’90s is the New ’90s
Although I prefer Lewis’s album, Spoon’s is way more obvious. Regardless, it’s hard to find a whole lot to say about that band, as they don’t have much of an identity. It’s the opposite for Lewis, who exudes the personal even if she doesn’t want to. Seems a lot of people are confused by The Voyager, probably her finest solo album to date. Give it time. It’s as plain as the nose on your face.
JENNY LEWIS – The Voyager (Warner Bros.): Sixteen years and ten albums later, here’s Jenny, who last we heard her was recording with reedy-piped boyfriend Jonathan Rice purporting a fun-loving life. Here’s JL, whose last solo effort saw her confess acid trips and lament it was a bad man’s world. Here’s the heart and soul of Rilo Kiley, who narrated the journey of the little band that could on last year’s retrospective comp Rkives. So what about Jenny Lewis, 2014? She’s The Voyager, dunking her head underwater, admitting she can’t be just one of the guys, bitching her boy’s new girl isn’t her. Most notably—since no one can seem to shut the fuck up about it—she’s another lady without a baby with the window of that possibility closing a bit more every day. But if I know anything about Jenny Lewis, and I do, it’s that she’d probably be pissed if you cornered her as a ‘female songwriter.’ Well, sure, she is a female songwriter, but her music is human music first, rattling off character portraits of French gypsy-smokers and tales of vacation with her potential hubby whose personality splits in three and gives her grief about middle agin’. She dips into light disco a la Under the Blacklight (“She’s Not Me,” or the more obvious “Slippery Slopes”) and digs her heels into her alt-country curiosities (“Aloha and the Three Johns”). She sings about love walking out the door, sometimes because of her (“Remember the night I destroyed it all / when I told you I cheated?”) and sometimes because of him (“It’s what tore us apart, you perfected the art / of making it all about you”). She wades through the past of being an adolescent and the Twin Towers falling, walks on the present with where her old loves are now, looks forward to what might still happen. And that’s The Voyager. That moment where past and present and future collide. Where you’re flipping through the NY Times in a 7-11 and feel a flood of ether consume you. Where “if you want to get to heaven,” you have to “get out of this world.” A
SPOON – They Want My Soul (Loma Vista): If you told me Britt Daniel had a personality, I’d believe you, but I’d ask just where in Spoon’s catalogue we get a whiff of what kinda guy he is. Certainly not here, arguably their most accessible album to date. Despite the jams (the thrilling bass pound ‘n drums of “Rainy Taxi,” the ‘80s synth drops on closer “New York Kiss”), and the jams are good, I don’t get much out of lovelorn lines as lame as “if you leave, I’ll never sing another tune.” And with the exception, maybe, of “Do You,” where Daniel leans on that chorus question with something akin to emotional earnestness, there ain’t much in the way he inflects. And that’s fine. Spoon were never my go-to group for gripping narrative. They’re an ensemble that play off each other well, guys who’ve been doing this long enough to know when they’ve got something good. In other words, they’re professionals. Which is the best and worst thing I could say about them. A MINUS