Album review: Jenny Lewis rediscovers her mojo on ‘The Voyager’

Annie Zaleski

Four stars

Jenny Lewis The Voyager

With Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis increasingly embraced the type of slick pop music created in sun-kissed California studios and disseminated via ’80s Top 40 radio countdowns. But as a solo artist, the Las Vegas native has increasingly shied away from such glossy production, instead settling into a pleasant but somewhat sleepy twang-rock groove. That changes in a big way on The Voyager.

Produced by Ryan Adams—and featuring contributions from Beck, Johnathan Rice and First Aid Kit—Lewis’ stunning third solo album adorns her plaintive vocals with sentimental string sections, a breezy Laurel Canyon vibe and plenty of timeless music references. “Head Underwater” nods to both Dire Straits’ rippling guitars and Fleetwood Mac’s soft-glow post-Tusk years. “She’s Not Me” is an ornate ’70s soul/R&B homage. And the wistful “Late Bloomer” is jaunty, jangly rock on which Lewis croons like a wise country chanteuse. The vaguely psychedelic “Love U Forever” is even better—a gooey new wave trifle mixing references to ill-fitting romance with girls-night-out debauchery—as is the Heart-esque “You Can’t Outrun ’Em,” on which Lewis wrestles with her complicated relationship with her late father.

Indeed, The Voyager succeeds because of the depth lurking behind its retro- and classic-rock flourishes. Lewis is clear-eyed and pulls no punches as she examines romantic foibles, ruminates on being childless and, on the lovely title track, stresses that putting faith in yourself is a much more stable proposition. Thanks to this sturdy songwriting, The Voyager easily ranks among her best projects to date.

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