When Jenny Lewis first went solo from Rilo Kiley, she had the Watson Twins to help her let us into her most soulful, folksy thoughts with each song. That debut was excellent and, like Death Cab's Ben Gibbard, I've been excitedly awaiting her next solo project, Acid Tongue. Today we can hear the whole thing for the first time on her MySpace page.
I've read that she was interested in rocking out this time, and that's definitely the case on this new album which is full of (non-twin) collaborators. There's M. Ward, Zooey Deschanel, Chris Robinson and even Elvis Costello! At times the vibe is psychedelic and trippy, but mostly I'd describe the album as eclectic. There's still twang there — even in her rock — which is smart because that's what suits her voice best, I think. But she also brings in the gospel ballads, along with tunes that sound exactly like some good ol' Rilo Kiley stuff.
What I appreciate most after taking a first listen is how ambitious it all is, and overall I like the way her tracks transported me to another hazy time. This is definitely an album that will be awesome to hear live. I've jotted down a few thoughts on each of the songs for your consideration, so
- "Black Sand": Starts softly with deep bass and a melody that sounds almost Abbey Road-ish. Her voice is high up in a soft falsetto. It's bluesy, there are strings, and I believe that atmospheric guitar is M. Ward.
- "The Next Messiah": This song is long, almost nine minutes, and has three distinct parts to it. There's a pulsing rock 'n' roll vibe to start, then it turns into an uptempo toe-tapper, and descends into a duet between Lewis and a male voice. Unexpected and cool.
- "Badman's World": She darkly sings "It's a bad man's world" over and over again. This song is slow and trippy. There are sparse strings, and the whole thing just makes me think "wasteland."
- "Acid Tongue": I like this song a lot. The pretty harmonies with male voices in the background during the chorus are just lovely. It's a melancholy country tune. She's so effective at making me really feel her lyrics, like "Now I am tired/ It just made me tired." Gorgeous stuff.
- "Fernando": Kind of expected, least surprising track of the bunch. I could see Rilo Kiley rocking this song. I like the fun lady singers in the background.
- "Godspeed": Effecting piano ballad, it's a song about getting away from a no-good kind of guy. And she's been there before.
- "Carpetbaggers": This is her duet with Elvis Costello. A super country rock song with a lot of "Whoa, yeah"s Not sure how I feel about their sound together. . . going to need a couple more listens.
- "Trying My Best to Love You": Oh, man. Oh, goodness, this song is lovely. The strings, the piano. It almost sounds like gospel singing behind her. I feel like Aretha Franklin would have enjoyed belting the crap out of this song. Love it.
- "Jack Killed Mom": Another gospel, down-home piano song. Tells a somewhat twisted story about Jack and his mom.
- "Sing a Song for Them": Sad little song with pretty harmonies. A song for the outcasts and the forgotten. Nice ending.