March 21, 2019 Jenny Lewis – On The Line (Album Review)
Seldom would one encounter a celebrity artist who is proficient and prolific in both the acting and the music worlds. That is why if you are an Indie Pop–oriented music enthusiast and you ever find one, then you should immediately welcome the music of that artist into your collection. You will surely be in for a worthwhile delight. Take for instance, Jenny Lewis—the American singer-songwriter, musician, and actress who is best known in the Alternative music scene as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the now defunct Rilo Kiley, with which she had come up with four proper studio albums—from 2001’s Take-Offs and Landings to 2007’s Under the Blacklight.
Born on January 8, 1976, in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States, Lewis first gained prominence in the 1980s as a child actress. She began focusing on her musical preoccupation in the decade that followed, forming Rilo Kiley in 1998. After the band broke up in 2014, she concentrated on her solo music career, beefing up her own discography with its third, that year’s The Voyager.
And now, Lewis is ready to move forward with a new offering. Titled On The Line, her fourth oeuvre comes out on Friday, March 22, 2019 though Warner Bros. Records. It opens with the Beatles-que, piano-led, Gospel-tinged “Heads Gonna Roll”—a clear indication of Lewis’s introspective transformation. This is followed by the slightly playful and bluesy vibe of “Wasted Youth.”
With the ensuing lead single “Red Bull & Hennessy,” Lewis then returns the listener to the familiarly upbeat and melodic stomping ground of her former band, albeit still echoing her newfound subdued countryside frolicking. The mood and pace further slow down with “Hollywood Lawn”—something which is, after all, not new in the genre, as it harks to a similar excursion by Evan Dando of The Lemonheads (“My Drug Buddy”).
Still in a relaxed mode, “Do Si Do” is, however, stylistically different—trippy and shimmery like a proper Dreampop track; think of Mazzy Star (“Fade into You”) or The Cranberries (“Ode to My Family”) when these bands were being weary and wistful. And then there is the heartrending, slow, Pub-befitting piano ballad “Dogwood.” The piano preoccupation continues with “Party Clown,” but this time the groove takes the listener from a corner of the Pub’s bar to the lonely dancefloor.
With “Little White Dove,” Lewis then conjures her inner revolutionary Prince badge (“Kiss”). Another piano song, even slower and more rustic, plays next in the form of the Vaudeville-tinged “Taffy.” The heartbeat and the piano passion continue on in the title track, which slowly builds up with a lot of Pop Rock sensibilities, resonating faint echoes of Roxette (“Listen to Your Heart”) and even a bit of The Pretenders (“Don’t Get Me Wrong”).
Finally, Lewis aptly pays homage to her Indie roots by wrapping up On The Line with the sunny, upbeat, and melodic “Rabbit Hole,” as if enthralling her fans to follow her further into her sonic adventures backwards and then forwards.
On The Line is both a familiar and fresh undertaking—a good balance of Indie’s quirkiness and Pop’s sensibilities. Certainly maturing and her stylistic scope further broadening, Lewis proves that she still has lots of treats and tricks to pull from her hat of musical ideas. But all these were surely made more possible with the contributions of luminaries in the industry such as Ringo Starr, Beck, Ryan Adams, Don Was, Benmont Tench, and Jim Keltner.
Lewis can now be elevated onto the pantheon of Indie Pop darlings who used to be parts of their respective groups but who have been able eventually to soar on their own sonic wings—such as Juliana Hatfield (Blake Babies), Imogen Heap (Frou Frou), Neko Case (The New Pornographers), and Isobel Campbell (Belle and Sebastian). On The Line is for both Indie Popsters and connoisseurs of the so-called Easy-Listening Adult Contemporary Music. For these reasons Cryptic Rock gives her new album 4 out of 5 stars.