Tweedy – A Family Imperative

Tweedy – Sukierae

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There’s a well-known thesis that Jeff Tweedy is at his best when he’s collaborating with someone else. That might be Jay Farrar in Uncle Tupelo, Jim O’Rourke in Loose Fur, Jay Bennett in Wilco 1.0, or Nels Cline, a.k.a Mark Kozelek’s favourite guitarist, in Wilco 2.0. This time he’s found someone new to work with, namely his teenage son, Spencer. Tweedy Jr. is on drums and it’s not his first time. Over the last couple of years, he’s found his way onto a number of songs for artists that his father has produced, including Mavis Staples and White Denim. Here, he’s centre stage with his dad. Nothing too much is demanded. Nothing too fancy is delivered. Sounds pretty good. At this point, though, it’s moot as to whether or not Spencer is an artist who can bring out the very best in his father. There are no fewer than 20 tracks on Sukierae and one or two are perhaps just a little superfluous. There’s a sense of sketches being worked up, demos being fleshed out. And at times it’s more than a sense. Half way through ‘I’ll Sing It’, the song fades to the demo tape, Tweedy loses his way, curses, and with a click the tape stops, only for the fully fledged version to restart. It’s a nice touch. While maybe not every song is a full-blown Jeff Tweedy classic, there are plenty of really strong moments. ‘Diamond Light Pt. 1’ and ‘Slow Love’ are the pick of the more experimental tracks. ‘Summer Noon’ has a real Sky Blue Sky-era feel to it. ‘Fake Fur Coat’ and ‘I’ll Never Know’ help to bring the album to a beautifully calm conclusion. But if there’s a pivot around which the whole album revolves, then it’s ‘Nobody Dies Anymore’. It’s a lovely song about a terrible theme, the horrors of gun crime in Chicago. But it’s worth bearing in mind that the album is named after Tweedy’s wife. Turns out she’s been very sick. With this in mind, it’s tempting to hear the song title being delivered as an order rather than a description. Let’s hope the message gets across. After all, there’s a well-known thesis that Jeff Tweedy’s very best work is always done in close collaboration with others.

Pitchfork review

The Line of Best Fit review

Consequence of Sound review

American Songwriter review

Drowned in Sound review

Lewis & Clarke – The War of Ideas

Lewis & Clarke – Triumvirate

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A full seven years after their last proper encounter and with only a couple of brief exchanges in between, Lewis & Clarke have finally re-connected. So, put the kettle on. Get the cookies out. There’s a lot of catching up to do. And so it turns out. With eleven songs and more than an hour of music, this is no idle chit-chat. This is a collection of intense meditations on modernity and the human condition. Lou Rogai is the creative force behind the project. Taking the name of the band from the mid-20th century correspondence between C. S. Lewis and Arthur C. Clarke, Rogai crafts an early 21st century masterpiece. There are pontillistic piano moments and haunting violin refrains. But there are also sweeping orchestrations and lilting melodies. The hook on ‘The Ride’ being perhaps the most memorable. And with more than half of the tracks clocking in at over six minutes, there’s more than enough time for ideas to be mulled over and conclusions, however tentative, to be drawn. Like previous Lewis & Clarke conversations, the lyrics tend to the oblique. The metaphors are naturalistic, but the meaning is resolutely human. There’s a change, though, from earlier work. Lou Rogai’s voice has deepened. A lot. It’s both a gain and a loss. More assured, there’s perhaps a greater confidence to the sound than before, most notably on the long opening track, ‘Eve’s Wing’. Yet the songs are also rendered somewhat less fragile as a result. And because of that a certain vulnerability has been lost, even if the sound of his young son reciting a story on ‘Two Trees’ does recapture a sense of innocence. A Lewis & Clarke rendezvous is no ordinary affair. The tone is intense, but the effect is uplifting. We can only hope that it’s not another seven years before their paths cross again.

The Line of Best Fit review

Earbuddy review