Album Review: Tweedy, 'Sukierae'

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Tweedy, 'Sukierae', releases Sept. 23, 2014. (© 2014 ANTI Records.)

  1. First Listen: Tweedy - 'Sukierae'

Jeff Tweedy is in a band. No, not that band; not that band, either. It's an outfit he recently launched with his son, Spencer Tweedy, and is appropriately named Tweedy. Sukierae is the project's first album, and it's our Album of the Week.

An irony is that Sukierae rarely feels like an album per se; it plays more like a collection of songs that Jeff has been carrying around for years and has only now found a forum where they can be heard. Sukierae has 20 songs, which at first glance casts an All Things Must Pass-esque vibe of an artist sprung from the bounds of prior constraints and allowed to release his songs to the world in a sprawling, creative burst. Unfortunately, the album never truly gels in any cohesive format, with apparently minimal effort towards dynamics or sequencing. A record this length needs to justify its heft, whether through continuous high quality, or an overarching conceptual vision (*not necessarily a concept, mind you) to bind the songs together; Sukierae fails to fulfill either standard. Consequently, it really only works when viewed as a collection of its individual pieces.

All of Jeff Tweedy's various projects have been marked by a collaborator with a strong co-influence (but never too strong!), whether Jay Farrar, the late Jay Bennett, Jim O'Rourke, Gary Louris, Billy Bragg or Nels Cline. There's never been an opportunity quite like this to experience an unvarnished Tweedy. The songs on Sukierae often indistinguishable sonically or lyrically; even the song titles blur together. The best cuts on the record, coincidentally(?), feature the terrific vocal duo from Lucius — Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe — including the single "I'll Sing It" and album highlight "High as Hello." Many other songs tread the same subdued territory as all those songs buried deep on Sky Blue Sky, Wilco (The Album) and The Whole Love that you don't remember until you play the record, then subsequently forget again.

I wish Sukierae was more interesting than it was; there was an opportunity here for Tweedy to make an invigorating artistic declaration. As is, it's a reminder that for as much as Tweedy likes to be the alpha wolf in any of his musical projects, it's his collaborators, such as his Wilco bandmates, who allow his talents to fully blossom.

What do you think of the album? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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