Tweedy

Sukierae

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Since it has become fashionable to derisively refer to Wilco's music as "Dad Rock," it seems fitting that Jeff Tweedy would cleverly point to his own dadness by making an album with one of his sons. Sukierae, credited to Tweedy, features Spencer Tweedy, Jeff's 18-year-old son, on drums and percussion, while the rest of the instruments (except for some keyboards and backing vocals) are handled by Jeff. This father and son bonding comes at a difficult time in their personal lives, as Susan Miller Tweedy -- Jeff's wife and Spencer's mom -- was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in early 2014. None of the songs on Sukierae deal directly with this sort of familial crisis, but there's a note of struggle and hope in songs like "Wait for Love" and "Nobody Dies Anymore," while the opening lines of "New Moon" -- "Well, I've always been certain nearly all of my life/One day I'd be your burden and you would be my wife" -- clearly refer to the ways time and circumstance can change the balance of a relationship. But whatever the literal or metaphorical meaning of the lyrics on Sukierae, musically this album finds Jeff Tweedy stepping away from the grand-scale sound of Wilco for a set of songs that feel significantly more intimate and personal. Spencer's drumming certainly makes a difference; his style is solid but with an exploratory bent, sometimes throwing in rhythms and fills that recall hip-hop beats while elsewhere bringing out slightly prog-like colors on the toms and cymbals, and if he's not as precise as Wilco's Glenn Kotche, his percussion (which is played up strong in the mix) gives this music an organic sound that fits the songs well. As for Jeff, he's never been a virtuoso guitarist, but on Sukierae he gives himself more room to explore on his instruments than he has since his work with the side project Loose Fur, and his instrumental work, elemental but atmospheric, cuts to the core of these melodies, which are frequently downbeat but also quite beautiful. In their own low-key way, these songs sound like Jeff Tweedy's most passionate, heartfelt work since Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and Sukierae is a powerful, emotionally naked work that gives him a chance to do things he likely couldn't have made work quite so well with his band. And if this is Dad Rock … well, sometimes dads have stories worth hearing, and Sukierae shows that Jeff Tweedy more than qualifies.

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