Tweedy – Sukierae
It’s quite surprising that this is Jeff Tweedy’s first solo album given the extent of his career as frontman and principle songwriter with Wilco. Most would have expected him to develop a solo career on the side. He’s always shown an openness to collaborate (Loose Fur, Neil Finn) and he’s played plenty of solo shows yet this is his first foray under his own name (excluding the Sunken Treasure live DVD) and even now he has framed it as a duo project with son Spencer on drums.
The other surprise with Sukierae is its 20 song double-album format at a time when records seem to be trending toward shorter run-times. Reportedly there was a wealth of material to draw from so Tweedy the elder has been able to take a broad sonic brush mixing power pop with gospel, alt-country with art-rock and much more. The two constants are Jeff’s voice which melds melancholy and melody into endlessly attractive shapes and Spencer’s drumming which is in turns virtuosic in complexity and simplicity, both complementing and adding crucial varying dimensions to the music like Levon Helm jamming with James Brown.
‘Wait For Love’ is Sukierae’s first sweet, lilting Beatles-esque highlight complete with whistling and it is quickly matched by ‘Low Key’ – the closest the record gets to Wilco territory – ‘Flowering Lane’, ‘Summer Noon’ and ‘New Moon’. Across so many tracks there are many moments of greatness buried in the detail. Subtly applied effects and textures like the honeyed swell of gospel voices that grace ‘Nobody Ever Knows’ and Jeff’s exploratory guitar wig-outs that recall Nels Cline, Split Enz and Television.
It is always hard to sustain an album’s high points and invariably there are lulls here. No clunkers by any means, just a handful of songs that drift by innocuously between the sweet spots. Overwhelmingly, Sukierae confirms Jeff Tweedy’s standing as a songwriter and musician with a mesmerising ability to imbue his songs with understated emotion and free-spirited musicality.