Album Review Jenny Lewis - On The Line4-5 Stars
A stately and unhurried affair that methodically untangles heartbreak with sharp storytelling and her trademark rapier wit.
Jenny Lewis doesn’t rush her solo records; ‘On the Line’ is only her second since 2008’s ‘Acid Tongue’. Last time out, on the stylistic grab-bag that was 2014’s ‘The Voyager’, chronic insomnia, the death of her father and the drawn-out demise of her old band, Rilo Kiley, had all conspired to keep her out of songwriting action for a while; ‘On the Line’, though, sounds as if its slow-burning gestation was all part of the plan - it’s a stately and unhurried affair that methodically untangles heartbreak with sharp storytelling and Lewis’ trademark rapier wit.
Where the sonic palette was the cornerstone of each previous solo release (the alt-country of ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’, for instance, or ‘Acid Tongue’’s soulful blues), ‘On the Line’ hangs together not on its sound but on its thematic material; the collapse of Jenny’s long-term relationship with one-time collaborator Johnathan Rice hangs heavy, from quietly epic opener ‘Heads Gonna Roll’ through to the softly broken ‘Taffy’ and the title track, a typically razor-point kiss-off that dismantles a former lover’s self-absorption whilst lamenting them leaving “for an East Side superman called Caroline.” She moved from her home town of Los Angeles to New York in 2016 and has turned in a record in the latter’s image; sunny Californian melodies are swapped out for the subdued greys of the gorgeous piano ballad ‘Dogwood’ or the bluesy ‘Wasted Youth’, and everything else carries the handsome timelessness of the city’s skyline. from the handsome instrumentation - all classy piano and assured guitars - to the all-star backing band, which includes Ringo Starr on drums, Don Was behind the desk, and Beck as a jack-of-all-trades. Jenny Lewis has never sounded this confident in her own skin.
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Untangling difficulty and heartbreak with razor-sharp storytelling and wit, ‘On The Line’ proves to be the musician’s strongest statement yet.
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