Loose Fur is not a Jim O'Rourke album but that's only true in the sense that Magritte's famous painting The Treason of Images (which features the line "This is not a pipe" written in French below an obvious pipe) is not a pipe. After all, everything the guitarist, tape splicer, record producer, composer and fifth member of Sonic Youth touches becomes, in some sense, a Jim O'Rourke album. The musician has put his inimitable stamp on everyone from Stereolab to Smog, most recently gaining attention for mixing Wilco's critically acclaimed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, wherein he touched up that band's rootsy Americana with his signature approach to noise and space. On Loose Fur, an oblique reflection of the latter project (some of the recordings actually predate the Foxtrot sessions), O'Rourke collaborates with Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy and drummer Glenn Kotche on six twisted pop songs.
Throughout the album, O'Rourke and Tweedy swap vocal duties, each bringing his own peculiar lilt to abstract lyrics like "If I sleep too much/A good Chinese apple/Shines to the touch/Of my sleeve" (from the Tweedy-led "Chinese Apple"). The real action is in the music, which swells with its players' restless whimsy. Garage rock's single-minded drone gives way to acoustic flights of finger-picking; taut power chords unfold over loose-limbed jazz acrobatics. Even the aforementioned "Chinese Apple," which begins with three minutes of acoustic plucking and Tweedy's whisper, goes swimming in roiled waters, with whitecapped guitars consuming each other. But beneath all the slack and rumple, precision reigns.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.