Sukierae, father-son duo Jeff and Spencer Tweedy’s first album, plays like a twenty track long jam session, with all the good and bad that implies. The duo, going by the name “Tweedy,” takes a relaxed, meandering approach to music. It’s a guitar heavy album with experimental prog-rock leanings, wistful, classic rock overtones, and the occasional poppy hook. But more importantly, it’s an album that doesn’t take itself too seriously, even when the subject matter is serious.
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One of the earlier songs on the album, “High as Hello,” is a good example of Tweedy’s more dreamy, deconstructed songs, which often wander off into playful guitar riffs and frisky, but lengthy, instrumentals. They play around with dissonance and keep the overall sound spare and gritty by focusing on the guitar and drums. When they do opt for a more instrument-heavy track, the effect is hazy and atmospheric, though occasionally distracting and unintelligible.
“Low Key,” one of the best songs on the album, leans away from the noise and haze to deliver a pop-rock punch. The infectious hook and clever lyrics make it infinitely tempting to sing along with, and the title is a great summary of Tweedy’s approach to music throughout the album. Even when things get heavy, the duo plays it cool and keeps the whole venture low key.
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And it does get heavy. Although Tweedy’s approach to music is laid-back, the music itself is emotionally complicated without ever being melodramatic. It’s never addressed in the album, but the Tweedy family has gone through some hard times lately, since Jeff Tweedy’s wife, Sue Tweedy, was diagnosed with cancer. Although no song directly confronts the issue, the whole album, but especially the slower, aching ballads, is imbued with a sort of confusion and melancholy that keeps this garage rock jam session from turning into a string of guitar riffs and cymbal crashes.
A contradiction of sorts, Sukirae is at its best when it straddles two extremes, playing off the differences between father and son. Jeff Tweedy’s scratchy, soulful voice gives the album a maturity and strength that it otherwise wouldn’t have, and oddly enough, it makes sense that this maturity is paired with such a youthful, creative way of approaching music. Although it’s a mixed bag of experimental and tried-and-true, Sukirae is honest and simple, a breath of fresh and unpretentious air among overwrought album releases. The duo occasionally meanders a little too far off track, but always wanders back sooner or later, and has a damn good time on the way.
Voices Choices: “Low Key,” “Nobody Dies Anymore”