Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Favorite Albums of 2014

The Voyager / Jenny Lewis

Maybe it's a girl thing, but I drag my feet when it comes to Jenny Lewis.  (Note that this is the LAST post in my Favorite Albums of 2014.) She's like the cool girl that everyone else in school adores -- not the homecoming queen, but the smart pretty one with quirky fashion sense. (If this were Heathers, she'd be Winona Ryder.)  And, face it, I'm jealous of her indie It Girl status.

And yet, when I finally sit down and listen to her albums, her songs get stuck in my head, and the lyrics eerily reflect my own outlook on life.  She spins a world in which everything is tentative, provisional, unreliable, a worldview perfectly reflected by her wary, waifish voice.

I might as well give into it. This is her third album, and I've liked every single one of them.  Who am I kidding?

 From what I can tell, Jenny Lewis is not the kind of chick that men ignore. Yet here she is, clinging to a relationship in which she does NOT have the upper hand ("bet you tell her I'm crazy") and slowly coming to the realization that the Other Woman's strength is precisely that she is not quite such as handful as our girl Jenny.

"She's not me / She's easy" -- maybe for you guys, that's an easy equation to work out.  But for me and my (intentionally or not ) complicated female friends, watching this play out is HARD. I've been there; I've done that. But in the long run....

I love how the harmonies bloom on significant syllables, how the sophisticated guitar line weaves in and out like a watchful friend.  It's a world of maybes, couldas, possiblies, and the song has just the right amount of doubt hanging it all out to show.

One of the reasons I hate year-end "best of" lists is that, sometimes, it takes a while for a song or an album to worm into your brain. This Jenny Lewis album is like that.  The more I listen, the more I . . . well, like isn't the word. Absorb, maybe, or eventually click into the mindset of it.

Unfortunately, we live in a crowded musical universe where everybody's jostling for clicks, hits, downloads. Jenny Lewis's Indie It Girl profile may help her here; I'm willing to bet that there are another three or four unheralded singer-songwriters that I'll never know about that I would have loved, whose work will never percolate to the top.

But that's no reason not to finally admit it:  Okay, Jenny Lewis. You're now officially one of My Girls.


NickS said...

She's like the cool girl that everyone else in school adores -- not the homecoming queen, but the smart pretty one with quirky fashion sense. (If this were Heathers, she'd be Winona Ryder.) And, face it, I'm jealous of her indie It Girl status.

You're human . . . you can't be generous towards everyone.

Actually, I appreciate you posting this, because I keep reading reviews of Jenny Lewis that make me think that she should be exactly what I would like, and the listening to a song or two finding that it isn't exactly what I want and stopping there. But this encouraged me to to listen most closely.

First thought, the lyrics make me think of Aimee Mann at a couple points, from the "save me" in the opening line and the line about, "when I told you I cheated" reminds me of a line from Aimee Mann liner notes, talking about the degree to which her songs are autobiographical in which say says (quoting from memory), "'you cheating bastard' could be me."

Not that Aimee Mann owns either of those phrases, but they also share a certain emotional coolness.

In fact, I think that's one of the key things that distinguishes her from, "another three or four unheralded singer-songwriters*" is her confidence in being able to hold attention without having to look like she's working too hard (for lack of a better phrase). It's very cool.

The whole thing has a very mellow West Coast feel, with a bit of a country flavor and . . . arggh . . . there may be a bit of The Eagles in her musical DNA.

I feel bad for saying that because it isn't a perfect match, and because her emotional landscape is very different but having had the thought I'm not going to be able to un-hear it.

You can make a comparison between that song and, say, "Take it Easy" The tune is different, she the sole vocalist, but musically they're both mellow country-rock with a chorus that gives you the long, unhurried, vowel sounds in "She" "Me" and "Easy"

* I'm not the person to ask but that last paragraph makes me think of someone like, Tristan Prettyman.

Holly A Hughes said...

Argh! I'll grant you the Aimee Mann comparison -- that's high praise in my book -- but I do not hear the Eagles there. Joni Mitchell, if you must, but never the Eagles!

NickS said...

Good, I'm glad you can't hear it.

I think it's an unfair and slightly insulting comparison. I'm not quite sure what triggers it for me -- I might just be reaching, or it might be something in the rhythm, the way it shuffles along. But I'd be happy to be wrong about that one.