Consider True Meanings Paul Weller's comedown from a combustive, creative decade begun with 22 Dreams. That 2008 double album was co-produced with Simon Dine, who proved to be such a vital collaborator for Weller that the singer/songwriter found it difficult to shake off the producer's influence after the two parted ways acrimoniously in 2012. Weller's initial reaction to the split was to follow the straight and narrow on 2017's appealing A Kind Revolution but True Meanings, delivered just a year later, finds him mellowing and entering a reflective groove. No amplifiers are cranked on True Meanings: the entire enterprise is anchored on folky finger-picking and strumming, which is in turn dressed in elegant orchestrations. Often, the lush strings and gentle horns are reminiscent of the orchestrations Robert Kirby arranged for Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left and Bryter Layter, yet True Meanings doesn't carry a melancholy undercurrent. Weller is in a sober mood but he's not brooding, he's reflecting. Thoughts of mortality drift across his mind -- such as in "Bowie," a tribute that's more elliptical than its title suggests -- but Weller seems settled and comfortable, more mindful than sad. The stateliness of the orchestral arrangements prevents True Meanings from slipping into a hazy folk netherworld. All the strings and brass not only accentuate the songs, highlighting the jazzy changes of "Soul Searchers" or the light swing of "Gravity," they help frame this measured song cycle, directing attention to how Weller isn't wallowing, he's meditating upon love, loss, and hope as he enters his sixties.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Hannah Peel