on 19 September 2010
There is no doubt that whatever Jenny Lewis turns he hand to, she is pretty damn good at it. Her previous solo work and the albums that she released with Rilo Kiley are all excellent offerings, each different from the others. That's why I was so keen to sample her new record in collaboration with Johnathan Rice. I wanted to know what direction she was headed in and how it sat with her other releases.
So, what is the verdict? This is a good album and for large chunks of it, Lewis is at her very best. There is no doubt that she drives it and there are elements of me that feel that Rice is almost hanging onto her coat tails. I have Johnathan Rice's first solo release from around 2005 and whilst it is a reasonable album, it is nowhere near on par with the calibre of work Lewis has been putting out through the years. It strikes me that this combination kind of suits him as vehicle to get himself in the limelight. I'm sure we'll find out from the forthcoming live shows scheduled in the US....
In terms of the album itself, I was slightly surprised, although not disappointed, with the nature of the material. Lewis' solo work to date has been a lot more stripped back and rootsy than the style of songs she put out with Rilo Kiley. Her previous release, Acid Tongue, seemed to confirm the direction that she was headed in and she even stated herself in interviews that she liked the freedom she had with her solo projects compared to the band scenario. However, for my money, large parts of this album return to where she was with Rilo Kiley....Americana / alt country with some songs taking on more of a pop feel.
Does it work? To an extent, yes. If this is the direction she was headed back in, however, I feel she would have been better doing it with Rilo Kiley. Her chemistry with Blake Sennett as a writing and performing duo is evident and I don't find this chemistry as apparent with Rice. Some of the songs, whilst very good and listenable tunes, are over powered by his vocals and Lewis can sometimes seem lost in the background which is a pity as we know she has much to offer than a background vocalist, even if that wasn't the intention. In addition, the input of Jason Boesel and Pierre de Reeder is very evident, making me wonder why Rilo Kiley didn't just work on a new release.
Despite all of this, I don't want to appear overly critcal as this a very listenable record and one that I like. The tracks sung predominately by Lewis are extremely good and I get the feeling will come across very good live. Track four, Big Wave, jumps out hugely and really gathers momentum as the song charges on. It reminded me very much of Portions for Foxes the way that it builds throughout. Lewis' voice retains that captivating, dreamy edge to it on the excellent Straight Edge of the Blade which could easily appear on Rilo Kiley's debut album, Take Offs and Landings. Other highlights include Just Like Zeus in which Lewis really takes charge of the vocal exchanges, and Committed which is a stonking end to the record and could close any live show.
Overall, another great offering from Jenny Lewis, perhaps just a shame that it wasn't with Rilo Kiley which could have moved it up another notch or two.
on 29 November 2010
Jenny Lewis has always worked well whilst in collaboration mode. `I'm Having Fun Now' is no exception to this general rule, with Lewis effectively working with boyfriend and touring partner Johnathan Rice on this brilliant record.
Scissor Runner kicks things off, a bright and breezy opener which ends kicking and screaming. Once again, Lewis and Rice manage to write some exceptional lyrics, with Switchblade and Big Wave really standing out here, the latter reflecting on the recessions affect in California. Elsewhere on the album, While Men Are Dreaming could easily have come out of a Execution Of All Things session, whilst Slavedriver deals with S&M and Straight Edge of the Blade cool-ly tackles sexuality. Committed, a favourite live opener, ends the album with quirky and quick-fire lyrics, ending an eleven track storm of an album in style.
Overall, this album stands remarkably well with Jenny Lewis' other records, mainly because it is something completely different to all her other work. As the duo stated before the release of the album, this record was never meant to be a Jenny Lewis or a Johnathan Rice record, but a Jenny and Johnny record. This is certainly the case, and `I'm Having Fun Now' is both an original and frankly, brilliant album and certainly some of the best music to come out of California in recent years.
Jenny and Johnny are currently embarking on an unusually large UK tour, so go and see them. The new songs come off very well live (particularly Slavedriver and Big Wave) and their sets include both Johnathan Rice songs (End of the Affair) and Lewis classics (Carpetbaggers). Go and see them and have some fun!
on 3 April 2011
There is no doubt that Jenny Lewis has some serious talent. Her angelic twang breathes life into the most prosaic of songs which is a good job here. That is not to say that this is a horrible album. Far from it, there are some great tracks that illuminate I'm Having Fun Now. However, much of the album is predictable and some of the tracks where Jonathan Rice takes the lead are a tad prosaic.
There are some gems here though. Scissor Runner and My Pet Snakes are an energetic and fun start to proceedings, much like Big Wave which has obvious pop sensibilities reminiscent of Britpop at it's most retro. In fact most of the tracks amount to little more than postcards from Teddy Boy era America with tinges of contemporary indie sentiment. To be fair, the lyrics are often wryly nostalgic rather than cloyingly sentimental. Still, the overall mood is one of lightweight, foot-tapping enjoyment.
Two things lift this album above the ordinary though. Firstly, whilst Lewis, only sporadically on lead vocals, is excellent, the backing vocals (provided by either protagonist) are often innovative and imaginatively applied. They add layers to songs that would otherwise struggle to live long in the memory. Secondly, on the two tracks that they slow the tempo down, Switchblade and Slavedriver, they manage to slip into much more evocative territory with swirling atmosphere and oodles of pathos through bittersweet lyrics. They are both masterpieces of ambient indie pop.
All in all, this will certainly provide the listener with a sometimes poignant, sometimes frenetic listen but it will probably not go down as one of Jenny Lewis' best efforts.
on 19 September 2012
I was a year late buying this album, and only picked up on it when I heard Big Wave on BBC 6Music radio. I bought the album on the strength of that song and I'm glad I did because several other tracks are just as good.
To be fair there are one or two tracks that don't hit the mark for me so I wouldn't say it's 5 star great album, but it's worthy of 4 stars based upon some great songs (in my opinion My Pet Snakes, Big Wave, Animal) and several others that flow nicely and use nice vocals.
It's an album that feels distinctly "summer" to me and it's been an ever present in my car CD changer since I bought it. I can't recommend it more than that! Buy it and enjoy it.
on 4 October 2011
I bought this cd about two months ago now, and I still can't stop playing it. Jenny and Johnny's voices compliment each other well, and the songs are all well written. It's worth listening to the lyrics. My favourite is Animal (it's kinda catchy) and I love the dream-like quality to While Men are Dreaming. This one's worth the money! I only wish there were more songs.
on 8 September 2011
A really cool album. First saw them on tv at Glasto this year - they did Animal in the studio - wow, what an amazing sound. They harmonize brilliantly with each other especially on this track. The others vary in mood but i assure you they are well worth a listen. Buy it an give em a chance.
on 13 February 2011
This 36-minute long effort will please anyone that likes the kind of US music you find between Fleetwood Mac (mk II) and Bill Callahan. It is very much "Laurel Canyon in 2010", a bit rockier, a tiny bit indier. Though it is not an album you might put in the "Top 100 albums ever" lists, it is not the throwaway LP you could have feared, and it is one that will bear many listenings.