Matt and Ryan listen to and discuss Jenny Lewis’s The Voyager.
→ Download TFT Episode 132 (MP3)
Subscribe to the TFT Podcast
TFT Podcast on iTunes
TFT Podcast RSS Feed
(203) 285-6401 call/text
TFT Podcast on Facebook
Backwards Jenny Lewis Discography
- The Voyager (affiliate link)
- Wikipedia: Jenny Lewis, The Voyager, Rilo Kiley, Voyager Program
- The Voyager Lyrics
- Reviews: P4K
- “Jenny Lewis’ The Voyager Has Its Own Wine” on P4K
- Jenny Lewis interviewed on NPR
- “One of The Guys” music video:
Sheely, you and I have had a similar experience, because I too was once about all things Saddle Creek, which means I started listening to Rilo Kiley back in the day, in part inspired to do so because the dude in the band was Pinsky on Salute Your Shorts. However, whilst I put aside the childish thing that is Bright Eyes, I still listen to that old Rilo Kiley stuff.
Conversely, I do enjoy this country-fied, nudie suit wearing Jenny Lewis of her solo career. This episode paired well with the recent Tayloe Swift episode, because of similarities and such between then and their trajectories and such. I sort of feel like what Lewis is doing now is what Swift could, in theory, be doing when she’s Lewis’ age. I also kind of feel like that may be what Swift would want, but I am basing that on piecing together the public information on Swift, which means veering closer to pop psychology than I like to do.
I’m just saying, Voyager is an album, in many ways, about being a mature woman navigating the world and relationships and such, and that feels vaguely Swiftian. Of course, Swift can’t truly be Jenny Lewis, because Swift is a superstar, and probably won’t be able to downshift into country singer-songwriter of the Lewis variety, even if pop music will very much leave her in the past in, say, five or six years from now.
I wonder if Taylor Swift has ever heard Jenny Lewis. Or Dinosaur Jr. Just because I very much enjoy Dinosaur Jr., who came up surprisingly during this podcast. Sebadoh I am less enthused about. I ride for J Mascis.
And of course, Jenny Lewis herself was the girl in the feature-length Nintendo commercial The wizard, which I annoyed my parents by watching over and over again.
I’m actually acquiescence and Facebook friends with Sebadoh, but not J Mascis, so I kind of resent that. (They played a house show in my neighborhood in 2011, and I basically met the person who introduced my to my partner through Lou Barlow. It was all very weird and random.)
Acquaintances. Thanks a lot, autocorrect.
Sebadoh’s alright, but I greatly prefer Dinosaur Jr. However, I am also quite glad Lou returned to the band, because I think their couple of releases since then have been as good as anything they’ve done.
Late Bloomer is absolutely my favorite song on the record and I don’t have much more to say about it other than I love it and it makes me feel like I’m Stevie Nicks with a bunch of scarves and things, swaying around to the song, and I loved how you guys opened the podcast with it.
The funny thing is that Kyle always says the song after Late Bloomer (You Can’t Outrun ‘Em) is the one that sounds like Fleetwood Mac. And I can’t remember which song it is, but you guys named a different song and said it sounded like them.
There are a lot of famous people (Tavi’s one example that jumps to mind) who absolutely love Taylor Swift and talk about her in very very complimentary terms and this might sound super mean but any time I read one of those compliments to Taylor Swift, I think “Has this person never heard of Jenny Lewis?”. Part of it is because, besides saying how great Taylor is and how much they love her music, a lot of these include somewhat detailed descriptions of her music, and without fail, the descriptions always fit J.Lew’s body of work a hell of a lot better than they fit what I know of TSwift’s songs (admittedly, not a whole lot).
Because Taylor started as country-ish pop, genre-wise she and Jenny were always kinda similar, but I always felt like Taylor’s music is very shallow, emotion-wise. Meaning, there’s plenty of music I loved as a teen, but don’t feel a connection to anymore now that I’m older, married, more experienced, etc etc. There’s even more music I listened to back then that still touches me just as much though (I grew up before youtube and streaming were a thing, and CDs were expensive, which means I only ever bought music I really truly absolutely loved. Not surprisingly, a LOT of it is still some of my favorite music of all time). I feel Taylor’s music would fit in the former camp. It’s very much a young person’s music, and that doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it just doesn’t (couldn’t) have quite as many layers of emotions, memories and experiences baked into it like music written by someone who’s almost 40 can, which fits very well with what you guys were saying about the different paths, personalities, diminishing possibilities for reinvention, etc.
