Summer Soundtracks #1: Wilco’s ‘Summerteeth’

Time to “fall in love in the key of C”


Reprise Records

For many, the way of internalizing experiences is accompanying them by music. This allows you to re-live the entire moment with only the drop of a needle or the press of a button. The wise, non-existent prophet Summerius Sunshinius once said: “A summer is only as good as it’s soundtrack.” If Sunshinius was right, the only way your forthcoming summer will ever be remembered is through the music you play alongside your sunny days. I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t know any good music, Brody! How will I ever remember my summertime so I can blissfully re-visit it in my mind when I’m old and working nine to five every day?” Well, you’re in luck. Until school gets out, I’ve comprised a selection of records that are absolutely integral to you having a good summer so you don’t have to. Let’s get started with Wilco’s Summerteeth.

Summerteeth, Wilco’s fourth LP, was the band’s first release of original material since 1995’s Being There. Wilco was still a relatively new band at this point, but their earlier records AM and Being There had both seen tremendous success, selling an upwards of 300,000 copies each. Summerteeth came right as fans began aching for that wholehearted Wilco again they fell in love with again, as 1997’s Mermaid Avenue was built from unreleased Woody Guthrie lyrics and arrangements developed with help of English musician Billy Bragg; not the same kind of Wilco record.

Summerteeth is a lush, ’60s inspired psychadelic pop album that rings of intense sun rays, cool breezes, and misunderstood affection; a white-washed daydream of melodic sentiment and hazy execution. The record shows Wilco slightly departing from their alt-country, acoustic roots and trading out lap steels in favor of sumptuous string arrangements and eccentrically charming electronic effects, and the result is infectious and luscious. The songs drip cool sweat and distant, low-key bliss, which could be partially attributed to frontman Jeff Tweedy’s painkiller addiction during the recording.

Each song is a new musical high of it’s own, reaching new points and levels of bliss. The lead single “Can’t Stand It” has it’s way with pleasing piano arrangements, crunchy guitar leads, and distant, digital symphonies as Tweedy sings from a warm point of felicity. “Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway (Again)” uses acoustics and soft leads to fortify empowerment, and “ELT” takes the band back to the alt-country sugar of AM, but these songs and others like it resemble artifacts from the distant future rather than the poppy ’60s psychadelia that many of the other songs wear on their sleeve. “Candyfloss” takes this influence on fully, sounding like The Beatles loaded up on painkillers, as Tweedy slings lines like “I’m the boy that looks excited/I’m the boy thats gonna fall apart” to a dense and luminously active instrumental. “My Darling” sits still on lovely, impenetrable harmonies, elated production, and plenty of jubilant ‘ba ba ba ba’s.

While a good portion of Summerteeth soars due to the euphoric pop anthems and harmonic, ’60s driven sweetness, some of the best moments on this LP can be attributed to songs laced with subdued affection and rosy tenderness. “She’s A Jar” represents this fleet wonderfully, taking a down-tempo frame and temperate acoustics and filling it with lyrical brightness such as: “She’s a jar with a heavy lid/My pop quiz kid/A sleepy kisser/A pretty war/With feelings hid”. “How To Fight Loneliness” is another crusader of this album’s toned down nature, existing as a modest guide to exist without fundamental connection, but it doesn’t come close to outlasting the melancholy “In A Future Age” in charm and replay value. This song and it’s splendidly simple instrumental breathing in pulse and fluctuation renders Tweedy putting all the bliss Summerteeth encompasses into perspective, suggesting that none of it will last unless we “…mark our page in a future age”.

Summerteeth is a dense, elated record that begs to accompany your laid-back, lazy days out in the sunshine. The snappy ’60s psychadelic pop smelted with Wilco’s sugary alt-country come together to build an album capable of tremendous joy.

Must-add to your summer playlist:

– “Can’t Stand It”

– “I’m Always In Love”

– “Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway (Again)”

– “She’s A Jar”

– “Candyfloss”