For the past eight years or so, Jenny Lewis has been stuck in an Americana daydream that has produced some middling Rilo Kiley records, a fantastic solo debut with Acid Tounge
in 2009, and 2010's I'm Having Fun Now
, a collaborative album in which she completely outclassed her current boyfriend Jonathan Rice on a performance level.
For the charismatic lead singer of now defunct Rilo Kiley, a band that encapsulated early-to-mid-aughts indie rock so perfectly their 2002 album An Execution of All Things
should be filed away in the Library of Congress, her immerison in dusty, country-tinged guitar rock and wispy folk grew to define her musical persona for a whole new generation of fans. The country rock-influnces also allowed some grit and grime to invade her usually slick production, culling some of the fiery energy of her stage perfomances and injecting it into worn-in vocal parts that made Acid Tounge
Now Lewis returns with her second solo album Voyager
(out July 29), and, with the help of producer Ryan Adams, has turned her twangy Americana into melodic, easy-riding, Laurel Canyon soft-rock. The piece has allowed her literate lyricism to carry the throughline of her past work while unpacking the death of her estranged father and The Rilo Kiley break up.
The new So-Cal-centric sound seems appropriate for the former child actress who grew up in Los Angeles. It manages to recall the gorgeous, melodramatic emotional waves of Fleetwood Mac while hitting a little harder with her usual whip-smart songwriting. The confident, classic rock strut of "Just One of the Guys" might be a little too messy for Lindsay Buckingham, but strikes the perfect note of condscending insouciance, and too-cool-to-care kiss off: "I'm not gonna break for you/ I'm not gonna pray for you / I'm not gonna pay for you / that's not what ladies do."
The catchy, 70s FM rocker "Head Underwater" breathlessly elaborates on Lewis' emotional breakdown without being too on the nose, while the lazy guitar crescendos and loping vocal melodies of "Slippery Slopes" seem perfectly sunbaked and frayed.
Lewis wraps her trauma in the smoggy sunshine of Los Angeles, something that's both beautiful and deadly to live with. (400 Lincoln Ave, Milvale, Mr. Small's