Ever since her days in Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis has had a way of speaking for her fellow females. There’s her voice, a bird-like thing with surprising heft that has the ability to hit you square in the heart. But Lewis’s biggest gun has always been her lyrics, which seem to get better with every album. On The Voyager, Lewis and producer bud Ryan Adams shave off some of the singer’s country twang, trading it in for a decade-spanning studio rock sound that fluidly moves between New Wave slick and early Fleetwood warmth. In a similar way, The Voyager’s songs fluctuate between heart-on-your-sleeve openness and a sly, tongue-in-cheek wit. At 38, Lewis is still tackling feelings of self-doubt, but here we find her evoking a newfound sure-footedness. Early on, she offers up “She’s Not Me,” a bluesy number about infidelity and insecurity that trance-channels Bonnie Raitt from the very first guitar pass. “When I look at myself, all I can see / I’m just another lady without a baby,” Lewis intones over a sing-songy hook for “Just One of the Guys.” Later, the album’s closing track pairs a swelling string arrangement with one of Lewis’s signature soaring choruses: “The Voyagers in every boy and girl / If you want to get to heaven get out of this world.” In that way, The Voyager is as real as anything Lewis has made — a potent mix of pain, laughter, and starry-eyed dreaminess that aims for the heart and nails its target.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
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