Wilco or not, Jeff Tweedy brings out a complexity in his work through powerful writing and intriguing performances. As bland a simple acoustic palette can be, Tweedy often pushes these limits with subtle effect and lyricism. While his emotions are the strong core of the record, it’s really an album that will either entrance you or lull you to a calm.
The raspy vocals give the album a kind of cool, aged quality, and sees a tracks like “Bombs Above” feeling distinctly sorrowful. Tweedy is able to make his ballad potent and emotional, thanks to his smooth and never over-stated delivery. This kind of focus makes a more driving track like “Some Birds” rush with a more sprawling energy, while still feeling surprisingly uncertain and haunting. Though the track sits in its dynamics without ever changing, there’s still a fire behind its soul. “Don’t Forget breathes with a much more country air, as Tweedy tries to offer his partner a kind of comfort with rustic charm. Even in its slow writing, the song really soothes you effortlessly.
In the soft crawl of “How Hard It Is For A Desert To Die” Tweedy does drag things out a tad too much. As drawn-out as that can feel, the track really delivers a strong edge of pain. Tweedy struggles more to craft something unique of “Let’s Go Rain” however, where he does better personalizing a country-folk sound than doing much of his own. At least he does manage to paint his lyrics with wit and colour for a track that is best sung along to. The sparse acoustic production of the album gives a lot of room for Tweedy to bring out wonder on “From Far Away.” By doing so, he’s able to not only use his feedback and electronics with shocking power, but also play with concepts of tempo and rhythm too.
All the folksy edges of the album and the smoky tones come out with a new sharpness on “I Know What It’s Like.” Here Tweedy fleshes out every edge of his sound and can really dig into the power of his guitar work. “The Red Brick” on the other hand groans with a ferocity left out of much of the record, as Tweedy pushes not only a sense of psychedelic power but a mysterious mix of rhythm and echo into one warped explosion. While Tweedy can’t bring quite the same emotional and sonic depth to “Warm” or “Having Been Is No Way To Be” each dives into its own ideas with intensity and a heavy heart. As the whole record closes out, “How Will I Find You” narrows this down to a stark and often lightly experimental point.
Words by Owen Maxwell