Basically, at the risk of sounding mean again, I feel like Taylor Swift was (before this record) trying to make the kind of (country-tinged) music Jenny Lewis makes, except Taylor made it with the tools and end results of a very smart high schooler, whereas Jenny’s getting like her second PhD.
The weird thing though is that, with the exception of you two and Chris Morgan, not a lot of people seem to have made this connection. I’ve looked up “taylor swift jenny lewis” online before and found very few results, but a couple critics actually said stuff like “they sound similar”, or “this taylor song’s trying to sound like this jenny song”, etc. I always felt like I was the only one who saw them as two artists in the same continuum, so I was happy and surprised that the three of you (and these few critics I found) seem to agree, even if no one else seems to notice that.
Last thing, I saw Rilo Kiley live on their last tour 7 years ago and I just saw Jenny in Dallas a month ago, and she’s amazing.
I’ve been thinking more about Jenny Lewis and Taylor Swift, which seems to be the overarching topic of this week’s episode. I’m thinking of a spectrum of female solo artists on which both Swift and Lewis are points. I feel like there is very much a line that they could both be on featuring other points. Further up the line is probably, like, Emmylou Harris (Dolly Parton feels like she’s elsewhere on this graph), and early on the line is probably some 16-year-old who grew up on Taylor Swift and is just starting to make her mark or whatever. She will be the zeitgeist eventually, once Swift is ready to cede it, but that time has not arrived yet.
So, my question then becomes, who is at the midway point between Swift and Lewis? What artist is where these two would meet, in a sense? The name that comes to mind, for me, is Miranda Lambert, but the problem with that is I don’t really know who Miranda Lambert is or anything about her. But, I mean, obviously the variables I am considering are matters of age and maturation and experience and ethos and musical style and lyrical style and so on and so forth. I just don’t have enough knowledge of this particularly area of music to hone in on the answer.
Yeah, I’ll admit I don’t know a lot about Miranda Lambert either (I actually just watched a video of her and Meghan Trainor singing All About That Bass on some award thing, and she was once a guest judge on Project Runway, and that’s the extent of my familiarity with her), but I think (again, based on nothing but my uninformed perception) that Miranda Lambert’s music fits squarely within mainstream country whereas Jenny and Taylor are kinda straddling the country-pop line.
So, to answer your question, I don’t know who would fit at the midpoint between them either!
I stopped listening to albums for a while after iTunes crashed for the nth time and I stopped downloading new songs. However, I guess I’ll step in as the “expert” here as I’ve listened to Kerosene and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as well as both of the Pistol Annies albums but I haven’t gotten around to her newer albums.
I think where you place people on the continuum depends on what other artists you include and what your criteria is. Is country having an accent and some level of authenticity? Are we talking folk country or singer songwriter country or outlaw country or pop country or honkytonk or gospel/Christian country?
Even from her first album, Swift was always light country and by her second she was firmly in singer songwriter territory for me. Speak Now was a push into pop while Red fully embraced it.
I wouldn’t qualify any of Jenny’s albums as country. They’re much more folk/singer songwriter.
I’d have to give this more thought but some others I’d pitch for the spectrum would be Caitlin Rose and Kacey Musgraves.
Some quality Overthinking, gentlemen. I adore this album, and its greatest gift IMO is that the openness of the lyrical content on The Voyager lends authenticity to her earlier work. The verse on “Big Wave” about sleepwalking and prescription medicine now carries more weight thanks to “Head Underwater”, and “Glendora” (in all of its ridiculousness) seems believable after hearing “Late Bloomer”, e.g.. And that last pairing shows how far Jenny has come — compare the opening lyrics of both.
At her best, Jenny is the closest thing we have to Laura Nyro, whose influence is best heard in “She’s Not Me,” I think. For my money, the Fleetwood Mac comparisons are most apt when describing the too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen feeling that plagues much of Under the Blacklight. But maybe I’m betraying my disdain for Fleetwood Mac.
Curious: there are a few tracks in Johnathan Rice’s early output that sound very John Mayer-ish. May the Lewis-Swift talk never cease.
Great point with the comparison between the opening lines of Late Bloomer and Glendora haha. The first few verses of Glendora really are pretty bad (tho I still listened to it as I passed IRL Glendora on my only ever road trip to California earlier this year).
