Lindsey Buckingham: “Seeds We Sow”

With Seeds We Sow, Lindsey Buckingham has made what could well be the finest indie record of 2011—an odd thing to say about a man whose voice as a singer and songwriter was integral to Rumors, the Fleetwood Mac blockbuster that was, at one time, the best-selling pop album of all time; less odd for the architect of Tusk, whose frayed edges and druggy haze make it a perennial favorite for cultists and leftfield pop enthusiasts. But of course, both sides are crucial to who Buckingham is, both inside the Mac and outside it—and that has never been truer than here, perhaps. Seeds We Sow is his first self-released album, launched under his own Mind Kit imprint upon the fulfillment of his stint with Warner Brothers. More crucially, it’s a homespun glory that revels in its one-man-band roots, propelled by voice and melody, built upon Buckingham’s glowing Nylon-string guitar work and his (surprisingly seamless) ProTools rig.

You can hear those glorious Rumors melodies on just about everything here. You can hear a little bit of the Tusk idiosyncrasy. More than anything else, you can hear the homemade, ramshackle approach of the early Paul McCartney solo albums, whose DIY spirit personifies what it means to be “indie.” Make no mistake: Beautiful though it is, and wonderfully of a piece with latter-day Buckingham gems Under the Skin and Gift of Screws, this is the most ragged music he’s ever made under his own name, a wonderfully loose and rough album that finally finds him completely abandoning the full-band illusion he harbored on those other fine records and flaunting the album’s solitary basement roots. I’ll be honest: I’m generally not big on the one-man-band thing, which often sounds either flimsy or stilted. But by embracing it full-on, Buckingham harnesses the implicit roughness and turns in a record that feels surprisingly lively and spontaneous. Plus, the songs have the man’s musical and lyrical signatures all over them, which is just another way of saying that they’re quite good.

Seeds We Sow is a testament to the singer’s enduring romanticism; he fumbles for understanding in the universe and resigns himself, not bitterly but hopefully, to the fact that he may never find the answers he seeks, but love is enough to win the day. More than anything, though, it’s a testament to Buckingham’s own resourcefulness as a record-maker. He offers glistening, finger-picked folk songs; baroque pop numbers; and gloriously big, propulsive rockers. And he does it all by himself, simulating full orchestration without assistance from any other players (save for on “That’s the Way Love Goes,” where he’s joined by a full band—and where things really do explode).

“In Our Own Time” is evidence of the full extent of Buckingham’s gifts. It’s a serpentine rock tune that moves from a contemplative verse into a slamming chorus—and crescendos with a glorious, cascading, finger-picked bridge. There’s programmed percussion that gives it a twitching pulse, but the blood in its veins comes entirely from the lyric and melody. It’s followed by a remarkably loose, hard-hitting rocker—surprising when you consider that it’s a one-man show, anyway—called “Illumination,” a cantankerous ode to personal revelation that might as well be Buckingham’s theme song.

There are quieter moments, as well. The title cut, which opens the album, is one of the most beautiful things he’s recorded as a solo artist, a wonderfully hypnotic, circular guitar figure with a wistful melody—not dissimilar from something that might have been on the inward-focused Under the Skin. Meanwhile, “When She Comes Down” is a chilled-out pop ballad where synthetic percussion, keyboard tones, and vocal effects are used with restraint and great effect; the chorus is almost a gospel anthem, not unlike the Gift of Screws standout “Treason.”

All of Buckingham’s recent records have included songs based around repetitive, trance-like finger-picking—“Not Too Late” and “Time Precious Time” are two examples—and this record is no exception; here, one of the standouts is “Stars Are Crazy,” a resigned but not despairing reflection on a romance that’s destined to fail. What makes albums like this one so rich and expansive, though, is that a song like that one can sit so comfortably alongside “One Take,” a jittery rock and roll number with a Mac-worthy chorus, a politically-charged lyric, and a blistering electric guitar solo, all stitched together using the same lone-strummer magic that holds the entire album together.

It’s a very special record, in other words, and it is of a piece with Under the Skin and Gift of Screws in one key respect: It’s an album only Lindsey Buckingham could have made. It’s a joyfully ragged singer/songwriter album that transforms lo-fi production values into high pop style. It’s an indie record just about any way you care to define it—though it’s unlikely to be credited as such, I imagine—and it’s maybe the most enticing entry yet in Buckingham’s very fine, very special latter-day catalog.

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