Since 1990, it seems as though Jeff Tweedy has been a personal hero to Gen-X males the world over. From his beginnings in Uncle Tupelo to the ever-evolving sadsack supernova that is Wilco, his brand of angular, heart-wrenchingly candid songwriting has found a particular resonance in the zeitgeist that few have ever matched. Having written some 90 new songs for whatever the next Wilco album turns out to be (we’re waiting with bated breath, Wilco), Tweedy set about recording some of the overflow with his 18-year-old son Spencer on drums “helping the songs take shape” and in an adorable coincidence, the resulting 20-track collection Sukierae will see the light of day just after Fathers Day this month.
I know what you’re thinking: “20 tracks you say? That’s a LOT” and honestly, it is. Possibly too many, some might say. The thing about Sukierae however, is that it’s so beautifully immediate and unpretentious that the Tweedy family get away with it. It’s definitely too much to absorb in one sitting but from start to finish, that unmistakable alt-country aesthetic Tweedy has painstakingly curated over the years is in full, remarkable effect.
Rather than what would surely be an exhausting track-by-track rundown, let’s take a look at the few singles that have cropped up online and elsewhere already. Back in June, the acoustically psychedelic ‘60s rocker I’ll Sing It – featuring guest vocals from Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Brooklyn indie-pop quintet Lucius – heralded the arrival of Tweedy the band as more than a vanity project for its revered frontman. There’s just the right balance of irony in the girls’ “Yeah yeah yeah” hook and for an 18-year-old, hot damn does Spencer know his way around a drum kit!
Later that month, a limited 10” vinyl single split the 6-minute Diamond Lights into two parts. The first, where Spencer’s skittish, impressively nimble drumming truly shines under his dad’s melancholy musings and the second, which takes a darker, more ambient turn with the lyric “Are you scared?/Are you frightened?/Terrified of being alone” which really makes you wonder what it must be like having a dad revered across the planet for his deft ability to articulate the entire spectrum of negative emotions.
July saw the release of Summer Noon, which kicks off the soundtrack to indie-film legend Richard Linklater’s latest effort Boyhood. The song gorgeously captures the Polaroid nostalgia of the films staggering 12-year production (the film is a real-time coming-of-age drama about transitioning into adulthood) even better than Sukierae’s own cutesy album cover. After playing the song on The Tonight Show on July 24th, a web-exclusive bonus performance saw the premiere of High As Hello – a gorgeously lazy slice of Americana that wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on Neil Young’s Harvest.
That same day the album’s third-to-last track – the simplistic, baritone folk of Fake Fur Coat debuted on VH1 and with that, the Tweedy clan packed up and went on tour. By all accounts so far, the tour has sat comfortably between rock ‘n’ roll circus and family road-trip and the show comprises a band set as well as a solo set from Jeff which lovingly traverses the fruits of his Uncle Tupelo/Wilco career to date.
So that brings us up to speed with Sukierae’s much-anticipated September 16th release date looming. There’s definitely more to the record than the drip-fed string of tracks that have been made public so far though. Other standout tracks include the jagged genius of the minute-and-a-half opener Don’t Let Me Be So Misunderstood, the gorgeous, heartfelt waltzes Wait For Love and Desert Bell, Down From Above with its beautifully defeated harmonic dissonance and the haunting, piano-driven Where My Love.
At 71 minutes, Sukierae is an investment and it most certainly isn’t a record for the casual listener but for Wilco/alt-country fans in general, it’s an absolute treasure-trove of really great songs that – if not for a unique musical language shared between father and son – may never have existed.