Sukierae is quite the family affair, and while some may snicker and say that it represents the apotheosis of “dad rock”, it’s a pleasant but affecting listen. Much of the debut album from “Tweedy” will remind fans of what they love about dad Jeff’s day job with Wilco, but the more personal nature of the material mirrors the stripped-down approach of the record and necessitates a separation from the main act. It’s an intimate affair, but a welcome one.
Opener “Please Don’t Let Me Be Understood” recalls Telephono-era Spoon with its distorted repetitive riff, but that’s a bit of a misdirection, as Sukierae mainly consists of ballads or otherwise pleasant diversions. The album is for the most part delicate and subdued, often just Jeff on vocals and guitar with son Spencer accompanying on drums, with the latter careful not to overwhelm the fragile nature of each song. Acoustic guitar is the dominant sound, with electric guitar leads dancing in and out to provide emphasis and contrast as necessary, with the occasional sprinkle of piano providing hints of color. Spencer’s drumming ventures occasionally into intriguing new territories for Jeff, as in the King of Limbs-like stuttering beat of “Diamond Light Pt. 1” (which ends with a bit that recalls an earlier period of Radiohead, specifically “The Gloaming”), but for the most part sticks to keeping it in the pocket and augmenting the music with subtle fills on a spare kit. It’s all a bit “low key”, if you could excuse the pun (note: you are under no obligation to do so).
At seventy-one minutes long, some fans may wonder whether it was necessary for the album to be split into two discs, as Jeff insisted. While the two discs themselves are not necessarily distinct from one another (though the second disc is a bit more subdued), but each disc does have its own shape; for instance, “I’ll Sing It” and “I’ll Never Know” each bring a sense of finality and work as closers. One disc doesn’t stand out from the other, but splitting the album into two does benefit the listener by breaking it up into more manageable sizes. Some may argue that there’s a 12-14 song, 50 minute album hidden in the two discs, but there are not any songs that are asking to be culled from the tracklist. They may not all be standouts, but there are several quality songs and gorgeous moments spread throughout.