I have always been a sucker for a beautiful melody and a good tune. And let me tell you, Soul, Pattinson & Cockburn is pretty special. Composed by Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco fame) and the legendary Richard Reed (Bees Made Honey), this collection of songs is an ode to the jazz artists whose music inspired them – and it’s got a memorable chorus to prove it.
The collection was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London with legendary producer George Martin and features many of the artists who inspired the album’s songs. As you’d expect from the son of Woody Allen and the great Peter Matthiessen, Sal’s songs are funny, clever and packed with literary allusions.
It’s safe to say that this is one of the best albums of the year, and it deserves your full attention. Let’s dive in.
High As Heaven
The album kicks off with the title track, which is reprised on the album as a radio edit and a shorter version in a live setting. This song, like many on the album, is inspired by the work of great jazz artists of the past. But the song also nods to more contemporary composers, such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Glass’ “Music for 18 Musicians” is especially evoked in this song, which features an 18-piece string section and a choir of children’s voices. The track kicks in with a jangly main melody before segueing into a more traditional jazz riff that features prominently in the song’s bridge.
This song was inspired by a conversation between Jeff and Sal about the difficulty of creating art when you’re depressed. The pair realized that great jazz artists often coped with their mental health problems by getting high, and this song is their homage to that “spiritual reboot”. It is one of the best songs on the album, and it’s a great example of what happens when you combine Jeff and Sal’s sensibilities: funny, smart and introspective.
Dancing To Somebody Else’s Tune
The second track, “Dancing To Somebody Else’s Tune”, is an example of the more traditional jazz Sal and Jeff are capable of. Like “High As Heaven”, this song is indebted to Glass’ 18-player string section and the great John Coltrane, whose influence is particularly apparent in the saxophone solos in the song’s bridge.
The track opens with what sounds like a sampled bird call – an allusion to the great Coltrane, who often included bird sounds in his compositions – before launching into an eight-part chorus that evokes the great Americana music of the 40s and 50s. The song’s lyrics reference “A Night To Remember,” the 1958 adaptation of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” – which also happens to be one of the best movies of all time – as well as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” These literary allusions only add to the song’s charm. Plus, the line “It’s too cold to sleep, so I’m gonna dance till I drop” is one of the most iconic in movie history.
“Candy” is one of the most popular tracks on the album, and for good reason. The song’s melody is infectious, and it features some great harmonies, particularly in the repeated chorus. A single listen to this song and you’ll be humming along – or, at least, singing along – before you know it.
“Candy” was inspired by the paintings of Kurt Cobain. The track’s lyrics allude to the Nirvana frontman’s favorite food – chocolate – and his love for French novelist/playwright Marguerite Durain. The pair collaborated on the musical version of Durain’s 1924 novel “The Sailor Who Would Be King.” This is one of the more conventional tracks on the album, but it still contains enough literary references to make it a real standout.
I Was Never Good At Being Serious
If you’re a fan of Jeff Tweedy, you’ll probably love the third song on the album, “I Was Never Good At Being Serious”. It is the son of the great Woody Allen and the great Peter Matthiessen’s brother, and it is one of the funniest songs on the album. Inspired by Spike Jones, the song’s title refers to Tweedy’s love of all things absurd and his gift for making the ridiculous seem like a brilliant idea.
This song is full of playful asides and inside references to other songs. At one point, the song switches gears and becomes a bluesy stomp, and it features some great guitar solos by Jason Isbell (of the band “The Drive-By Truckers”). The song also draws on the British Invasion and its attendant mod culture, paying homage to early British rock groups like The Yardbirds and The Beatles.
“I Was Never Good At Being Serious” is one of the great party albums of the year, and there’s a reason everyone is talking about it. It’s a brilliant collection of pop songs that deal with issues ranging from addiction to loneliness. As a fan of Jeff Tweedy, you can’t go wrong with this album. It will make you want to dance, make you laugh, and – most importantly – make you feel good.
When Can I See You Again?
The album concludes with “When Can I See You Again?”, an autobiographical tune about Jeff’s time in Paris with the musician Romain Trussard, who plays most of the instruments on the track. Inspired by the freedom of the City of Lights, the song is an ode to the joys of unstructured time and the importance of making reckless decisions.
“When Can I See You Again?” was the first song Jeff and Romain wrote together after meeting in 2005. It was originally inspired by a conversation about “making some wild romantic gesture,” as Romain puts it. The pair were then joined by Sal and the keyboardist/vocalist Laura Lee, and a demo was recorded with a few other songs. After a few more tweaks, this four-track demo became the final version of the album.
This song may be one of the most personal and most autobiographical on the album. It’s easy to hear the influence of Joni Mitchell in the lush string sections, and it reminds me a bit of Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man” if you’re familiar with that song. But “When Can I See You Again?” is an ode to the joys of unstructured time and the importance of making reckless choices. And who knows – maybe one day we’ll all be dancing to this song as it plays in the background at an all-night party in a Parisian nightclub.
There you have it. A comprehensive guide to Soul, Pattinson & Cockburn: The Musical. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed reading this article and can now add this album to your collection. As always, feel free to leave a comment below if you have any thoughts. And while you’re at it, why not check out some of our other popular albums or other articles? You might just find something that suits your tastes.