By: Sam Fatula | a&e editor
In the past decade, singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy has accomplished feats that rank high among all indie-folk rock acts. Tweedy fronts the Grammy Award-winning band Wilco, who released folk rock gold with 2002 album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The simple, yet innovative LP reached the top 15 on the Billboard 200 and achieved third place in Rolling Stone’s “100 Best Albums of the 2000s.”
Alongside all of Wilco’s success, Tweedy has lead a series of solo projects while touring which kept the artist relevant year round. Recently, Tweedy began taking his 18-year-old son Spencer on tour to form the duo known plainly as Tweedy. With Jeff on vocals and guitar and Spencer on drums, they recorded the band’s 20-song debut titled Sukierae, which releases Tuesday.
According to Tweedy, many of the songs on Sukierae were written on tour and performed on stage prior to recording them, so it may have been possible that the album would be a very scattered release of tracks without a sense of fluidity. This is not the case with Sukierae, as much of the album transitions quite nicely from song to song.
Instrumentally, there is nothing overbearing about Sukierae. It begins with subtle, stripped-down acoustic guitars and light drumming tones in the track, “High as Hello” and eventually resolves in a similar fashion over an hour later in the final song “I’ll Never Know.”
There is some implementation of electric guitars in an instrumental break midway through song “World Away,” but overall they do not vigorously transcend their way into the rest of the album. There are also a couple of other tracks on Sukierae that use a distorted synthesizer for an added effect in the melody, but unfortunately does not add anything that makes it stand out among other songs on the album.
Another issue is the drumming ability of son, Spencer. Albeit, he is only 18-years-old, but nothing from the rhythm section is very complicated, and at times the drums get lost within his father’s melody.
The lack of various instrumentation causes a very lengthy album to drag on in the halfway point of Sukierae, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that Tweedy’s structure of songwriting has completely diminished. In fact, it is fairly consistent with former works.
Tweedy’s tenure in Wilco should provide enough evidence that the quality of his songs lie in lyrical content and unexpected changes in tempo. This translates over to Sukierae as well, as Tweedy takes the listener through narrative after narrative, each with strong personal references to his own family life. This definitely tugs at the listener’s heart strings, especially when you’re reminded that his son is right behind his father supporting the rhythm on drums. Tweedy hits the highest points of emotion in songs like “Slow Love” and “Wait for Love.”
In terms of Tweedy’s singing and vocal range, it does not differ too far from his comfort zone. Tweedy’s candor is fairly calming throughout the LP and does not attempt to hit too many falsettos either.
After listening to Sukierae, one may think that there is not a lot of substance despite the fact that it includes 20 tracks and runs over 70 minutes in length, but they would be wrong. Granted, the production isn’t incredible and Jeff Tweedy may have already released the best material of his career 12 years ago, but that wasn’t the purpose of Sukierae. This was a project for the enjoyment between a father and son playing music together. The recording process was probably conducted over a weekend simply for fun.
This is reminiscent of the recording process of Robbie Robertson and The Band, where the music was made just because they wanted to. There was no purpose or theme, just a handful of songs for people to enjoy. The concept makes Sukierae a wholesome listen, where overbearing analysis isn’t quite necessary.
Tweedy’s first album is not something that will blow listeners away from the standpoint of its melodies, but will certainly be appreciative of the number of tracks available. Jeff Tweedy recently stated that he had over 90 songs written down that were never recorded, so people are still getting to hear a very small fraction of what could be in store for another album relatively soon.
Although any announcements for a sophomore release has not been determined by the band, listener’s can cherish this lenghty LP and have it on repeat for some time. If you consider yourself a fan of Wilco and classic rock in general, Sukierae will still be peceived as a strong outing from the father-son duo.