Key Tracks: "She's Not Me," "Just One of the Guys," "The New You," "The Voyager"
“I’ve been wearing all black since the day it started.”
Jenny Lewis, formally of the wildly popular indie band Rilo Kiley, will release The Voyager on July 29, 2014, her first solo album in 6 years.With a mix of LA power-pop and Fleetwood Mac realness, this album is jam packed full of darkness and light like a well written story or poem. From start to finish, it is worth experiencing this new chapter in her career and, possibly, her life. Lewis somehow knows how to mix alternative indie with country and sugary-sweet pop magic. I mean, it has to be great when Ryan Adams (THE RYAN ADAMS) produces your record.
The album opens up with “Head Underwater” with the lyrics: “I’ve been wearing all black since the day it started.” It is a warning shot saying, “Look, I’m not the girl from Rilo Kiley. I ain’t even the girl from Jenny and Johnny (duo with beau Johnathan Rice).” We get it! There is “a little bit of magic” in all of us. The suit Lewis wears in her cover art proves that. The first song really is a great beginning track to the album as it preludes into “She’s Not Me.”
The song takes something most people go through in life: he or she is not me, thus that new relationship they have will NEVER be great. If you have ever thought that, you understand the emotion this song is trying to portray. The song, with its Fleetwood Mac vibe, shows off Lewis’ heart while not over-singing to bring out the emotion. She uses lyrics instead. Lyrics like: “I used to think you could save me. I’ve been wander lately. Heard she’s having your baby and everything’s so amazing. It goes on and on and on and on. But she’s not me, she’s easy.” The song is so relatable, yet it’s sort of nauseating.
Thankfully, the next track comes quickly. “Just One of the Guys,” was produced by Beck. The video for this song, directed by Lewis herself, is possibly the best thing in the entire world. Picture this: Lewis with her whimsical magical suit with just her pals K. Stew (my crush), Brie Larson, and Anne Hathaway. Not only do they bring back track suits, but they kick the ass of gender norms in this song. Again, another song where Lewis brings up “another lady without a baby.” These honest lyrics can hit close to home to many listeners, much like myself, who scroll baby photo after baby photos feeling slightly insignificant and most definitely lacking true happiness. But the truth is, babies don’t solve problems.
We are already 12 minutes into the album. It doesn’t feel like 12 minutes has passed, yet, we press on. The album has fluidity, which is rare to find in solo artists AFTER they have been quite successful with their previous band. “Slippery Slopes” is the next song with a guitar riff similar to The Decemberists, yet it’s quite an unremarkable song. In interviews, Lewis talks about the events leading up to The Voyagers. Between 2008 and now, when her last solo album came out, her band broke up and her father passed away. She completely fell apart while all her friends and family moved on with their lives. “Late Bloomer,” is a storytelling song dedicated to her father.
The song “You Can’t Outrun ‘Em,” brings out the country rock in Lewis’ music. It reminds me of early Reba McIntire. The song “The New You” takes on a different approach. She is specifically talking about someone in mind: “When the twin towers fell and it all went to hell, I knew you would be leaving… making it all about you. I can read your fortune, just hold out your palm.” The song, much like the album, is an easy listen with a sharpness in her tone. Perhaps she is still bitter from the breakup, but I’ll still sway back and forth listening.
The last song, “The Voyager,” is what I think a song sounds like getting ready for a nap. I think that’s a perfect to end a very thematic album. This album is Lewis’ heart and soul. It culminates her loneliness, insomnia, and heartache. Her highs and lows fill the room as a finished product, which I think was void in her last solo album. There are a few lines that are cringe worthy in the album. The silver lining is that the three or four awkward and groaning parts quickly fade away into some guitar riff or echoing vocal.
I liked the album. Each track has its own quirkiness and relateability without being too emotional. The album is likable and enjoyable to listen to, yet it’s slightly disturbing how enjoyable it is listening to an album about love and loss (breakups and heartache aren’t enjoyable last time I checked.) Lewis’ personality is not void in this album either, which is possibly why I was so attracted to it. Cohesive, emotional, and easy to listen to, yet it’s not my favorite album. Isn’t that like life though? Some parts we like and some parts are far too uncomfortable. The Voyager is enjoyable, and that is good enough for me.