The greatest thing about listening to music, and then blogging about it... other than the money, women and fame... is that I can listen to an album at my leisure with little consideration for my energy level. That said, this morning by way of a Festivus Miracle I was slightly inclined toward sleep. Fortunately, I was also wired with the type of anticipatory energy that generally drives me into aggravated madness, which held me upright and kept any of the initial eye-closings, head-restings from providing me comfort. The warden of sleep granted me a reprieve... I would not miss a perfect opportunity to actually listen to Jenny Lewis' Acid Tongue. I withdrew my i(Raymond)Pod from the bag occupying the seat beside me, dropped the "buds" in my auditories, hit the old play button.

(Tangent 1: If you are not a fan of public transportation, and your reason for hating it begins with a "C" and rhymes "prouded," take a ride this time of year. You can hear a pin drop on a feather... and then you can hear the pin and the feather making out. There were 5 people commuting with me this morning. 'Tis the season to revel in the minor joys.)

(Tangent 2: The most excellent thing about the human ear (besides the hearing things part) is that in the sum of the names of its parts, it's a sprawling Roman Palace. There are canals, vestibules, and labyrinths and you can hear with them too! Happily, no vomitorium has been discovered yet.)

And now: The Review (and yes, I know... it IS about F-ing time.)

Acid Tongue gets 3 Awesomes out of a possible 5. For the most part it is a genuine, excellent album. "Black Sand" is a strong opening song, followed by "Pretty Bird" on which Jenny Lewis lets Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward join in on the fun. This is possibly the best free standing song on the album. And through those first two tracks, it became clear that Acid Tongue is as underproduced, sparse and simple as Lewis' other act Rilo Kiley's Under The Blacklight was overproduced, mix-heavy and genre-bending. Lewis stands on the line between indie folk, alt country and the sort of vaudevillian saloon piano music you'd hear in an old western just before the sheriff came in to clean up the town. This is by no means a bad thing. The medley-style "The Next Messiah" rolls through all three in a nearly 9 minute sprawl that feels neither forced, nor tiresome. The sorrowful "Bad Man's World" and the solid titular track "Acid Tongue" keep the album going along at a steady, relaxed, and damn enjoyable saunter.

Lewis clearly knows how to write in the style we've grown accustomed to, about the lost love, and sadness, typifying the indie feminine mystique. It's her crassness at times, her ability to embody a Pat Benetar-esque tough girl, while simultaneously showing such vulnerability that drew me to Rilo Kiley three years ago, and keeps me checking in despite reviews questioning her focus on being "indie." This affection is what makes tracks like "See Fernando" and "Carbetbaggers" so disappointing. "See Fernando" sounds like a song that came from a contrivance, rather than a genuine emotion. It's a pseudo-party anthem that wants to be like The Beatles' "Dr. Robert," but failed for me because a) a chirpy drug/party song no longer interests me; and b) every track preceding it seeps with honesty and emotion. "Carpetbaggers," despite Elvis Costello's guest appearance, seems born from the same kind of contrivance. It is a song trying to hard to be about women taking men for all they're worth. And Costello's voice seems strained and lacking its usual self-assuredness.

Between those shaky bookends is the plain and beautiful "Godspeed," which prevents anyone from skipping straight through the group. The album finishes strong and solemnly with "Sing A Song For Them" showing Lewis' vocal range and the tangible depth of her sincerity. The only ways in which Acid Tongue fail are those instances when it tries to do what it doesn't know. Sure, an album of sweet, dour, downbeat may not liven things up on the dance floor, but it's some of what Jenny Lewis does best.

My Favorite Track: "Pretty Bird"

No comments:

Post a Comment