Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy is no stranger to writing deeply personal lyrics. On the band’s 1999 album Summerteeth it took the form of deeply depressing lyrics packaged in catchy hooks and studio production. On the almost experimental 2007 effort Sky Blue Sky, they wavered between pessimism and optimism sung over beautifully played songs. On his first proper solo album, WARM, Tweedy’s songs feel like his most personal to date.
Acoustic guitars make up the majority of instrumentation on the 11 tracks with some steel guitar and drums largely adding accents. “How Hard it is for a Desert to Die” finds a steel guitar dreamily sliding along in the background and “From Far Away” is accented by beautiful electronic currents and hints of the noise that Jeff loves to seamlessly implement into Wilco songs.
In his memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), Jeff describes the songs on WARM as “some of the most direct, personal and autobiographical that I’ve ever written,” and it’s obvious throughout the album. On “Don’t Forget”, he sings to his sons about life and dealing with his own father’s death lyrics like ‘Don’t forget to brush your teeth’ are woven in with more serious lines like ‘We all think about dying’ and ‘I won’t overlook the willows bending by the graves’. “Having Been Is No Way To Be” is another stand out track on the album where Jeff tells off people that think that he wrote better music before going to rehab and about how he is fulfilling a promise to those close to him by staying alive. “How Will I Find You” is a beautiful track the has some richly dynamic sonics and sounds eerily similar to the Smashing Pumpkin’s track “Soma”. On an album full of great, personal songs there are bound to be some duds, and WARM is no exception. “Let’s Go Rain” is an upbeat multiple harmony song that just doesn’t feel like it belongs on the album. It even has a reference to frequent collaborator Scott McCaughey, which feels more like an inside joke than would be more at home on a Crosby, Stills, and Nash album.
Though most tracks on the album seem to be more around the three-minute range, Tweedy is definitely able to fit a lot of deep, personal lyrics into each song. Each song is unmistakably a Jeff Tweedy song, however the album as a whole doesn’t feel super cohesive as it bounces from Americana to folk-rock to alt-rock to singer-songwriter, making the weaker songs feel even more out of place among the otherwise great album.