Album Review: Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
Jenny Lewis may have started as a child star of TV (Golden Girls, Mr. Belvedere, Growing Pains) and Movies (The Wizard, Troop Beverly Hills) of the 80’s and 90’s but most people know her know for her music. She founded the successful pop-rock band Rilo Kiley with then boyfriend and fellow child actor, Blake Sennett, before her side project, The Postal Service, with Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and eventually began crafting music on her own. It’s been six years since Lewis released her critically acclaimed album, Acid Tongue, but that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t been working.
The Voyager is an album 5 years in the making. The death of her estranged father forced Lewis to really dive into her past, eventually emerging with 10 songs that would comprise her most personal album yet. Much like Rabbit Fur Coat, The Voyager is laid out as short stories told through song. Working with Ryan Adams, Lewis recorded most of the songs in complete takes rather than recording in pieces and drawing from musical influences from numerous decades.
“Head Underwater” is a wonderfully catchy mix of Fleetwood Mac and New Wave. Lewis sings about the time she spent suffering from insomnia and looking back at her life. Having suffered from insomnia myself, I can relate to what she’s singing about here. “I’ve been wearing all black since the day it started / When I stopped and looked back as my mind departed / I’ve been losing sleep and I cannot sit still / I’m not the same woman that you were used to.” When I couldn’t sleep, I spent a lot of time reexamining my life and perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to this song so much. The song ends on a high note as Lewis chooses to look at what she found in a positive light. “My own mortality I contemplated, down in the valley I got hypnotized, it left a mark that hasn’t faded, that’s when I realized / There’s a little bit of magic, everybody has it / There’s a little bit of sand left in the hourglass / There’s a little bit of magic, everybody has it / There’s a little bit of fight left in me yet.”
Lewis collaborated with Beck to bring “Just One of the Guys” to life. The song looks at failed expectations of where she thought she’d be in her life and coming to terms with that, which, I feel, most people can relate to. “There’s a little clock inside that keeps ticking / There’s only one difference between you and me / When I look at myself all I can see / Is another lady without a baby.” Lewis got help from Anne Hathaway, Kristen Stewart, Brie Larson, and Tennessee Thomas (Drummer for The Like) to create the music video which managed to get over a million views in the first 24 hours that it was up.
It’s refreshing to have a pop album that does away with the veneer of a flat woman who’s biggest worry is getting and then keeping a man. Jenny Lewis may have written The Voyager during her darkest time, but I think it stands to show that anyone can go through the same and emerge victorious. Yes, reading what Lewis had to say about where the album came from brought back similar feelings of depression and hopelessness that I’ve felt, but it also made me feel very grateful to have come through it and become the person that I am now.
Perhaps the most gleaming example of how Lewis is doing now is the title track which closes out the album. Here Lewis recovers from all that she has been through during the writing process of The Voyager over beautiful orchestrations and the backing vocals of First Aid Kit. As Lewis’s resolve strengthens and gains momentum, the musical arrangements do as well. And so we are taken from a dark past into a light future.