Release Date: Oct 23, 2020
Record label: dBpm
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
When you need me, I'll be there As the frontman of Wilco, Jeff Tweedy needs no formal introduction. At this point in his career, he seems to have built something of an infallible empire: his best works, including last year's subtly brilliant Ode to Joy, remind us of how high his ceiling can be while his floor consists primarily of resilient, enduring works that are lacking only in name recognition. His solo career has been almost as consistent as his one with Wilco, as Tweedy has released an LP every year going back to 2017.
It has been clear from the start that Wilco was first and foremost Jeff Tweedy's vehicle, one where he's given his collaborators plenty of space to show off their talents but ultimately in the service of his songs and his musical vision. Since Wilco is at heart whatever Jeff wants it to be, it's interesting that he's belatedly taken on a solo career, perhaps to create a separate musical identity for some of his work, or perhaps to lessen the appearance that he's Wilco's benevolent tyrant (as opposed to the strategy that led Mark E. Smith to famously say, "If it's me and your granny on bongos, it's the Fall").
Wilco vocalist Jeff Tweedy, backed up by his sons Sammy and Spencer, spends most of the pandemic-produced, Love Is the King, crying out from the new wilderness of self. The vibe is folk, rock, country and kind of homespun and laidback but, like early John Lennon records, there is sharpness to the starkness. To counter anxiety and chaos, some long for parameters that might help them focus.
Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy is effervescing before our eyes. Approaching his mid-50s, the man has given more of himself in the past two years than some artists do in a career. Setting aside his first solo album under his own name in 2017 (which contained primarily acoustic takes on Wilco songs), he has since released two further solo albums of original material (WARM and WARMER), a Wilco album (Ode to Joy), two books, a documentary soundtrack (Showbiz Kids), and now a third solo album.
It's conceivable that Jeff Tweedy was in a better position than most musicians to thrive creatively while sheltering in place. Locked down with his family, he could call upon his sons Spencer and Sammy for musical support, and they all could head over to the Loft, the private studio that Tweedy and Wilco built over 20 years ago and maintain to this day. In addition to having access to gear and supporting musicians, the singer-songwriter also benefited greatly from a regular, reliable writing method, one that he documents in How to Write One Song, a book published concurrently with the release of Love Is the King.
The Lowdown: Who in 2020, a year defined almost exclusively by fear, hate and unprecedented political division, has the nerve to release a record called Love Is the King? That might sound a little too optimistic for Jeff Tweedy, but while the Wilco frontman doesn't always paint a rosy picture in his songs, he knows how to offer calm reassurance in dark times. Few songwriters possess such an acute ability to make sense of the craziness around them, and if Tweedy's latest solo endeavor proves anything, it's that sometimes that's good enough. The Good: There was a time when recording a record amid such social or personal turmoil would have sent Tweedy down the path toward artful rancor.