‘Love Is The King’ Review: Jeff Tweedy paints vivid scenes of escapism with folksier approach on 4th solo album
American singer-songwriter and musician Jeff Tweedy boasts an extensive discography of 20 studio albums which include four albums with his previous band Uncle Tupelo, 11 albums with his current band Wilco, one record with his son Spencer, a solo acoustic album and three solo studio albums. And guess what, he ain’t stopping yet. The 53-year-old Grammy Award-winning artiste is here with his brand new album titled ‘Love Is The King’.
‘Love Is The King’ was recorded inside Tweedy’s second home in Chicago in April this year, surrounded by an assemblage of treasured instruments and loved ones in a world that felt more and more alien by the day. Not long into Wilco’s North American tour, Tweedy’s natural instinct to return home was realized when all further dates were abandoned due to the unfortunate global lockdown. He escaped the anxiety and dislocation of being out at sea during a worldwide crisis and fell into the familiarity of the studio. With his sons, Spencer (drums) and Sammy (backing vocals), by his side, he set the task of writing and recording a song a day until they held an album in their hands. Music and creativity was their comfort food.
‘Love Is The King’ comes 10 days after his second book titled ‘How To Write One Song’ got released and opens with the title track with the same name and with a duration of 4 minutes 47seconds on the clock, it is the longest track in the alternative rock album. The soothing guitar tunes which feel like a cold breeze on a summer evening opens the song and Jeff Tweedy croons, “Here I am, There it is/ At the edge, Of as bad as it gets/ I'm a boxer, Blind when I swing/ I sink, To my knees/ I cling, And I bleed, But cry don't you dare/ When I die in the ring, Life isn't fair, Love is the king, Love is the king” showing how vulnerable he is. The opening track is the kind of song which one listens in absolute solitude. As ‘Love Is The King’ track nears the end, Tweedy gives it a twist with no vocals but screeching guitar riffs and smooth drum kicks.
Tweedy then jumps into his second track titled ‘Opaline’ with sharp introspection to hunt for emotional comforts. The guitar work is no exception but will still allow you to hum the song along as it progresses into a catchy chorus. On the hymnal ‘A Robin or A Wren’, he laments death in one breath while welcoming reincarnation in the next. “At the end of the end / Of this beautiful dream we’re in / I’ll wake up again / A robin or a wren.” Tweedy takes hope into stride and swims against despair. The fuzzy vocals from the Wilco frontman are a pure treat sprinkled with nostalgic guitar riffs and almost inaudible but effective drum kicks. In ‘Gwendolyn,’ the presence of the guitar solo blows the window wide open. Right in the middle of the song, Tweedy completely changes the mood with his experimental sounds and we are not complaining.
‘Bad Day Lately’ is queued up next and is placed at a very sensitive time in the album. After a groovy ‘Gwendolyn,’ Tweedy takes us in a completely different zone with ‘Bad Day Lately’. We could feel a little tussle between the vocals and the background score but it proved to be a welcoming change. The Wilco frontman’s language is poised and concise, personal but collectively shared and the music is sharp and knows its direction. The American crooner is as absorbing in ‘Even I Can See’ as he was in his previous tracks. This one will comfort you with its poetic lines and minimal music and you might end up feeling as if you are in a Van Gogh painting. However, the mood doesn’t last long as he makes you jump into ‘Natural Disaster’, not literally. One could easily notice how Tweedy’s vocals sound refreshingly different as he talks about the unavoidable tragedies. You can feel the country warmth contrasting with the seasoned musician’s poetic lyrics. The song does put you in a reflective mood for sure.
If you have been yearning to listen to a song on loop under covers at late night in your bed just like the good old school days, then ‘Save It For Me’ is the track to go for. The song runs for 3 minutes 3seconds but we wish it was longer, the reason we said earlier to play it on loop. Tweedy has somewhat given a folksier approach to the song which again uplifts your mood. ‘Guess Again’ walks in straight to your heart with lyrics like, “Oh, tomatoes right off the line, We used to eat them like that all the time/ And if you think that's the best thing, That I ever knew/ Guess again, my love, It's you/ Riding with the wind blowing in my hair, And the sun shining down everywhere/ And if you think that's the best thing, That I can do/ Guess again, my love, Guess again, my love, It's for you” Tweedy maintains the mood throughout the song with countryside guitars and low-key vocals, an intersection where Tweedy seems to thrive.
‘Troubled’ is a song that acts as a perfect background score if you are sloshed and sad in bed over the weekend. The alt-country vibes and the meaningful lyrics of an experienced writer like Tweedy shine here without any effort. ‘Love Is The King’ ends with ‘Half-Asleep’ and runs for 4 minutes 20 seconds on the clock. Tweedy is as naked and as genuine as possible with his lyrics and music here. The track has the capability to break your heart and therefore feels like a personal song. He paints vivid scenes of escapism. The song of separation becomes the eulogy to the love he is apart from. This one is our favorite from the album undoubtedly.
In a nutshell, Tweedy has balanced the album and penned a beautifully honest ode to love and hope. He has documented a time in history through the personal lens of shared human experience. ‘Love Is The King’ releases on October 23, 2020, via dBpm Records. You can stream the album here.