Jenny Lewis has infuriated, enchanted, annoyed and charmed in equal measure over an illustrious career. The former Rilo Kiley front woman is always worth checking out. When she gets it right ("More Adventurous" and "Rabbit Fur Coat") she is the top of the premier division. In this new album "Voyager" she has enlisted Ryan Adams in most of the production duties although Beck and her love interest Jonathan Rice are also present.
The result is a bright and colourful as the rather lurid trouser suit that Lewis dons on the cover. This is a warm slice of Californian pop music typified by the bouncy "Aloha & The 3 Johns" which could soundtrack a summer vacation. Lewis voice throughout is at its expressive best although the album cannot quite work out what it wants to be. There some great songs present not least the sumptuous "Just one of the guys" where Lewis moves into confessional mode charting the steady tick of her biological clock and recognising that "I'm just another lady without a baby". The rocking power pop of "Slippery Slopes" echoes Rilo Kiley of the "Under the Backlight" era, whilst the title track is the sort of sweet anthem that the OC and other programmes of its ilk would have once drawn upon to great effect. The jingle jangle of "Late Bloomer" is also very endearing and will replay further listens.
The doubts emerge on songs like "Head Underwater" which for its pop sheen actually sounds like Haim. Others like "Love U Forever" suffer from lyrics that feel lifted from a primary school poetry competition not least "when I met you you were just a boy and you were tongue tied from wearing corduroy, when you kissed me I was so annoyed". Indeed at this point the finger of blame should perhaps be firmly pointed at Adams who could have been exercising tighter control at the production desk and not looking to record the female version of his own flawed "Rock n Roll". Jenny Lewis has a great album still lurking inside her and with just more cohesion and unity "The Voyager" might have been it. As a record it certainly has its moments and a number of songs from the top drawer, yet its warm pop radio aesthetic is lacking in grit and rawness. Its fair to say that is is a good album but not a great one
Review by Red on Black