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I've Decided What It Is About Jeff Tweedy


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He's got a really great voice. :yes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Discuss.)

 

 

He does an A plus job with a B minus voice.  

 

If that sounds critical it is not.  What I mean, is he technically is not a great singer.  But what he does with his voice, especially in context of the songs, musically and poetically is amazing.  

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Objectively his voice as an instrument is just okay, his range is fair, his pitch is solid and his lyrics are excellent. Subjectively, as a whole he's got something that stirs more emotion in many people than most vocal powerhouses ever have. That's always fascinating to me, I love it.

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Understated and honest.

No pretense. No unnecessary notes. Knows his strengths and weaknesses as a vocalist and uses both to his advantage.

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Yeah. Somehow his voice sounds relatable. Like he's as flawed, unsure of himself and maybe overly-sensitive about things, as ALL of us human beings are to varying degrees throughout all our lives.

 

Really like his voice in early Wilco especially. Comfortable.

 

kind of like jerry garcia, which sio probably why they are two of my all time faves.  there is just something comfortable and real about both of them 

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I'm laughing at the entire notion that Jeff might be judged for not being a "technically great singer." He's got such a unique timbre and character to his voice, a pretty good range and very good dynamics. He can whisper with the best of them (Schmilco), get soulful and melancholy, and rip and wail when needed. Plus he knows how to use his voice to fit his songs and the overall sound...he isn't and never has been a singer focused on histrionics or showmanship in the "pop singer" sense.

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He’s the whole package.

I also have admiration for package of Mr Jeff Tweedy.

Welfare!

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I also have admiration for package of Mr Jeff Tweedy.

Welfare!

 

As does the Professor from Stockholm, if I remember right.

 

Welfare, Lotti!

I'm laughing at the entire notion that Jeff might be judged for not being a "technically great singer." He's got such a unique timbre and character to his voice, a pretty good range and very good dynamics. He can whisper with the best of them (Schmilco), get soulful and melancholy, and rip and wail when needed. Plus he knows how to use his voice to fit his songs and the overall sound...he isn't and never has been a singer focused on histrionics or showmanship in the "pop singer" sense.

 

You are better at putting it into words than I am!

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I love what so many of you have said about the uniquely lovable quality of Jeff‘s voice. I’ve never been able to figure out for myself what it is about it that I find so completely compelling, but I know that even if I’m listening to something random on shuffle and I hear Jeff clear his throat I know immediately it’s Jeff Tweedy clearing his throat. There is something about his voice that instantly resonates with me like no one else’s.

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I love what so many of you have said about the uniquely lovable quality of Jeff‘s voice. I’ve never been able to figure out for myself what it is about it that I find so completely compelling, but I know that even if I’m listening to something random on shuffle and I hear Jeff clear his throat I know immediately it’s Jeff Tweedy clearing his throat. There is something about his voice that instantly resonates with me like no one else’s.

 

Like the first couple seconds of Red-Eyed and Blue!

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Two things:

1) My wife and I are in bed watching TV. She is drifting off to sleep having no desire to watch the documentary I had on - Man In The Sand. There is a scene in which Billy Bragg & Jeff are asked what to they want to achieve with the album they are making. Bragg gives this laborious speech on how he wants to make a political statement, do this and that, blah, blah, blah. The camera turns to Jeff and he says: "I just want to make an album that doesn't suck." My wife opened her eyes, lifted her head off the pillow and laughed.

 

2) The opening scene to the Sam Jones' documentary - we see Jeff driving his own car (a Subaru, I think), in the morning, to his own little (at the time) studio, the Loft. The camera moves a little to the right and we see Sponge Bob Square Pants hanging from the rearview mirror.

 

You see,I grew up watching so many rock documentaries in which you see the musicians, sitting in the back of the limo, with a bottle of Jack Daniels, at 1 PM in the afternoon, being chauffeured to their private Lear jet, that you expect to see this every time. So I was floored when I saw Jeff. It was my own personal Hotel Arizona in reverse. I found a rock star that didn't behave like a rock star.

Sorry for going on for so long, but to sum up:

 

1) he has a great sense of humor

2) he's a regular guy

 

Oh, and he sings good too! 

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Two things:

1) My wife and I are in bed watching TV. She is drifting off to sleep having no desire to watch the documentary I had on - Man In The Sand. There is a scene in which Billy Bragg & Jeff are asked what to they want to achieve with the album they are making. Bragg gives this laborious speech on how he wants to make a political statement, do this and that, blah, blah, blah. The camera turns to Jeff and he says: "I just want to make an album that doesn't suck." My wife opened her eyes, lifted her head off the pillow and laughed.

 

2) The opening scene to the Sam Jones' documentary - we see Jeff driving his own car (a Subaru, I think), in the morning, to his own little (at the time) studio, the Loft. The camera moves a little to the right and we see Sponge Bob Square Pants hanging from the rearview mirror.

 

You see,I grew up watching so many rock documentaries in which you see the musicians, sitting in the back of the limo, with a bottle of Jack Daniels, at 1 PM in the afternoon, being chauffeured to their private Lear jet, that you expect to see this every time. So I was floored when I saw Jeff. It was my own personal Hotel Arizona in reverse. I found a rock star that didn't behave like a rock star.

Sorry for going on for so long, but to sum up:

 

1) he has a great sense of humor

 

2) he's a regular guy

 

Oh, and he sings good too! 

