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Josh T. Landow

CD of The Week

Week of 4/01/19

    Jenny Lewis - On The Line (Warner Bros.)

    Jenny Lewis has been through quite a lot since her last release, 2014's The Voyager. A split with her longtime partner Jonathan Rice and the death of her mother were two life-changing events that reverberate throughout her fourth solo record On the Line.
    Lewis has been quite honest about her relationship with her mother, who suffered from heroin addiction, and the two were estranged for years. In her lyrics, she gives herself just enough artistic license to reference her mother's life while still making into a song-story. This is most notable in the great "Wasted Youth," with its chorus of "I wasted my youth / On a poppy … Just for fun." However, she also sneaks in an inspirational carpe diem message of "We are here and we're gone / Do something / While your heart is thumping."

    There is so much drinking and drugging across On the Line, but none of it in a celebratory mode and all clearly to numb pain and sadness. Lead single "Red Bull & Hennessey" sounds like an unappealing combination but makes a great, melodic ode to infatuation.

    The funky, country-tinged "Little White Dove" is another major highlight. While it has the slinkiest groove on the album, it's juxtaposed against Lewis recounting her visits to her mother in the hospital during her last days. Beck's counterpoint backing vocal in the chorus helps give an extra edge of roughness. Death is looming right from the start of On the Line on "Heads Gonna Roll," where Lewis notes that "After all is said and done, we'll all be skulls."

    While she worked out some of her breakup with Rice on the 2016 side-project collaboration Nice as F**k, there's still plenty of relationship drama scatted throughout On the Line. The title track is a breakup tune for sure, giving many reasons for the partner in the song leaving. On the album closer "Rabbit Hole," she sings of a getting away from a guy who "had me second guessing The Beatles and The Rolling Stones." Is any of this based in reality? Is it all a work of fiction? To the listener, it shouldn't really matter in the end.

    Also, the production of On the Line is gorgeous. They just don't make records that sound like this anymore. This is partly due to the all-star (and all-Starr) lineup of musicians Lewis brought around her to bring these songs to life, including Beck (who produced multiple tracks), Benmont Tench of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, the iconic Ringo Starr and many others.

    On the Line is Lewis's slowest record for sure, and while a number of the mellower tracks don't always stick, the ones that do truly soar and further cement her place as one of the top songwriters of her generation. Jenny Lewis will be back in Philadelphia at The Met, but she's leaving us hanging on the line until October 26th.

    **Donate $15 or more to Y-Not Radio to receive a download of On The Line. Click here for details.
    Review by Joey O.

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