Over the past decade, in his musical career paralleling comedy, Tim Heidecker has amassed a deep catalog of soft-rock songs about mortality and grief, political dystopia and everyday existentialism. And yet, one of the most poignant tracks on his latest album, High schoolmainly concerns a Neil Young video, more specifically the Young videos from 1993 Unplugged performance of “Harvest Moon”. The story goes like this: Heidecker is a teenager from Allentown, Pennsylvania, watching MTV on a Saturday night. Transfixed by Young’s performance, he learned the song on the guitar and played it for his parents. They say it sounds great, but then again, that’s what they say about everything it does. He goes out and buys the album and feels disappointed by the more elaborate interpretation in the studio. Eventually, he learns to appreciate this version as well, and includes it on a mix CD for a crush, who breaks up with him soon after.

When it comes to autobiographical songwriting, it’s not the most compelling source. And as Heidecker sings it – one mundane detail at a time, with little poetic embellishment – ​​it seems to amplify just how ordinary it all is. But there is something deep and true in Heidecker’s journey through the past on High school, a home-recorded concept album about his teenage years. Co-produced with a backing band of Drew Erickson, Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats, and Mac DeMarco, the music glides with the reflective sheen of utterances from 1980s singer-songwriters like Bruce Springsteen. tunnel of love and Randy Newman’s trouble in paradise. With dynamic, lively sound and some of Heidecker’s warmest, most empathetic songwriting, each song feels like a spiral into a deeper truth about how we end up as the adults we are.

Take, for example, the central character of “Buddy,” a local stoner whose transformation into a cautionary tale happens so subtly that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it happens. It’s a eulogy sung like a campfire, as Heidecker’s perspective shifts from character study to a moment of self-questioning: “Do you think I let you down?” We lost sight of each other the minute I left town,” he sings sadly. Many of the songs make similar leaps, never offering a sense of resolution or a moral to their stories. Instead, Heidecker focuses on why those open childhood memories tend to stick with us, why we revisit them decades later, always turning them around and retracing our steps.