“I break bricks with my heart/ Only a fool would call it art,” Jeff Tweedy sings on “Some Birds,” a track from his new album, Warm. In the most accurate determination, the album is Tweedy’s proper solo debut, though it’s entirely forgivable to quibble with that point. Apart from his twenty-plus years of Wilco records, Tweedy released a double album as a dual act with him drummer son under the family name and just last year put out a set featuring acoustic versions of various numbers from the hefty tome that is his career songbook. That doesn’t even address his teeming bin of side projects, such as honored membership — and creative participation — in Golden Smog and the Minus 5.
Warm, though, is different creature. There’s no eliding ownership of a fresh batch of tracks that are, for whatever reason, credited to Tweedy and Tweedy alone. Certainly, his familiar demeanor is spread liberally across the album’s generous set of tracks. “Don’t Forget” displays Tweedy’s peculiar skill for morbidity as kind-hearted reassurance (“We all think about dying/ Oh, don’t let it kill you”) and “I Know What It’s Like” settles into the forlorn romanticism found in a multitude of predecessors (“When a sunny day/ Starts to rain/ Keep me in mind”). If it seems at times that the material could be plopped onto a Wilco release without unsettling anyone, there’s also a special ease that carries a sheen of the personal. Tweedy just has a few new songs he wants to try out, so come on down to the basement and he’ll play ’em for ya.
Often, Warm has a genial looseness I most associate with Tweedy’s Golden Smog contributions. There’s a gentle ramble to “From Far Away” that is reminiscent of Tom Petty away from the Heartbreakers, and it mirrors the cowpoke drift of “Let’s Go Rain.” Tweedy pushes a little harder with splendid rolling thunder (that eventually gives way to an full electrical storm) on “The Red Brick.” Not every excursion works fully. Lengthy album closer “How Will I Find You?” has a chilled molasses flow that atrophies before the closing notes.
If Tweedy’s humility prevents him from considering his songwriting art, I need not be presumptuous enough to contradict him. Warm already offers a strong enough counterargument.