Artist: Jenny Lewis
Record Label: Warner Bros
Creativity and catharsis forge a soothing union and doesn’t Jenny Lewis know it. The Las Vegas songstress found solace in the inception of her third solo LP, ‘The Voyager’, the follow up to 2008’s sublime ‘Acid Tongue’. Lewis turned to music to guide her through a truly horrific time “After Rilo Kiley broke up (Lewis’ alt-rock band that was mothballed back in 2011) and a few really intense personal things happened, I completely melted down. It nearly destroyed me. I had such severe insomnia that, at one point, I didn’t sleep for five straight nights. Many of the songs on ‘The Voyager’ came out of the need to occupy my mind in the moments when I just couldn’t shut down”. Echoes of sleepless nights, sorrow and despair crop up on opening track ‘Head Underwater’ but with a curve ball pitch, the sonic delivery is not of mournful strings or morose tones, but that of poppy, country leanings, with an 80s sheen. Where’ ‘Acid Tongue’ was rough around the edges and stripped bare, ‘The Voyager’ is glossy and almost verging on the artificial.
Any shards of raw appeal make brief cameo appearances; ‘Slippery Slopes’ finds Lewis cooing sweetly over moaning guitars and crashing drums, whilst reflecting mournfully “I’m still into you” as if gazing longingly at the vacant space next to her in bed. The album’s title track and LP highlight caps off ‘The Voyager’ in cinematic style with orchestral nuances and the odd electronic flourish. The record itself gleams a pristine aesthetic but in its final moments when its polish has been removed, a coarse edge is exposed and one that buoys a lust and hunger to push boundaries but without over egging the pudding.
Defiance and purging of one’s soul are a mainstay amongst ‘The Voyager’s lifespan, and can be heard on ‘You Can’t Outrun ‘Em’, while ‘The New You’ documents social anxieties and struggling with sobriety but Lewis reassuringly declares “a new you every day/putting on a different face” as if to cleanse yesterday’s misgivings out of her being. Lewis’ latest effort sonically, is surprisingly upbeat, despite the period of “melting down” that the singer had to suffer, ‘The Voyager’ aurally is poles apart from its lyrical personality. In our own way we strive for perfection but the troubled singer has dolloped on so much gloss, her most recent work is so shiny it borders on the synthetic. ‘Late Bloomer’ could easily be a Shania Twain song and the Canadian country starlet almost feels like a major influence as the album is less alt-country and more “Islands In The Stream”. The LP’s cover portrays ‘The Voyager’ best; an image of Lewis adorns the sleeve in a double breasted blazer that is embellished with rainbows and stars, akin to a garment tailored by Care Bears and the critters from Rainbow Brite.
In attempting to deal with her own darkness, Lewis has embraced garish colours and developed a taste for the saccharine, all to ‘The Voyager’s detriment.
Word and Thoughts of Adam Williams