Jenny Lewis

{grate 2.5}

Splitting from the norm of genre darlings Rilo Kiley, lead singer Jenny Lewis tries out a new, life-battered persona on solo effort Acid Tongue. Her languid voice mulls the trials and tribulations of a small-town cast, hopelessly in love and lonely in their habits. But by trying to adhere to the traditions of soul-tugging wailers of yore, Lewis comes off as overly self-conscious, lacking distinguishing affectations to make her anything more than a wannabe lady of the canyon, a la Joni Mitchell.

Surrounding herself with the likes of Chris Robinson, Zooey Deschanel & M.Ward, Elvis Costello — even her own sister and estranged father — Lewis puts herself in appropriate company to create a romanticized account of dusty life on the road. Her springy voice lends itself naturally to her subject — something that can’t be said for Costello, whose strained lyrics come from left field on “Carpetbaggers,” discordantly competing with Lewis’ twang. Simple non-Pro-Tooled arrangements avoid overproduction, aiming for gospel and blues earnesty; however, when such polished songs attempt the rugged sound of a live road band, they miss authenticity and nosedive into borderline pretention, unfair for a singer with obvious talent.

Many of the songs feel like deja vu, and while “The Next Messiah” is intended as an ode to Barbra Streisand and the devil (interchangeable subjects, really), it fails to merge three melodies that could be their own songs.
Granted, not many people of us would choose to be in a band with our exes, so Lewis Stevie-Nicksed herself a solo career with Rabbit Fur Coat, a debut superior album to this sophomore effort. Though it’s admittedly pleasing to turn off the lights and let Lewis’ voice fill a room with tales of distrust and being wronged, her attempt at seductive Appalachia is littered with missteps, leaving us feeling like we’ve been there, done that, too.
Jenny Lewis will perform live at Price Center Theater on Nov. 1.