Jeff Tweedy has always been a tireless conjurer of song. He’s pushed Wilco into the major American touring behemoth they are today. He’s spun around in hazy circles with Loose Fur and Golden Smog and before that he helped redefine American country music with Uncle Tupelo.
On his newest musical output he pushes all of that aside. Tweedy rubs the sleep from his eyes, sips a cup of coffee and picks up the guitar to start his newest release, Sukierae. Not quite a solo album, it’s more a family affair. The album was recorded with Tweedy’s teenage son, Spencer, on drums. The project is simply dubbed Tweedy.
The album opens with “Please Don’t Let Me Be So Understood,” a quick-witted rocker that sounds like a possible b-side from Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky. The song ends quickly, then shifts gears into “High As Hello.” The dreamscape anthem rolls along cooly with magnetically-charged guitars. Tweedy’s pronunciation is as sleepy as his eyes. The simplicity of verse allows for an easy introspection, waving at your problems like a hologram in the distance.
As Wilco has taken to blowing out stadiums and outdoor venues over the last decade, Sukierae finds Tweedy in a calm strum, quietly looking inward. The album’s title comes from a family nickname given to his wife, Susan Tweedy, who battled non-Hodgkin lymphoma during the recording. The album acts as a love letter filled with dizzying hope and heavy sadness.
When backing up his father, Spencer Tweedy proves his ear for rhythm and motion. His drumming is loose and allows for the expansion of notes. He provides the perfect anchor to his dad’s wayfaring strum on the dusty romp, “World Away.” On “Diamond Light Pt.1” he keeps up an off-balanced beat as the song rolls by like a car down an empty highway on a sullen evening.
The two recorded the album’s 20 songs and hour plus of music together, sketching out songs with an iPhone, then adding instrumentation over it. A discordant rush of sound opens “Slow Love” until it straightens out with an easy bass jostle. “Low Key” hops along like a mid-summer jangle. Tweedy harmonizes with the flowers and the trees and the sun.
The songs on Sukierae are droopy and drift by like dust in the sunlight of an open window. They wander in the open fields of their creator’s mind. Tweedy twiddles his fingers delicately over the guitar strings. There is a comfort in his playing. He sounds relaxed, content to sit in the studio all day. It is a very casual record, proving that Jeff Tweedy can write a song like he’s walking around the block.
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