September 25, 2014 Johnny Lewis – Johnny Lewis (Album Review)
Originally a producer, and now a singer and songwriter, Johnny Lewis’s musical path has seen him travel from Minneapolis to Colorado and now to New York. Having studied and excelled in the production of electronic music, it was only down the road that he discovered his sound, a rich blend of dream pop, in the vein of The Byrds, and The Beach Boys, with a take on Americana and more than a slice of that electronic sound which he previously conjured for bands like The Larva Ink, Lizzo, Bokonon and many more. His self-titled album, Johnny Lewis, brings all that skill and experience together.
The Sound of Johnny Lewis is a little unlike anything heard before. Yes, there are touching points, for sure, but this is one heck of a unique album. The production is particularly strong, not surprising considering Lewis’ background. He is able to create worlds for and within his songs, which morph and move in ways which are both surprising and, at the same time, fitting given the detail Lewis has gone into on them. Opener “Ancient Know Name” starts off with the familiar howl of a steel guitar, perhaps fooling you that this might be another Americana album. But soon the approach is clear, and Lewis’s voice is more of the classic 60’s dream pop school, with the result being a true melding of both styles.
Yes, there is a lot going on in Lewis’ sound, but he manages to maintain control throughout his debut album. The huge, eerie, echoing intro of “Familiar Chime” with all looped vocals and samples soon cuts into a solo acoustic guitar. The songs, in general, build and develop, going in different, unexpected directions. Lewis is an artist not afraid to go forward, which takes honesty and guts. His plans do not always come to fruition, but that honesty, that going out on a ledge, is always there.
The track “Uneasy Love” is rolling, with a more rock feel to it, whilst “Minnesota” offers a sweet, integrated guitar/drum loop which is the album at its best. Johnny Lewis may be halfway between Sweet England-era Jim Moray and Bon Iver-era Bon Iver in that it draws one into its sound, allowing the atmosphere to build, and allowing the listener to become part of it. There are quieter, more laid-back moments, like the relaxed “Back To Lakes”, which works well as a contrast and shows that the artist has range. Songs like “Stuck On You” show grit and craft, all around, by combining alt-country/dream pop with elements of electronic music.
The album keeps up that blend all the way through. Closer “Little” has a strong alt-country roll to it, feeling ethereal, almost trippy in a road movie kind of way, whilst maintaining the beguiling, interesting, believable and soulful nature of the work as a whole. CrypticRock give this album 4 out of 5 stars.