New Zealand’s venerable Neil Finn—best known as the frontman for Crowded House—has a history of assembling ad hoc supergroups that dates back to his Rock Party project in the ’80s. He’s used the 7 Worlds Collide name twice now, once for a live album benefiting Medicins Sans Frontiers in 2001 and now for The Sun Came Out, which reunites most of those players for a studio-bound sequel benefiting Oxfam. This time out, KT Tunstall and most of Wilco round out a cast that also includes 7 Worlds Collide vets Tim Finn, Johnny Marr, Lisa Germano, and Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway from Radiohead.
As usual with supergroups—even casual supergroups who cut albums in three weeks like this—no forceful voice dominates. That leads to a lot of creative pudding, but occasionally the chemistry works to break the pleasant, if rarely memorable, bunch-of-pals-having-an-after-hours-jam vibe. The catchy, jangly, singalong opener “Too Blue” calls upon the full power of everyone involved, while “All Comedians Suffer” finds Finn alternating heartfelt choruses with rougher, Wilco-inspired verses. Jeff Tweedy contributes vocals on two tracks, including a different take on Wilco’s “You Never Know,” but it’s Tunstall who benefits the most from the new surroundings. Freed from the steroidal vocal expectations of her overproduced solo work, she delivers a pair of passionate, affecting folk songs. Sometimes it’s good to have the right friends.