I loved 2006’s Rabbit Fur Coat. I was burned by 2008’s Acid Tongue. So when I heard Jenny Lewis was set to release her third solo album, produced by Ryan Adams, I was definitely wary.
As a huge Jenny Lewis fan from the days of Rilo Kiley, I feel as if The Voyager is slightly more in line with what one may expect. It’s not perfect. It’s nothing new. But the album accomplishes something by presenting a group of very catchy songs that spotlight Lewis’s unique songwriting and vocal style.
The opener, “Head Underwater” is very catchy and asks the question “How did I get here?” “Late Bloomer” is the most like a classic Rilo Kiley-type song with the “woah-oh”s and story-telling lyrical formula. There are some tempo changes and moments where Lewis adjusts the cadence of her voice. It is a unique track.
One of the major themes of the album is her position as a female in music. Lewis struggles between who she is and who others think she should be.”One of the Guys” (the album’s single) addresses this issue head-on as she sings, “There’s only one difference between you and me/ When I look at myself/ all I can see/ I’m just another lady without a baby.”
“Aloha & The Three Johns” is another standout song that deals with expectations. Lewis is wonderfully snarky as she sings the quite snide lyric “Now if there’s no ring/ I will have to say goodbye. / Nah, I’m just playing, John/ I look terrible in white.”
Conversely in “Love U Forever,” Lewis seems to embrace tradition and marriage as she describes calling her girlfriends for a night out to celebrate “getting married in May.” The song includes a delightful exclamation: “I could love you until all the Polaroids fade.”
Overall, the album has some delightful songs. Lewis is very charming on the album and her songwriting is as strong as ever. It is tough to decide where this album fits. There are moments where she is a soul singer. There are some more pop-leaning tracks. She sits in that awkward spot between mainstream pop singer and alternative idol. It is hard to decide where to land, sometimes.