Album Review: Jenny Lewis, ‘The Voyager’

by Chad Liffmann on July 29, 2014

jenny lewis the voyager

Jenny Lewis is back!  And, she’s brought herself with her.  The Voyager is Lewis’ first solo record in six years, and appropriately named due to the long journey the new collection of songs took to find themselves together on a record.  Since Rilo Kiley officially split in 2011, Lewis involved her talented musicianship in a few endeavors, meanwhile she dealt with a long bout with insomnia and the death of her father.  The Voyager is a pronouncement of her strength and resilience.  The record enshrouds brutal honesty and confessions within a blanket of summer pop jangles and melodious hooks.

The record kicks off by diving right into the deep end with “Head Underwater”, a semi-summarizing rock song that encapsulates the emotions and observations that led to the creation of the album.  Lewis sings ‘I’ve been losing sleep / And I cannot sit still / I’m not the same woman / That you are used to’.  This song also sets the tone, reminiscent of 90’s Natalie Merchant, The Cranberries, and even Fleetwood Mac, complete with R.E.M.-esque jangling guitars, but brought up to modern standards with Lewis’ vocal sensibilities to the Alternative genre and garage rock revival. “Late Bloomer” is a prime example of Lewis stretching out vocally so to not be outdated by her surrounding instrumentation.  When “Love U Forever” begins, you may think you’re about to hear an updated version of “Jessie’s Girl”.  It ends up not straying too far from the 1981 classic, and includes some 80’s atmospheric electric guitar riffs. Taking all of these songs in context with each other, however, results in a complete record that sounds eclectic, never old.

The album’s pivotal moment comes in the grunge-tinged summer pop song, “Just One of the Guys”, a single produced by Beck, when Lewis sings, ‘When I look at myself / All I can see / I’m just another lady without a baby.’  It’s at this quiet and honest juncture that we realize (if we hadn’t already) that there is a lot of emotional depth to what could otherwise mistakingly be construed as surface-level cheeky female pop music.

If you were a fan of Lewis before now, it should be no surprise that The Voyager will take you back to your fandom roots.  If you weren’t a fan of Lewis before, then her open lyrics combined with her ability to stitch together music that balances gloss and toughness should win you over.  Credit to producer Ryan Adams, who’s rock aesthetic has undoubtedly found its way into Lewis’ new sound.  Whether you’re on board or not, she’s doing her thing and proud of it.  She sings on the title track that ‘The Voyagers in every boy and girl / If you wanna get to heaven / Get out of this world’.  Perhaps, in all of our personal struggles, we have felt this challenge and/or realization.  These honest words are among many similar that flow freely from one of the finest records of the year.

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The Voyager will be released today, July 29th, 2014.

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