Credit: Lindsey Buckingham
Music by Sam C. Mac

Best Albums of 2021: Lindsey Buckingham | Lindsey Buckingham

January 8, 2022

#18. Rare is the artist in popular music with a sound that’s entirely their own; one-time Fleetwood Mac mastermind Lindsey Buckingham is for sure one of ‘em. In a sense, this could be gleaned just from a single listen to Rumors opener “Second Hand News,” as celtic folk becomes unlikely bedfellows with a fuzzed-out guitar solo and fidgety acoustic picking (the song’s demo was just called “Strummer”). But definitely no further evidence was required after Buckingham notched his many odd instrumental contributions to the Mac’s high masterpiece, Tusk. And yet, the prickly artist, now forty years into a solo career, has never stopped trying to prove his uniqueness — and the septuagenarian rocker still sounds like pretty much nobody else.

This year’s plainly labeled Lindsey Buckingham isn’t exactly business as usual, though — in so much as you could assign “usual” to any artist who only releases one or two solo albums per decade. Of Buckingham’s two aughts efforts, one was a largely acoustic set and the other was something of a mishmash of Mac leftovers and a paring down of a (better) bootleg that had circulated for years. Lindsey Buckingham arrives a full 10 years after Buckingham’s last solo set (although it was apparently recorded and finished in 2018), and like 2011’s Seeds We Sow, it’s a robust song-cycle with more than a few flashes of the compositional brilliance evident in his best Mac material. Except this new album is better — partly because it’s more cohesive, partly because the melodies hit consistently, but mostly just because it never sounds old.

Latter-day Buckingham has largely been possessed of the same restlessness of his best years, but there have been occasional lapses into nostalgia, retracing sonic ideas that sound less sharp now than they did 30-40 years ago, or overestimating interest in arpeggiating guitar workouts. The ten tight, catchy, and expertly mixed tracks of Lindsey Buckingham never sound tired or dated; there’s just the right amount of bouncy synthesizers and clattering drum machines to mark these songs as modern pop, even as the intricate guitars, wall-to-wall harmonies, and strange chords separate them out from the contemporary music landscape. “Power Down” is a simultaneously more cacophonous and less cluttered cousin to 1996’s “Don’t Look Down”; lead single “I Don’t Mind” pairs a pocket symphony with the album’s best hook; and “On the Wrong Side” gives us both repurposed, Rumors-reminiscent paranoia-as-self-critique and a barnstorming electric guitar solo. There are lovely and understated moments (his version of “Time” would sound at home on Under the Skin), but even the quiet songs leave a firm impression. Thirty-six fleet minutes and it’s done, but near every track will beckon you back.