There’s a lyric on “Don’t Forget,” one of the standout tracks off Jeff Tweedy’s new solo record, WARM, that goes: “Don’t forget sometimes / we all think about dyin’ / don’t let it kill ya.” It’s one of those fragments of a song that sticks with you, not just for what it means, but for how it’s packaged. Like all signature Tweedy things, it is inviting, warm (yes, like the album’s title), and, in the words of author George Saunders, who penned the liner notes for the record, it’s got that “Tweedy-tenderness.” In other words, when Jeff Tweedy is saying it's all going to be okay, we feel like we can trust him implicitly. WARM is a collection of songs about the perils of being a human, but instead of feeling like a swift punch to the gut, it envelops you like a loving hug. It is full of that cozy acoustic guitar and soft Tweedy wisdom that always manages to find a light in the darkness.
Though death is a constant thread woven through WARM, there is nothing depressing about this record. Between losing his father last year and seeing his kids grow into adults, Tweedy has much to say on the subjects of life and death, and on what the idea of a legacy means to him. It is no coincidence that this record is timed for release just after his memoir, Let's Go (So We Can Get Back) (ND review). “I hear your laugh in my laughter,” he sings on the quiet, meditative “How Hard Is It For a Desert to Die.” He’s looking back nostalgically on WARM, feeling a connection to relatives that grows stronger as we age. But he is also doing his best to stay present, even when it feels like the present is suffocating. On album opener “Bombs Above,” he sings, “What I’ve been through should matter to you,” leaving us believing it really should. Because just like him, we’ve all been through something and we all need compassion. It’s what makes us feel alive.
“Don’t Forget” is, in so many ways, the heartbeat of WARM. Amidst the banal or arduous tasks, like brushing your teeth or having to take a long drive, there are pangs of pain and sadness that remind us of the ticking clock of our mortality. Tweedy’s advice seems to be to acknowledge those moments, allow yourself to feel them, and ultimately, to let them go. After all, he seems to say, it is gratitude and resiliency that make life feel worthwhile.