On last year’s Together at Last, Jeff Tweedy stripped down some of his lengthy career’s most beloved tunes, presenting them as intimate, acoustic confessions. And it seems as though he remained in that muted, barebones headspace when charting out the songs that would become Warm. Released simultaneously with Tweedy’s memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), the visceral album is a heartbreaking exploration of sobriety and aging, a folksy meditation through the act of creation.
Above all, Warm is a mood piece. Even in the midst of personal turmoil and deep soul-searching, tender tracks like ”Having Been is No Way to Be” have a swaying energy that goes down smooth. Tweedy utilizes the haunting resonance of acoustic guitars with timeless storytelling on the likes of ”How Hard It Is For a Desert to Die,” a bittersweet tale of fading memory best served with a glass of whiskey on a lonely summer night. Even the album’s lead single, “Some Birds,” is a gentle, poignant reflection on helplessness: “I break bricks with my heart / Only a fool would call it art.”
Many of the album’s diary entry vignettes find Tweedy returning to his alt-country roots. Right from cryptic album opener “Bombs Away,” he leads with an inescapable degree of twang, filling the airwaves with whining pedal steel and strained, world-wearied vocals. With tracks like ”Don’t Forget”, Tweedy is able to use the arena of Americana to marry ruminations about death with his signature whimsy: “Don’t forget to brush your teeth / Or you’ll have a funny smile / You don’t have to smile at me.” By the time we get to ”I Know What It’s Like,” it feels like we’ve stumbled upon a forgotten Being There b-side.
While the majority of Warm’s stripped-down passages pull from sounds familiar to fans of Jeff Tweedy’s previous projects, he still finds a way to lean into the realm of the strange with his fascination with sonic diversity. ”From Far Away” is a dreamy, hypnotic journey through the far reaches of outer space, filled with heavy distortion and spastic drumming. Often, he will take a recognizable starting point and put his own spin on it, as on ”Warm (When the Sun Has Died)” (a smoky ballad tilted on its axis, shimmering through the fog) or ”How Will I Find You?” (the sort of experimentation we’ve seen from Tweedy in the past, a sleepy rock jam stretched at the edges). Even ”The Red Brick,” reminiscent of George Harrison looking to the East for inspiration, plays with our expectations of its bluesy riffs.
As prolific as Jeff Tweedy’s songwriting has become, his songs still manage to feel like a necessity for him. Without the emotional release of these humble, intimate tracks, he wouldn’t know how to contextualize the world around him. His extensive catalog has become its own comprehensive autobiography, tattered and worn, with some of the pages barely holding onto the crumbling spine. Without anyone else to rely on, his solo work is proving to be his most personal yet, nowhere more apparent than on Warm. These absorbing songs form a deeply penetrating memoir for an artist who appeared to have already bared all. As it turns out, he’s just getting started showing off his scars to the world.