There’s a reason Lindsey Buckingham is portrayed as the aloof-and-silent type on Saturday Night Live’s “What’s Up With That?”: In real life, he’s always seemed that way. Yet his songs with Fleetwood Mac—many of which he sang—remain some of the most heartrendingly intimate ever committed to mass consciousness. His solo work since Mac’s prime has been hit or miss, but 2008’s Gift Of Screws was a beautiful reminder of Buckingham’s bygone directness and warmth. His new album, Seeds We Sow, sees him shying away again. But not always in a bad way.
Seeds’ biggest barrier is one Buckingham has always shielded himself with: the studio. Otherwise stunning folk-rock gems such as “Stars Are Crazy” and the disc’s title track drown stark, naked folk in staccato reverb and air-conditioned acoustics. Often, though, Buckingham elicits gooseflesh for the right reasons. “Illumination” is a sharp, accusatory screed that vibrates like a Tusk outtake, and “In Our Own Time” wrings sorcery out of Buckingham’s signature finger-picked arpeggios and haunted swathes of harmony. But where Gift Of Screws showcased the unforced and immediate passion of his voice, even the best moments on Seeds feel as though they’re being heard through a stethoscope placed upon Buckingham’s chest.
One thing Buckingham has never forgotten, though, is how to construct albums with the consummate balance and gravity-defying magic of an architect. After laying a foundation of sprawling airiness and sumptuous overdubs, he tops Seeds with “She Smiled Sweetly,” a bittersweet, almost medieval-sounding love song that falters and quivers like collapsing lungs. And when he closes the track—and the album—with what might be the soft, breathy aftershock of a kiss, he once again cuts through all the effects and atmospherics to deliver a little raw piece of his heart.