Top positive review
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The Voyager - a joy
on 1 August 2014
Jenny Lewis has a rich and strong back catalogue of albums, recordings and collaborations. Perhaps surprisingly this is just her second official ‘solo’ outing having shared billing on albums with The Watson Twins and boyfriend Johnathan Rice. Much has been made of Lewis’ time to make this record, with recent interviews citing insomnia and personal issues delaying the recording process. Indeed, Lewis was at one stage in the habit of releasing one record each year back to back. The time taken over writing this album has clearly paid off and it is one of Lewis’ most coherent albums, particularly when compared to the still excellent Acid Tongue.
Lyrically, Lewis still has it. ‘Head Underwater’, perhaps one of Lewis’ finest openers, details her personal struggles and battles with insomnia, whilst ‘Late Bloomer’ (a personal favourite) sets out a story involving a trip to Paris, a girl called Nancy and much candour. ‘Love U Forever’ has a lyrical complexity that goes beyond a lovesick ballad and, as ever, Lewis combines a happy façade with darkness. This works well with the up-beat and summer feel of the album, which also sees songs such as ‘Aloha and the Three Johns’, inspired by her touring bands visit to Hawaii on the Acid Tongue tour, pickup from many of the themes on ‘I’m Having Fun Now’ and the latter half of ‘Under the Blacklight’. ‘Slippery Slopes’ even begins in a similar style to Rilo Kiley’s last album. Elsewhere, ‘She’s Not Me’ is one of the best pop songs of 2014 and sounds like an instant classic. Lead single ‘Just One of the Guys’, originally performed during the Jenny and Johnny tour of 2010/11, is infectious and cool, backed up by a humorous video worth checking out.
Some criticism has been levelled at Ryan Adams’ production (namely in a piece by the NME) which seems to point to a ‘polished’ and almost over produced final product. Indeed, Adams insisted on only a few takes for each song and refused to allow Lewis to listen back to what they had recorded. However I would disagree with this criticism and see The Voyager’s sound as a logical progression from Under the Blacklight, Acid Tongue and I’m Having Fun Now. Lewis’ style has evolved considerably since the classic Rabbit Fur Coat, and The Voyager represents a further progression. Ending with the title track is a bold move, but it works well here, the song reminiscent of the title track from Acid Tongue, although this time featuring backing vocals from First Aid Kit and lush strings.
Overall, this is an excellent album from Lewis and easily a contender for best album of 2014. It is particularly refreshing to see Lewis’ collaborations behind the scenes, with Adams, Beck and Johnathan Rice in production roles. What results is a confident, strong and coherent set of 10 songs – The Voyager is a joy.