Warmer is the Amnesiac-like companion album to Tweedy’s 2018 solo LP Warm, recorded during the same Chicago session and released in a limited run of 5000 vinyl copies for Record Store Day. If you liked Warm, you’ll like Warmer. It’s Tweedy at his most self-findingly laid back, low-key and ruminative, leavening intimate recreational folk-rock with offhanded guitar tastiness.
Tweedy is backed on the album by his son Spencer, whose subtle drumming is a nice conversational compliment to everything the Wilco leader does. Lyrically, it’s our ever-shifting window into the pillowy psychology of a literate Midwestern rock guy with a little too much time on his hands — “Pushing words onto the page/Patching where the heart is frayed,” as he sings on the prettily depressive “Landscape.” He drops a funny “Cum On the Feel the Noize” reference on “Empty Head,” spools out lovely diagonal Dylanisms on “Evergreen” and lands somewhere between the Velvet Underground’s “That’s the Story of My Life” and Workingman’s Dead on “Ten Sentences.”
The album’s obvious stand-out is “Family Ghost,” a casually caustic but also admirably empathetic-feeling evocation of the way small town kids who get-the-fuck-out can remain haunted by their right-wing friends and relatives back home. “I’m a dope blowing smoke at the TV screen,” he sings, turning the mythical loudmouth Fox News uncle into an Edgar Allen Poe apparition while sounding in no way like a condescending big city liberal.
He arrives at an adjacent theme later on during the somber “Sick Server,” singing about how far he’s come since leaving home and the people in his life who keep him sane as he travels around in a successful rock band. That belief in and need for other people is part of what makes Tweedy so likable. Even when he’s singing a line like “a normal heart is a shopping cart left by the side of the road” he never comes off as pretentious or self-indulgent, because he’s always reaching out for connection and consolation rather than spinning off into no-one-gets-me disaffection, always shrugging against sadness rather than collapsing into it. You’d never kick him out of your used bookstore, even if he lingered around all day without buying anything.