And yeah, the whole time Matt and Ryan were doing the Ambien ad I was thinking of the Big Wave verse about the pills and waking up in the water.
I don’t really know Laura Nyro, but I’ve read that she’s one of Jenny’s favorite artists. Makes sense, then.
“May the Lewis-Swift talk never cease.” I’m so happy to find out I wasn’t crazy to see the connection!
Now, some stray observations I had while listening to the ep a second time (yeah, I have too much free time and nothing to do at 4 in the morning):
Bob Dylan’s actually a big fan of Jenny’s! He used to have that radio show, Theme Time Radio Hour, and over the course of it he played 4 songs of hers I think, and even had a short sound clip of her “explaining” the title of her song Big Guns (spoilers: it’s boobs)
Also, poor Jenny isn’t left lonely at the end of Late Bloomer. She, Nancy and the dude have a threesome. This is both implied by the verse “But I just had to have her/and at the time I didn’t mind sharing with him” and was also stated in an interview (although Jenny always claims her songs aren’t autobiographical, at least not in completely straightforward ways, so song Lil J ≠ J.Lew)
Well Lewis’ songs may not be entirely autobiographical, but once Phil Collins did watch her watch a guy drown, and she did nothing!
Since it’s the internet, and thus it can be difficult to decipher the tone of a comment, I’ll just clarify by stating that it is a longstanding urban legend that Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” is about him seeing a guy who was watching somebody drown and not doing anything.
My experience was her was a little different – I was part of the second wave of the Riley Kiley fandom. I started with More Adventurous/”Portions For Foxes” and went backwards. And I’m probably unusual in this, but the JL album that I was most into before now was actually Rabbit Fur Coat, the first sort-of-solo record with the Watson Twins. Some of that absolutely is nostalgia-related, as I listened to a cassette of Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1 with my parents many many times as a kid, but a lot of it was the lyrics and harmonies hitting me at exactly the right time – I was in college at the University of Central Florida, living in the sprawl outside Orlando, out on my own for the first time in my life.(I was also really into Aimee Mann, who is another female singer-songwriter on that continuum, and was then around where Jenny Lewis is now).
I’m surprised you said it’s unusual that Rabbit Fur Coat is your favorite Jenny Lewis album, cause it’s been my absolute favorite of hers for years now and I just think it’s a perfect record. Rabbit Fur Coat was actually also my introduction to her. I think I might have heard It’s A Hit on Pandora a few times before, but the first time I actually had and listened to a full album she had anything to do with was RFC. I think I downloaded The Charging Sky from Myspace (haha) and it was my alarm for all of 2006 basically.
I love the Jenny and Johnny record and I’m obsessed with the faster songs on Acid Tongue (The Next Messiah, which I finally just saw live so I can die now, Jack Killed Mom, See Fernando, and Carpetbaggers), and I really liked The Voyager, but to me Rabbit Fur Coat is still the perfect little unit.
I did get into Rilo Kiley eventually (specially since I got to see them during their last tour, so I crammed in Under The Blacklight and only just barely knew the rest of their songs. Later on, I’d look at the setlist and be heartbroken that I wasn’t quite aware that she was singing I Never and With Arms Outstretched right in front of me, because at the time those songs hadn’t really sunk in yet), but I def started with solo (or Watson Twins-accompanied) Jenny and worked my way back.
Ugh, sorry this comment’s so personal and messy, Rilo Kiley/Jenny gives me too many feelings haha (Speaking of feelings, I went full on Claire Danes ugly cry face during this latest show, cause she sang A Better Son/Daughter!)
I started with Acid Tongue which is probably a good chunk of the reason why it’s my favorite. I also just love the sound of the album and as Amanda points out, the more uptempo numbers are great. I love Under the Blacklight but I still haven’t worked my way through all the Rilo Kiley stuff. I only listened to Rabbit Fur Coat a month or two before The Voyager came out and while I do like it, it’s still second to Acid Tongue for me. I think the vocals are stronger on Rabbit Fur Coat but I prefer the songs on Acid Tongue. The Voyager lands squarely at number 3 but that could just be because I’ve had less time with it.
Yay! I love when you do albums I’ve already listened to. I’m still playing catch up on the podcast and this makes things so much easier.
Have you heard our newest episode? We cover Leighton’s album, and you get a shout out for sending us the video of her covering Fleetwood Mac.