Zachary Cole Smith has overcome a multitude of problems to make this intensely powerful album
Jenny Lewis - 'The Voyager'
Ryan Adams helps out on an underwhelming outing
The resulting album – helmed by Adams and featuring further collaborations with Beck and Johnathan Rice, Lewis' boyfriend and fellow Jenny And Johnny member – explores death, depression and relationship struggles so jauntily that her heartbreak is almost masked. Lewis has form hiding her struggles with a smile; a re-read of Rilo Kiley's tongue-in-cheek album sleeves, 2001's 'Take Offs And Landings' in particular, proves that.
But Lewis, now 38, can no longer hide behind an indie band. Her angst is far more pronounced now, and her attempts to soften the blows feel jarring. On 'Love U Forever’ – the title changed by Adams from the original 'Love Him Forever' – she's reminiscing about meeting a man when they were “kids” wearing peace signs in “the daisy age”. With electric riffs and shimmering harmonies, its swoon of a chorus is one of the album's best moments, but it comes with an undercurrent of loss. The same story appears elsewhere: confessions of “losing my mind” on the title track; of taking drugs and tripping in the bath on ‘Head Underwater’; of drifting apart from friends on the Beck-produced, ’60s-tinged ‘Just One Of The Guys’.
Even when Lewis documents the death of her estranged father on ‘You Can’t Outrun ’Em’, she hides the sadness behind a sunny West Coast number, sung with a country lilt over steel strings.
Ultimately, the pop sheen Adams applies on 'The Voyager' is at odds with Lewis' songs. By always opting for directness, he's failed to let her do justice, musically, to the darkness of her inspiration.
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