fri 10/04/2020

CD: Jenny Lewis - The Voyager | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Jenny Lewis - The Voyager

CD: Jenny Lewis - The Voyager

California girl's return confounds expectations

Out of this world: 'The Voyager' by Jenny Lewis

Context is everything. It’s the difference between that “lady without a baby” line that’s got everybody talking delivered straight up, and the knowing smile and cross-dressing Hollywood actresses that come with it in the song’s accompanying video.

Context is everything. It’s the difference between that “lady without a baby” line that’s got everybody talking delivered straight up, and the knowing smile and cross-dressing Hollywood actresses that come with it in the song’s accompanying video. It’s why Jenny Lewis, child starlet turned indie rock frontwoman turned accomplished alt-country singer-songwriter, is that rare artist who has made not only the best album for herself at every stage of her career, but also the one that her fans needed to hear.

Depending on your reading of “Just One of the Guys”, it’s a song about confounding expectations - and that’s exactly what Lewis does throughout The Voyager, her first album under her own name since 2008’s Acid Tongue. Gone are the dresses and short-shorts that accompanied previous incarnations as an indie heartthrob and fashion icon; in are Gram Parsons-inspired nudie suits and vintage Adidas. As an accomplished and unashamed veteran of the boys’ club that was 2000s indie rock Lewis has never been one for “what ladies do”, and nor have the mischievous, sexual, heartbroken, ambiguous female characters that punctuate her songwriting.

It’s hard to think of songs this poppy as slow burners, but lyrically Lewis is like the best girl groups of the 1960s: all sunny harmonies masking painful subject matter the listener is likely to miss until she is singing along. Album opener “Head Underwater” is as close to perfect as they come; all breathy, Rumours-era Stevie Nicks vocals and two fingers to mortality. “She’s Not Me” is Carole King in Laurel Canyon with a contemporary sheen and the uproariously awkward druggy threesome in “Slippery Slopes” has producer Ryan Adams’ proggier influences all over it (“Aloha and the Three Johns” is even filthier). Instead of a saccharine tribute to her estranged, deceased father, Lewis instead shares the prairie howl of “You Can’t Outrun ‘Em”, while gorgeous album closer “The Voyager” is the insomniac’s stream of consciousness delivered in a haze of cigarette smoke.

Overleaf: watch the "Just One of the Guys" video, featuring Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart

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