Jeff Tweedy – Together At Last

So much of what makes an album merely good rather than great is how well it captures the presence of the musicians and the energy of the room. This record feels like it could have elevated to great with a more vibrant setting.

A big part of Wilco and Tweedy’s charm is the rapport he builds with a crowd, especially in the more intimate settings. This record feels like only part of the story is being told. Recorded with just Tweedy, his acoustic guitar, harmonica, and the occasional smattering of electric guitar, it doesn’t have the same immediacy of the solo Jeff Tweedy I have heard in the past.

This record feels like it has been recorded to be played in the background. It eschews all the details and nuance that make the songs work as acoustic numbers. I’ve heard many different bootlegs and “I am Trying to Break Your Heart”  with just his voice, an acoustic guitar and the energy of the audience is every bit as compelling as the studio version. He paints with fewer strokes on these recordings, which makes me think it’d be a good one to hear in a room rather than through headphones.

Together At Last is good, don’t get me wrong. Tweedy has that ability to be utterly captivating with just an acoustic guitar. The electric guitar at the end of “In A Future Age” is a  nice touch, as are the country-esque guitar bends on “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” But by removing the room full of people, the record lacks the electric atmosphere his sparse solo arrangements need to sparkle.

 

 

 

Lorde – Melodrama

From the album title, I was expecting something far more interesting.

Lorde’s debut swept the globe and became famous for its world-weary look at teenage life, with a narrator whose voice was at once starry-eyed and pragmatic.

Melodrama’s first misstep was substituting Joel Little for Jack Antonoff. The first is a career musician whose tight instrumentation and stark production gave Pure Heroine an instantly recognisable sound and packed angst into every finger click. The latter is a hipster doofus who clearly doesn’t understand the ethos of “less is more.” The vocal melodies are either overwhelmed by the instruments or they’re left undercooked and half-arsed. Antonoff’s only success on this record is making Lorde sound like everything else on the radio.

The songs released prior to the album launch were either instantly forgettable (“Green Light”, “Perfect Places”) or mortifyingly twee (“Liability”). This pattern continues until everything is lost in a blur of boring beats and synth drone, losing the crispness for which Pure Heroine was famous.

As for the singer herself, she seems to have grown from smart, incisive teenager, to a ditzy narcissist. She sounds far less mature on her second record. Instead of cutting deep into the psyche, she focusses on light up floors, dance parties and how hard everything is for her.

I suspect this record will sell a truckload, but when the hype dies down it will be filed under “Second Album Syndrome.”