Jenny Lewis has become something of a fixture in the indie realm of aural consumption. She’s always on hand with renditions of sparse country ditties (Rabbit Fur Coat) or more ballsy, blues-inflected tunes (Acid Tongue). Now, there's The Voyager. And what's that? It's her most accessible, dynamic and celebratory album, taking notes from Fleetwood Mac and the cheese of easy listening. It's an LP that took many sleepless nights, hard decisions and woeful circumstances to create. The ruminating on triumph and heartbreak on this record speaks boldy for Lewis’ urge to power through and push on. Lead single “Just One of the Guys” speaks of overcoming insecurity. “Late Bloomer” is a more nostalgic tune about being young and wild. And the title track is a solemn, contemplative number, indicating that although Lewis can overcome, there's always a dark cloud on the horizon. Leave it to Lewis to kick a silver lining in the balls. (Mark Lopez)
In our little chante on the mesa, we’ve been playing Ween at a high volume for 15 years. Some of the neighbors get kinda freaked out about that, but most of them come around once Quebec lands on the turntable to spin out its crazy-beautiful pop perfection. Dean is still out there. In fact, he’s playing up in Taos next month with his new band, the Dean Ween Project. But Gene is gone. In his place is Aaron Freeman, sober, mystified and ready to take his place as one of the great rock composers of his generation. All Music Guide compares Freeman, out now on Partisan Records, to McCartney, a thing Paul did right after dumping Lennon in Montreal with only bedsheets to cover the latter’s naked fragility. That’s an apt comparison, and Freeman is a blazing, clear recording that critically reflects on the past (“Covert Discretion”) and tunefully announces the future without renouncing or glorifying either. (August March)
The Smiths were another band whose recordings we used to destroy stereo components and relations with the folks next door. But Morrissey on his own? Not so much. Vauxhall and I was decent, but it was like driving the cars of the same name—too compact for comfort, too economical for ecstasy. Morrissey’s latest effort, World Peace is None of Your Business, makes a solid tradition of the mope trope, but its lush instrumentation, witty songwriting and keen production values tilt the recording over to the winning side of the rock music jamability gauge. Sure it’s melodramatic in spots. The title track and its follow-up “Neal Cassady Drops Dead” set a tone that’s suggestive of the world’s darkness but from a distance. Morrissey has always seemed like an observer, a voyeur from another place. It’s an odd sort of detachment birthed by ennui that gives rise to tunes like “I’m Not a Man,” but this time it works even sans Johnny Marr. (August March)
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