To put it simply, True Meanings, the fourteenth Paul Weller solo album and the twenty-sixth studio album of his entire career, is a record unlike any he has ever made before. It's characterized by grandiose-yet-delicate, lush orchestration: an aesthetic to which Weller's better-than-ever voice, singing some of his most nakedly honest words, is perfectly suited. A dreamy, peaceful, pastoral set of songs to get lost in, it's both an album that his faithful audience has been wanting him to make for a long time, and an album that many new people outside of that audience will relate to. True Meanings follows Weller's internationally acclaimed 2017 album A Kind Revolution.
Weller recently turned 60: a milestone that has unquestionably had an impact on the feel, both lyrically and musically, of True Meanings, which comes across being the most singer-songwriter-style album he has ever made. However, it's also the most collaborative: with more guests involved than any record before. In addition to Weller's band, Rod Argent of the Zombies provides Hammond organ on "The Soul Searchers" and piano and Mellotron on "White Horses;" folk legends Martin Carthy and Danny Thompson add picked guitar and double bass respectively to "Come Along;" Little Barrie plays lead guitar on "Old Castles;" Lucy Rose sings backup on "Books;" and "Movin On" is the result of a "scratchy demo" on Paul's phone that was sent to Tom Doyle of the White Label project. Even Noel Gallagher makes a guest appearance.
Perhaps most surprisingly of all, especially given how personal and introspective True Meanings feels, lyrics for four of the 14 songs here were written, to Weller's melodies, by others. Connor O'Brien from Villagers came up with the words to opener "The Soul Searchers," while "Bowie," "Wishing Well" and the closing "White Horses" are all the work, lyrically, of Erland Cooper from Erland & The Carnival. True Meanings was produced by Weller except "The Soul Searchers," which was co-produced by Paul and Conor O'Brien and "Movin On" which was co-produced by Weller and White Label. The album was engineered and recorded by Charles Rees and mixed by Jan Stan Kybert.
True Meanings was recorded in just over three weeks at Weller's own Black Barn Studio with the aforementioned revolving cast of characters dropping in for a day here and there. The orchestration was added soon after and that was that. It is always a good sign when the recording of an album is swift, and here you can just hear that the man at the center of these songs is more focused and inspired than he has ever been.