Jenny Lewis’ ‘The Voyager’, her third solo effort, is the first of her solo works that I’ve enjoyed as much as her work in Rilo Kiley. It feels like she’s finally shaken off the burden of her work in Rilo Kiley and made an album that would have been a solid follow up to Blacklight. I have to admit that while I liked her first two efforts, Rabbit Fur Coat and Acid Tongue, I never loved them as much as her work in Rilo Kiley, leading me to think that the real magic was in the recipe of Rilo Kiley. But with what she’s done on ‘The Voyager’ it feels like she’s has finally stopped trying to make an album that sounds like Rilo Kiley and just embraced making a great album full of catchy hooks and deep, honest lyrics.
The album starts off on a toe tapping high note with Head Underwater, a terrific opening to set the tone and highlight what’s to come with the rest of the album.
Then comes the addictive ‘She’s Not Me’, a catchy heartbreaker about Lewis comparing herself to an exes new girlfriend. She sings “all those times we were making love/I never thought we’d be breaking up/ did you tell her I’m crazy?” As a credit to Lewis, she’s not afraid of putting herself in an unfavorable light, instead of trying to hide her warts she lets them all hang out, “Remember the night I destroyed it all/when I told you I’d cheated/and you punched through the dry wall/I took you for granted/when you were all that I needed.”
The first single, the Beck produced ‘Just One of the Guys’ is such a hooky song that will have you humming it long after it’s ended.
‘Slippery Slopes’ musically sounds like the title track of ‘Under the Blacklight’ on psychedelics. Nearly matching sonically, opened up and tweaked giving it a hazy, trippy feel. The lyrics set it apart from Blacklight though as Lewis hypnotically ponders an open relationship while on the road.
‘Late Bloomer’ finds a 16 year old away from home alone in Paris and being opened up to the world around her for the first time. Lewis purrs as she explains having a crush on a new friend “How could I resist her/I had longed for a big sister/and I wanted to kiss her/but I hadn’t the nerve.” Which eventually leads to a threesome “Forgive me my candor/but I just had to have her/and at the time I didn’t mind/sharing with him”. ‘You Can’t Outrun Em’ is a fun throwaway that sounds like Stevie Nicks era Fleetwood Mac. The album concludes perfectly with its title track, a quiet little anthem that feels small and personal and epic all at once.
With ‘The Voyager’ Lewis has carefully crafted a sunny day album of discontent. The results are perhaps the best new album I’ve heard this year. An album that embraces its various influences, paying homage to many music styles and time periods without ever marrying itself to any specific one. It’s a rare treat to hear something that feels as timeless as ‘The Voyager’.