 

Amen.

 

I remember the chapters in Greg Kot's book about the Mermaid Avenue projects. Billy was so caught up in trying to make some grand political statement, which is why he gravitated towards songs like "All You Fascists," though he did pick some of Woody's more poetic tracks -- which is what Jeff was after. Jeff said something to the effect of "I'm interested in Woody the freak folk weirdo" or something like that, hence songs like "Hoodoo Voodoo," which provide some levity to balance tracks like "Eisler On the Go."

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Pathos, and his ability to convey that through his words, but especially the voice he uses to serve those words, is rare on the scale Jeff can do it. All the sides of his (or anyone's, for that matter) personality are revealed - from the fragile romantic, to the wizened truth-teller, to the angry, frustrated punk, the optimistic bringer of good news, the tired, burned out adult, the enigmatic wordsmith who tantalizes with his mastery of language...just to mention what comes into my head at the moment. 

 

When you add all of that to a guy who (by what I've heard from many of you here) is a remarkably grounded, low-key and articulate person how can you not identify with his music? It's real, and in this day and age that's such a refreshing thing. At the ripe old age of (only) 50 he already feels like an icon of American music, and we're all the better for having enjoyed his art.

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You have all made some excellent points, and done so in a way that is better/clearer than whatever I would have said.  As an aside, I notice that many of you mention that Tweedy isn't a "technically" great singer.  I would agree with that, and it makes me wonder how many singers I enjoy listening to in rock and pop music who are technically great singers.  I'm certain that is a very low number.  

 

Getting back to Jeff, I always notice in his interviews that he answers whatever question is thrown at him in a straightforward and honest way.  Never any bullshit or head games like you get in many music star interviews, and he usually manages to say something that is a direct bullseye statement about some aspect of music or performing, or about other aspects of his life.  You can hear that he is speaking with unfiltered enthusiasm, and from his heart.  Several times I have come away from his interviews almost jealous of his ability to speak about things in such a clear way.  Things people often overthink or try to make as mysterious as possible. I feel like those qualities come through in his vocal performances.

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You have all made some excellent points, and done so in a way that is better/clearer than whatever I would have said.  As an aside, I notice that many of you mention that Tweedy isn't a "technically" great singer.  I would agree with that, and it makes me wonder how many singers I enjoy listening to in rock and pop music who are technically great singers.  I'm certain that is a very low number.  

 

Getting back to Jeff, I always notice in his interviews that he answers whatever question is thrown at him in a straightforward and honest way.  Never any bullshit or head games like you get in many music star interviews, and he usually manages to say something that is a direct bullseye statement about some aspect of music or performing, or about other aspects of his life.  You can hear that he is speaking with unfiltered enthusiasm, and from his heart.  Several times I have come away from his interviews almost jealous of his ability to speak about things in such a clear way.  Things people often overthink or try to make as mysterious as possible. I feel like those qualities come through in his vocal performances.

 

The best singers, in my opinion, are the ones who fall in this realm and don't really care about being "technically great." What they do have is an extremely unique timbre and character to their voice, something that is entirely their own and instantly recognizable. They write and sing melodies that best suit their voice, dynamics and range, and play to their strengths as vocalists. No attempted acrobatics, unneeded histrionics or showmanship. Just pure, straight, genuine singing, from the heart and from the soul.

 

One of the worst examples of "vanilla wallpaper" vocals, to me, is top 40 bro-country. I have some friends and family who enjoy that stuff (which is totally fine) but when they're playing it when I'm around, I literally cannot tell the difference between any of the artists. It all sounds the exact same to me, like someone set a "standard" sound at some point that they're all trying to reach. Some "comfort zone" of singing that's "required" to be a success in that genre. I feel like I've listened to a wide enough range of music my whole life to have a pretty discerning ear and be able to recognize talent when I hear it -- even in a genre I may not care for -- and I just don't hear it in this genre. 

 

Anyway, didn't mean to digress on a country-hatin' rant. Jeff Tweedy rules. 

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^ A big part of this problem is production aesthetic. Autotune has become insidious and ever present. I think hearing mathematically perfect pitch, even as the technology has allowed engineers to apply it less obviously, creates a different emotional response- just like hearing Glenn Kotche's rhythmic pocket versus a drum machine. I remember Neko Case saying she wished more artists had the balls to stand up to whatever slick producer is in the room and just say, "Give me 9 or 10 more takes, I'll get it. I don't need pitch correction."

 

Wilco records have a emotionally effective lack of phony production gloss, most specifically on the vocals.

 

Also as a side rant, autotune is training a generation of children to be scared to sing, because every time they turn on a radio or TV all they hear is mathematical perfection.

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^ A big part of this problem is production aesthetic. Autotune has become insidious and ever present. I think hearing mathematically perfect pitch, even as the technology has allowed engineers to apply it less obviously, creates a different emotional response- just like hearing Glenn Kotche's rhythmic pocket versus a drum machine. I remember Neko Case saying she wished more artists had the balls to stand up to whatever slick producer is in the room and just say, "Give me 9 or 10 more takes, I'll get it. I don't need pitch correction."

 

Wilco records have a emotionally effective lack of phony production gloss, most specifically on the vocals.

 

Also as a side rant, autotune is training a generation of children to be scared to sing, because every time they turn on a radio or TV all they hear is mathematical perfection.

 

PREACH

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