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FUV's New Dig: Jenny Lewis

by Darren DeVivo
A A
photo by Autumn de Wilde

Jenny Lewis
The Voyager
Warner Bros. Records

Jenny Lewis has led a very long and active career. She was a child actor, landing her first television gig at the age of ten. She appeared in numerous television series, made-for-TV movies and even a handful of theatrical films. But by the late ‘90s, Jenny turned her attention toward music, and she co-founded the band Rilo Kiley in 1998. Over the course of twelve years, Rilo Kiley became a formidable indie rock act that eventually transitioned to major label, alternative rock darlings. After releasing four albums together, Rilo Kiley ground to a halt in 2010.

Even while Rilo Kiley was still an active band, Jenny Lewis started branching out into several other projects. Starting in 2002, she recorded and toured with the band The Postal Service before beginning work on her first solo album in 2004. That first album, 2006’s Rabbit Fur Coat, featured The Watson Twins assisting on backing vocals. Jenny followed that with Acid Tongue in 2008. With Rilo Kiley quietly going dormant, Jenny’s next project would be a full blown collaboration with her boyfriend, Johnathan Rice. Calling themselves Jenny and Johnny, they released their only album to date, I’m Having Fun Now, in 2010. That brings us to The Voyager, Jenny’s third solo album and her first in six years.

The Voyager was slowly created during a difficult period in Jenny’s life in which she was coping with the breakup of Rilo Kiley and dealing with several other intense personal matters, including the 2010 death of her father. All these occurrences took a toll on her and she turned to songwriting to keep herself occupied. Ryan Adams and Candy Butchers’ frontman Mike Viola produced the bulk of The Voyager, with a couple of songs produced by Jenny and Johnathan Rice and one by Beck. Jenny has credited Adams with sparking the recording after a lengthy period of trudging through the creative process.

The album is brimming with sun-kissed pop songs that are anointed with the essence of California’s Laurel Canyon music scene. Underneath the bright melodies and crystal clear production are the smart, witty and biting lyrics that one comes to expect from Jenny. The songs on The Voyager mix reality with fiction and address wide-ranging issues like breakups and aging. It sometimes sounds as if the Go-Go’s were performing songs that featured lyrics written by Randy Newman from a female perspective.

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