Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Album Review: Jenny Lewis - On The Line

Jenny Lewis
On the Line
*** out of *****

On 2014's The Voyager Jenny Lewis teamed with producers like Ryan Adams and Beck to create a solid sound, rooted in pop rock of the 70's, as she spun her mix of specific lyrics in singer/songwriter fashion channeling Stevie Nix and Jackson Browne. On the Line continues a lot of those same styles (Beck and Adams back producing, Nix and Browne comparisons are stronger) but Lewis scales down the musical surroundings relaxing the tempo, sound, and pace to focus more on her singing and lyrics which are top notch, but at times the slowed down musical outings drag things down, ending in a mixed bag complete effort. 

Lewis lyrics are immediately engaging on opener "Heads Gonna Roll" (an album highlight) as road trips with narcoleptic poets are described beautifully with the duality of relationships summed up nicely via the ending, "A little bit of hooking up is good for the soul/Heads gonna roll". The album starts on this high of a track before "Wasted Youth" finds Lewis dropping some catchy "do-do-do's" in with her lyrics in front of the first single "Red Bull and Hennessy". While the title drink may give you energy, this track feels oddly slow and drained, as if taking a Pat Benatar early 80's number and zapping it of it's dance ready strength.

This lack of energy is intentional on the lazy "Hollywood Lawn" which finds Lewis questioning while clicking her ruby slippers with differing results before another odd downer "Do-Si-Do" arrives more ethereal, closing with a plea to turn the stereo up until everything rattles, which queerly sounds more like a house party of one in the middle of nodding off then a rally to arms. These tunes all show some charms but combined with the personal piano ballad "Dogwood" the pacing at the center of this album is lacking.

Things improve towards the end, "Party Clown" is a twisted jaunt with excellent lyrics and a rolling beat around layers of piano swells as she talks about biting the devils apples and getting head in the shadows of Texas before the bass grooving of "Little White Dove" deals with heartbreaking hospital visits to her estranged mother who was dying from cancer. Benmont Tench helps produce and play throughout the record but perhaps even larger is Lewis dissolution of of her 12-year relationship with singer-songwriter Jonathan Rice who may just be the inspiration behind "On the Line".

The title track is a winner with its rebounding from a broken heart feel and a cool vocal play on Caroline-a as closer "Rabbit Hole" is fun/light musically while doing a good job of staying away from temptations including dope, love and not believing in The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

An engaging songwriter who tackles the difficult world from a unique point of view, mixing up the modern day with past clichés wonderfully; who else can write about heroin and Candy Crush successfully side by side? Musically On the Line could use some more energy, re-sequencing or direction to spice up the sound, however, Lewis is a talent and always worth hearing as she progresses through her career.
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

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