In his latest project outside of Wilco, Jeff Tweedy takes things down a notch for some earnest and soul melting acoustic music. With virtually nothing else than his voice and a guitar, Tweedy crafts brave and powerful ballads, as he lets his heart hang out on this quieter of his recent releases. But while the album has tons of heart, its lack of variety might leave the listen long.
With a cutting and dark opening line, “Via Chicago” starts things on a pained note, barely able to hold it together through the raw emotion. The breaking harmonica lines intensifies the already brutal melancholy of the track, making it hard to keep listening in its weight. “Laminated Cat” slides its bass with a growl as the flickering guitar lets Tweedy reflect on the changing of the seasons.
Taking a delightfully familiar tone, “Lost Love” weaves all too addictive melodies with comforting guitar for a track that’s warm all the way through. Soulful solo’s play to the emotions of the track and cycling lyrics make it the perfect campfire track for a late night. Kicking up the driving guitar, “Muzzle Of Bees” creates a dynamic back and forth of low-end guitar rumbles and the refrain of bright and crisp licks. The deeply personal lyrics that play into the slowly clouding mood make for a stirring listen as it goes on..
“Ashes Of The American Flags” crawls its guitars through Tweedy’s commentary of the modern American and the reality of modern art. The heartbreaking refrain brings out the all-too unpleasant reality of how those who plan are the biggest dreamers of all. Riding a variation on a Madonna vocal line, “Dawned On Me” is shockingly catchy in its sheer simplicity, letting the vocals do all the work.
“In A Future Age” lets its hooks twinkle a little in their reverb to make up for the dimly filled verses in which Tweedy looks to the next generation. Beautiful and all too true, the lyrics feel too heavy and worrying at times. Playing a more lighthearted and fun groove, “I’m Trying To Break Your Heart” lays out a night spoiled by good intentions. The beat breaking guitar fills and cheeky vocals come together to make it one of the more enjoyable songs on the record.
Bouncing along “Hummingbird” has a fun little pace to its light guitar line, telling a cute little story of love. As Tweedy gains pace, his belting vocals take the tracks emotions higher begging for people to join along that never will. “I’m Always In Love” has a hopeful and encouraging rush to its main hook, making Tweedy’s up and headstrong lyrics all the more encouraging.
Ending on sombre and subdued hooks, “Sky Blue Sky” fades itself from start to finish as Tweedy reflects on the ending of another of life’s many chapters. The faltering moments of passion and the sparse instrumental solos do more than enough to make this downbeat track a memorable outro to the album.
Words by Owen Maxwell