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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Lewis’ third album deserves to be heard

Published: September 5, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

“The Voyager,” Jenny Lewis’s third album, has a strong, beachy, Californian sound. The generally relaxed, light sound of the album starkly contrasts with the themes of the songs, which mainly touch on serious topics such as growing older, dealing with heartbreak and mid-life crises. Lewis does an interesting job of uniting an airy sound with serious topics, although the result is not always marvelous.

Jenny Lewis has been a big part of the West Coast’s indie scene; she started off as Rilo Kiley’s lead vocalist, although the group eventually broke up due to personal conflicts between the members. She is a part of “Jenny and Johnny,” a duo that includes her and her partner Jonathan Rice. The Voyager marks her sophomore solo release after “Acid Tongue,” released in 2008.

This album was released six years after the first one, and the growth of the artist is very apparent. Prior to the release of “The Voyager,” Jenny Lewis released a single titled “Completely Not Me” as a part of the “Girls” soundtrack. The song prepared the audience for the maturity, instrumentation and the inspirations that would later be seen in “The Voyager.”

The album starts off with “Head Underwater,” a very well-sung ballad with the usual heartbreaking, rich sound of Lewis’s voice, but unfortunately it does not act as a great introduction to the album. The predictable lyrics and the collaboration with Jonathan Rice results in the song sounding very much like a 1980s synth-pop piece. “She is Not Me” is the most representative of Jenny Lewis’ past work, and is a great song to have on the album. It has an acoustic feel and usual indie-music lyrics about the loss of love. It becomes, however, repetitive midway through the song.

“Just One Of The Guys” is the first released single of the songs and is also a very popular one. It has been getting publicity due to its accompanying hilarious music video featuring Hollywood stars like Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart. The song has been getting a lot of well-deserved attention since it is very well produced and has an extremely catchy chorus. The chorus has an interesting melody and is the best part of the song.

The next two songs, “Slippery Slope” and “Late Bloomer,” are average songs that do not add anything innovative to the album. The first song has a well performed bass guitar instrumentation, which makes it somewhat distinctive. “Late Bloomer” on the other hand has a strange folk music feel that adds a different flavor to the album. The rhyming in the song, which tries to rhyme Boston with often, is very awkward and unintentionally funny.

The entire album seems strongly influenced by ’80s rock bands like Fleetwood Mac. In fact the song “She’s Not Me” has a certain Stevie Nicks feel to it. The song in which the Fleetwood Mac influence is most visible is “You Can’t Outrun Them.” As the second collaboration with Jonathan Rice, the song has an ’80s influence but achieves nothing innovative with theme; in fact, at times it sounds almost dreary.

The next track, “Aloha and the Three Johns,” is a very different track in the album because it takes on a cool dance groove, which breaks the guitar-heavy indie theme of the album. The most pop heavy track is “Love U Forever,” which seems like it was a misplaced and unneeded song. The album closes with “The Voyager,” which is a perfect song to close the album due to its repetition with the name of the album.

All in all “The Voyager” is not a perfect album; in fact, it is not even close to being perfect. It is, however, part of a marvelous attempt of Jenny Lewis’ to bring her trademark style to the fore-front. If “Acid Tongue” was a good start to Lewis’s solo career, this is a perfect second step. The album is slow to grow on you, with some mind-blowing tracks like “Just One Of The Boys,” and it definitely deserves to be heard.