Although Jenny Lewis calls the San Fernando Valley home, you would never mistake this smart and mature woman for a typical ‘valley girl.’ She’s so much brighter than that usual stereotype. Her latest album The Voyager finds Lewis confronting a few disturbing realizations. For example, “Just One Of The Guys,” a track Beck produced, features Lewis noting that as tough and cool as she may think she is, she’s still not “just one of the guys,” but “just another lady without a baby.”
Childbirth sure seems to be at the forefront of her thoughts these days because during “She’s Not Me” she remarks, “I heard she’s having your baby,” when apparently referring to a former lover. You have to wonder if that biological clock is ticking just a little louder than usual right about now.
Another talented singer/songwriter, Ryan Adams, helped produce the most of this album and the results are both pleasing and familiar. Stylistically, the muted, soft rock sounds driving Lewis’ personalized songs hearken back to the 70s rock SoCal heyday. You can hear some for the same Fleetwood Mac inspirations that similarly influence Haim’s new sounds. The rhythms are relatively gentle, while the overall sonic features a strong dosage of acoustic instrumentation with just enough amplification to still keep it rock & roll.
Lewis sings with a voice that’s pretty, yet many times troubled. She never comes off completely overjoyed; it’s just not her style. About as positive as she gets is found with “A New You” where she sings, “It’s a new you everyday” on the chorus.
The still-young Lewis has already had quite the varied career, having begun as a child actress – she was once in a series called Life with Lucy along with Lucille Ball, for instance – and later fronted the indie band Rilo Kiley. The Voyager is Lewis’ third solo album, but she also made a full six albums with Rilo Kiley and a duet album with her boyfriend Jonathan Rice under the moniker of Jenny and Johnny. Therefore, she is by no means any sort of Jenny-come-lately.
During opener “Head Underwater,” Lewis sings, “There’s a little bit of magic/Everybody has it,” after conversely recounting a long laundry list of dark personal issues. She may have gone through a dark period before tracking this particular full-length, but she hasn’t completely given up hope. “There’s a little bit of sand left in the hourglass,” she continues, optimistically. It’s as if to suggest that, although it’s late in the game, there’s still time enough to pull out a victory. Had Lewis been a typical valley girl, though, she would have just whined loud and long enough for everyone with earshot to hear her. And then just dramatically given up. But this girl’s a voyager that just keeps on keepin’ on, with sand left in her hourglass and hope in her heart.