A- Jenny Lewis
On the Line
Jenny Lewis has had a rough few years leading up to her new solo album.
Her mother died of cancer. Her 12-year relationship with singer-songwriter Johnathan Rice ended. But these songs aren't about falling apart. They are about putting things back together.
"Can you be my puzzle piece, Baby, when I cry like Meryl Streep?" she asks in the lovely, melancholy "Party Clown," which has vocals reminiscent of her breakout album, Rabbit Fur Coat, but maintains the mix of '70s rock and hip-hop-tinged rhythms of her more recent work.
Lewis has always been a meticulous, detailed writer, either on her own or in her former band, Rilo Kiley. However, the combination of her circumstances and the ambitious mix of musical styles behind her lyrics here make her songs more poignant than ever. And she has plenty of first-class help to realize her vision.
As soon as the drums kick in on "Heads Will Roll," it's clear that it's Ringo Starr. And Starr teams up with the great Jim Keltner on the groove-driven "Red Bull & Hennessey," made even tougher by producer Shawn Everett. It's one of many songs in On the Line about escaping the world's pressures, with Lewis' cooing vocals contrasting nicely against the muscular drumming. On "Do Si Do," produced by Beck, Lewis sings about using music as an escape from suicidal thoughts. Then, on the breezy, Carole King-ish "Wasted Youth," where Lewis declares, "I wasted my youth on a poppy," she sings of the repercussions of escapism, from heroin to Candy Crush.
The girl-group simplicity of the "On the Line" title track tries to mask the complicated calculations of a narrator trying to keep her boyfriend from straying. But it also captures the album's main theme — that it will be fine either way.
Hot tracks: "Heads Will Roll," "Party Clown," "Wasted Youth," "On the Line"
— GLENN GAMBOA
A The Chemical Brothers
Back in the mad, bad 1990s, Manchester, England's Chemical Brothers — Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons — crafted a brand of electronic music infused with big, block-rocking beats that borrowed as much from hip-hop as from Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. Not only did they start an indie-electro movement that would include UNKLE, the Prodigy and Fatboy Slim, they made hits that oozed into pop's mainstream, especially as their once-tough tones grew cleaner and less raw.
No Geography is a return to their original unbridled, grungy funk, with zero big-name guest appearances and a density and aggression that have been missing from their sound since the start of the 2000s. Using vintage electronic and sequence-based equipment, but sticking with the melodicism they've developed over the last three decades, tracks such as "Got to Keep On" and "Free Yourself" are noisy, bass-booming anthems rich with dynamic layers and creaky textures. "Bango" sounds like its title. The wobbly "MAH" is loose, rubber-band funk that could make you seasick, yet you won't want to stop moving. "Eve of Destruction" is effervescent and apocalyptic, while freeing your mind in order for your rump to follow. You can't ask for more when it comes to the Chemical Brothers' brand of frenetic dance music.
Hot tracks: "Got to Keep On," "MAH," "Eve of Destruction"
— A.D. AMOROSI
The Philadelphia Inquirer
• Joey DeFrancesco featuring Pharoah Sanders, "The Creator Has a Master Plan." This is spiritual jazz's signature piece, a glistening two-chord chant. Its own creator, the nonpareil tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, has been performing "Master Plan" for the last 50 years. When Joey DeFrancesco decided to venture into spiritual-jazz terrain on his new album, In the Key of the Universe, the virtuoso organist was wise enough to enlist Sanders. All of the album is good, but most of it stays inside DeFrancesco's bop comfort zone. Not "Master Plan." It becomes the album's highlight, almost inevitably.
— GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO
The New York Times
• Tame Impala, "Patience." Tame Impala — Kevin Parker playing everything he can in the studio — aligns multiple eras, but mostly the 1970s, in his first single since 2015. "Has it really been that long?" he sings. Pounding major-seventh piano chords like Todd Rundgren, using conga drums to punch up and punctuate synthesizer arpeggios, and hinting at Michael Jackson in his melodies, he comes to the realization that he's "growing up in stages/living life in phases." It's an honest part of a long-term evolution.
— JON PARELES
The New York Times
• Lizzo featuring Missy Elliott, "Tempo." Lizzo continues to stake out turf as one of this year's most versatile pop breakouts — a sturdy singer, a limber rapper and always rich with lighthearted thirst. On "Tempo," she goes bump for bump with Missy Elliott on an electro-hip-hop thumper teeming with arched-eyebrow come-ons. It's pure, infectious joy.
— JON CARAMANICA
The New York Times
Style on 04/02/2019
Print Headline: Jenny Lewis puts life back together On the Line