Pick of the Geek – Jenny Lewis The Voyager
Jenny Lewis has had some sort of a life – child actress, cult indie-rock frontwoman, solo singer-songwriter – and every messy moment of it is alchemised into beautiful art on this 2014 album. If her debut solo album Rabbit Fur Coat seemed to be a repository for all the material too stark and stripped-back for her day job with Rilo Kiley, this picks up exactly where that band’s underrated final album Under the Blacklight left off. Fans disappointed by that record need not worry, though. This time those glorious ’70s country-rock melodies aren’t in the service of over-familiar character studies about the seedy side of LA life, but a series of painful, beautiful and witty autobiographical reminisces. Singles Just One of the Guys and She’s Not Me turn childlessness, insecurity and aging into irresistible, confident pop, themes reprised to more propulsive effect on the hooky, riff-driven You Can’t Outrun ‘Em. Some of the lyrics appear so personal you almost feel like a voyeur listening to them, particularly the dissection of a disastrous, drug-fuelled open relationship in Slippery Slopes. The masterpiece is the five-minute central track Late Bloomer, whose major-to-minor-key shifts support a poignant, beautifully observed story about a young Lewis facing up to sexual experimentation and sexual jealousy on a trip across Europe. Like all great narrative songs, it has enough detail to feel specific and enough heart to feel universal.