Sometimes, we feel order in our lives. Sometimes, entropy feels apt. For some, the natural tendency is to look outward at the world to find either order or solace in the chaos. Others look inward, clawing through memories and emotions, trying to pick out the tiny slivers of certainty that must exist somewhere.
The best artists do both.
Jeff Tweedy, frontman of Wilco and eternal solo artist, is a master at looking outward and reaching inward to bring together two worlds that sometimes feel at odds, or downright unreal, and eliciting some form of universal truth that stands up to just about anyone willing to take it in. His 12th solo album, WARM, fuses these perspectives into an album that feels timelessly appropriate.
WARM brings out the best in Tweedy. For ardent fans, it goes without saying that the best in Tweedy isn’t always a reflection of the best in us, but he scratches little by little into the soul of the thing. Eventually, that scratch gives way to the heart, and it’s clear that whatever he has to say is meant for you, in some way, as the best artists of any medium are wont to do.
The heart is often at the center of Tweedy’s music, be that solo or with Wilco. He grapples with inner demons, wrestles with emotional conflict, and tussles with seemingly natural destructive tendencies. In fact, perhaps one of Tweedy’s best assets as a songwriter is the casual contradictions he presents. On the new track “Don’t Forget,” he sings, “We all think about dying/don’t let it kill you …” In those two short statements, he brings together the single existential bond shared by all humans — the abstract thought of death that is both infinitely open-ended but becomes heartbreakingly and immediately tangible for those left to battle with the finality.
With WARM, Tweedy made a record meant for those who need him – as a musician, as a storyteller, as a voice for the corners of our minds that remain frustratingly abstract. WARM is, in some ways, misleading. The familiar acoustic is inviting, and his voice is as clear as it’s been in some time. The warmth is in the ambiance, but it doesn’t emanate from the heart, a place of love. He brings us into the fold to quietly devastate. As he sings in “Some Birds,” “I break bricks with my heart/only a fool would call it art.”