular, both of which he discussed in detail in his attentive assessment of "Five Essential Wilco Songs" for this week's FUV Essentials.

Liam Finn: Five Essential Wilco Songs:

Firstly, I love Wilco. Their songs have been a great comfort and inspiration in my life. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot began my love affair with their music that intensified and possibly peaked after the release of A Ghost Is Born, and naturally simmered like any good relationship into a glowing admiration and respect for their earlier and subsequent albums.

Saying that, I knowingly and willfully annoy long-term, die-hard Wilco fans by picking songs purely from my honeymoon period.

"Jesus, Etc.," Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
This was the song that kicked it all off for me and one I will always come back to. At the time I was on an obsessive Fugazi buzz, so I didn’t expect a country-ish violin intro to have such an impact on me and completely shift my musical palette. The band’s mellow groove sits so effortlessly behind Jeff [Tweedy]’s vocal. The fragile crackle of his nonchalant performance delivers such sweet sentiment, wonderful imagery, and just the right amount of lyrical ambiguity that you can’t help but fill in the gaps with your own life experience.

"Reservations," Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
I’m sure this song could make anyone cry and it feels good to cry, right? A love song with a refreshing angle which feels real, personal, yet relatable. It could have been recorded with any kind of arrangement, but the sprawling soundscape and extended outro is hypnotic and encapsulates that meditative state you hover in just before falling asleep.

"At Least That’s What You Said," A Ghost Is Born
The unexpected opening track of A Ghost Is Born, and another gorgeous heartbreaker. Tender and gentle to begin, and then it wakes you up into the most satisfying guitar solo and band rock-out without being rock at all.

"Handshake Drugs," A Ghost Is Born
This song has such a great linear journey. I feel like I’m comfortably sedated, traveling in a car that John Stirratt’s bass is driving, and gazing out at the slowly changing landscape of fuzzy meandering ‘til gently fading into orange sleep.

"Wishful Thinking," A Ghost Is Born
So many of these songs cruise by with such subtle and intricate percussive parts that never get in the way, barely revealing themselves before they disappear. Glenn Kotche is such a master of feel. Making beats come and go — groovy then straight, experimental then classic — and at no point ever distracting from song in its pure form. I could be talking about any of the songs on these two records, but I especially love the feel in "Wishful Thinking."

- Liam Finn
September 2016

Read all of FUV's Five Essentials.