Tuesday, 16 December 2014

My Top Ten Albums of 2014 - #6

6. Jenny Lewis - Voyager

I've been a fan of Jenny Lewis since I first heard Rilo Kiley's Portions For Foxes. So that's ten years now. (Insert your own 'times flies' 'we're all getting old' comment here, I'm tired of writing them.) Anyway, Voyager is her third solo album (not counting the album she did with her boyfriend, Johnathan Rice, which I haven't tracked down yet) and the reviews I read suggested it was a little too pop. Strange for an album produced by Ryan Adams, you'd have thought he'd have given it a bit more edge, but yes, this is a very sunshiny West Coast Fleetwood Mac sounding record. The lyrics still have that wonderful Lewis quirky kick though and although the first two songs could almost be vintage Madonna (before the old dear started knocking around with dance producers half her age in order to keep the portrait in her attic decaying), the rest of the record is storytelling gold...
When I turned 16 I was furious and restless
Got a chancy girl haircut and a plane ticket to Paris
I stayed there with Pansy, he had a studio in the Seventh
Lost his lover to a sickness, I slept beside him in his bed
That's when I met Nancy, she was smoking on a gipsy
She had a ring in her nose and her eyes were changing like moonstones
She said "Open up late bloomer, it will make you smile
I can see that fire burning, in you little child.
Lyrics that good (from the album's centrepiece, Late Bloomer) speak for themselves. That could be the opening paragraph of a classy short story by Raymond Carver or Joyce Carol Oates. And you know you'd have to read on. Because, like many of the tracks on this album, you find yourself speculating how much of it is meticulously crafted fiction... and how much of it might be autobiography. Lewis has certainly led a wild and bohemian life to this point, starting out as a child actress working alongside The Wonder Years' Fred Savage (in 1989 kids' movie The Wizard) before packing in thesping for rock 'n' roll. Although perhaps her biggest regret in all that is revealed on the album's debut single, in which she bemoans the inequality of the rockstar life and the fact that she'll never be Just One Of The Guys...
No matter how hard I try, to be just one of the guys
There's a little something inside that won't let me
No matter how hard I try, to have an open mind
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
I'm just another lady without a baby
Name another pop song that's tackles that issue in such forthright fashion and I'll send you a Cadbury's Creme Egg or a box of condoms. (The video guest stars Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart in case you're interested in such things.)

It's the little details that make Lewis's songs stick in your mind for days, turning otherwise common lyrical subject matter (She's Not Me: you've left me for another girl) into a page torn from a secret diary...
Remember the night I destroyed it all?
When I told you I cheated
And you punched through the drywall
I took you for granted
When you were all that I needed!
 Or how about this amusing anecdote from Aloha & The Three Johns...?
And John's been avidly reading Slash's bio
There was a TV set smashed out in front of his room
I didn't ask, I led a solo charge down to the sea
Where the fast-food trash and tourists made me fear and loath it
I could go on... hell, I could quote the whole album. But it's really better if you discover these stories for yourself. I'd hate to spoil your fun.

All of which brings us to the Top #5... beginning with a White bloke getting quarantined on the Isle of Man.


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