I love Jeff Tweedy. I love Wilco. So I am thrilled to review his charming new album Love is the King. But in an effort to do something a little creative and a little more this site, I have compared my 3 favorite tracks to the 3 things we cover on this site: 1 movie, 1 team, and 1 song. Enjoy our definitively MMH-style “review!”

I love Wilco. I love Wilco like Donald Trump loves himself. Jeff Tweedy is my favorite songwriter and there’s no real close second.

At first I hated Wilco. Someone gave me Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in high school and I did not get it. I thought it was needlessly ambient, excessive, and flat. But some restless curiosity refused to let me dismiss it. I kept returning to the album like a group of kids and the haunted house at the end of the street. Over time I fell deeper and deeper into the iconic album until it grew to be a sonic ocean I lived in.

From the beginning of my songwriting to today, Tweedy and Wilco have been my biggest influence. Yankee’s “Pot Kettle Black” was the inspiration for my teenage band’s “Tin Man.” A song I had to retrieve from an old hard drive archive for this article!

And I just discovered today—15 years later—to absolutely no surprise, both songs are in the same key. Jump forward 15 years and “Low Key,” off Tweedy’s 2014 Sukierae, inspired my latest single “Summer Light.”

Over the last 15 years I’ve seen presidents come and go, the Celtics rise and fall, girlfriends leave me and my wife find me, but Jeff and Wilco have seen me through it all.

So it feels as much like an obligation as it is a joy to review Jeff Tweedy’s charmingly humble new album Love is the King. But you know, a million publications are reviewing it, so I am going to elect for something a little more creative and a little more this site. I am going to compare my three favorite Love is the King tunes to one movie, one NBA team, and one other song—and just to keep things in-house, one other Wilco song.

“Opaline” // O Brother, Where Art Thou 

I’m not sure “Opaline” is a song that the Soggy Bottom Boys would sing, but I do believe they would love to share a bill with this version of Tweedy. “Opaline” bounces with a soft, Country twang that makes me think of Texas. And Oh Brother’s Mississippi setting isn’t too far away. I totally hear “Opaline” playing over this scene:

There are low hanging fruit parallels here. “Opaline” opens, “I can hear the police outside my window” and of course Ulysses, Delmar, and Pete are running from the law. Additionally, the chorus leads with “O, Opaline.” Can I get an amen for an “O” theme?

Digging deeper, I would describe the feeling of both “Opaline” and O Brother, Where Are Thou? as longing wrapped in a wiry, mischievous bravado. For Jeff, that longing is for love, for the Bottom Boys it is freedom and treasure. But both bring a certain confidence to their quest. We all know how many songs Jeff’s written and even as the song bumps up-and-down like an old car on a patchy dirt road, he sings and plays with the confidence of someone who has driven down it a million times. Meanwhile, for each outlandish calamity Ulysses and Co. find themselves in, I’ve always wondered how many similar pickles they’ve previously untangled.

No doubt “Opaline” shares the same zany charm as O Brother as well as my favorite lyric on the album, “there’s nothing worse than a hearse driving slow.” Our man’s still got it.

Bad Day Lately // Milwaukee Bucks

“Bad Day Lately” is a lonesome dirge with a trippy, pedal steel-esque guitar solo played by Tweedy. In it he laments,

It’s been a bad day lately
A lonely place I can’t endure
Being so far away
Always makes things worse

Oh everything I do
And everything I say
And everything I feel
I feel for you today

I hear this song being sung by Wes Edens, Marc Lasry—the owners of the Bucks—to their quizzical superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. If you look at this name and the only thing that comes to mind is how to pronounce it, let me know give the 15-second backstory:

Giannis is one of the best players in the league. He’s the reigning back-to-back league MVP. He’s a superstar of the highest order. His team has also flamed out in the playoffs the last two seasons. As he has repeatedly stated that the only thing that matters to him is winning a championship, his looming free agency—where he could bolt for another team—is going to make for many a sleepless night for Wes and Marc.

Giannis is also Grecian and spends the off-season at home, making it hard for the team to monitor the temperature of his mood. So when Tweedy croons, “being so far away, always makes things worse.” I’m fairly confident the Bucks brain trust would concur.

“Bad Day Lately” is a delightfully tragic, three minute gem. I believe the tiptoeing guitar part is played on a nylon string, giving the arrangement a distinct color. The well placed minor chords echo the sentiment of the lyrics and the full band drop ~1:00 minute in lifts the song from emo heartbreak to fist pounding yearning.

And by “fist pounding yearning,” I mean the brand of fist pounding yearning you get from a man who conveys in the aforementioned “Low Key,” “no, I won’t jump for joy, If I get excited nobody knows.”

Guess Again // I’m Always In Love

“Guess Again” is likely my favorite song on Love is the King and reciprocally “I’m Always in Love” off 1999’s Summerteeth is one for the ages. These tracks sound completely different, but derive from the same song species. Jeff is now 53 and no longer wields the post-punk, electro angst that can be heard on “I’m Always in Love.” He wrote and recorded Love is the King in Wilco’s famous Chicago Loft with his two sons. How non-angsty is that? But as the album title confirms, love endures . The opening verses to “Guess Again” are pure lyrical magic:

Oh, tomatoes right off the line
We used to eat them like that all the time
And if you think that’s the best thing
That I ever knew
Guess again, my love
It’s you

Riding with the wind blowing in my hair
And the sun shining down everywhere
And if you think that’s the best thing
That I can do
Guess again, my love
It’s for you

The man’s a poet. These sentiments are mirrored in “I’m Always in Love.”

Will I catch the moon, like a bird in a cafe
It’s for you I swoon
I’m always in love

I want to listen to these songs back-to-back on a long drive. I want them to fill me with the exuberance that only comes from home cooked love. That feeling you get when you think of your partner and see a spotlight beaming on them and everything else in life recedes into the background.

For a songwriter like Tweedy who has had a complicated relationship with love and is perhaps most famous for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’s title track “I am Trying to Break Your Heart;” for this man who is so concerned about the election the he said in a recently Rolling Stone interview, “it’s hard to play the guitar and check FiveThirtyEight at the same time.”

For Jeff Tweedy, at 53-years-old, to write a song that is this infectiously joyful, it give me hope. It makes me smile. I’m grateful for Jeff Tweedy. I’m glad to have this tender album. I’m making a pact with myself right now, as long as Jeff Tweedy is writing love songs, I’m going to keep believing in a better tomorrow.