Review Summary: Rabbit Fur Coat doesn't break any new ground, but it's wonderfully heartfelt and perfectly displays Jenny Lewis' abilities as a songwriter.
As far as I’m concerned Rilo Kiley have been dead ever since they released More Adventurous back in 2004. I say this because since the release of that album, every band member went their own separate way and would go on to make only one more album together, Under the Blacklight, which was absolutely terrible. It’s no secret that Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett were the two key members of Rilo Kiley, and even though Blake has been more successful overall in his endeavors without Jenny, he has not made an album as near perfect as Rabbit Fur Coat. For Rabbit Fur Coat, Jenny teamed up with the Watson Twins and the results are fantastic. Even though the Watson Twins only provide back-up vocals on some of the songs, their harmonies blend together perfectly with Lewis’ voice, most notably on “Rise Up with Fists!!!!”. Throughout the entire album there is not one bad song, unless you include the album’s closer “Happy (Reprise)”, and even the album’s opener “Run Devil Run” is worth hearing just because it’s always nice to here Jenny’s voice, again.
What makes Rabbit Fur Coat special is the fact that I can completely imagine that this is where Rilo Kiley were headed if they didn’t go on a 3 year hiatus and return with Under the Blacklight. More Adventurous was a huge turn for the band, their previous album The Execution of All Things was a pop album through and through while More Adventurous displayed the band’s country influences. Blake’s vocal contributions were becoming less and less and so it’s not a stretch to say that if the band had held it together he would not be singing at all on their next album. While Rabbit Fur Coat should not be strictly classified as a country album, the country influences are there. They’re more prevalent than they were on More Adventurous, but it works for Jenny. She has the perfect voice for this type of “alt-country” and I honestly wish she would pursue it some more. I’ve always considered Jenny to be one the best female vocalists of the past few years and she has truly outdone herself here. Her voice is soft, beautiful, sweet and I don’t think she’s ever been more emotional than on this album and it shows on songs like “Melt Your Heart”.
Jenny has always been an interesting songwriter and lyricist, and Rabbit Fur Coat displays some of her best work yet. Songs such as “The Charing Sky” and “Rise Up with Fists!!!!” are entirely reliant on Lewis’ lyrics and she pulls it off. On “The Charging Sky” she sings, “And it’s a surefire bet I’m going to die / So I’m taking up praying on Sunday nights / And it’s not that I believe in your all might / But I might as well”. Other songs rely more on her ability to create a catchy melody to be memorable and she most certainly succeeds in doing so. “You Are What You Love” is far from Jenny’s best work as a lyricist, but it perfectly shows her ability as a songwriter . It’s an extremely catchy song that is one of the album’s best and it, rightfully so I might add, became the first single off of Rabbit Fur Coat
However, with all the great lyrics and irresistibly catchy songs the album does have a minor fault. The last two songs on the album, “Born Secular” and “It Wasn’t Me”, are easily the weakest songs on the album. Neither are bad songs, but it’s a bit of a let down and ends the album on a bit of a sour note because the previous songs were filled with memorable lyrics and wonderful melodies. Rabbit Fur Coat probably best serves as proof that Jenny’s work with Rilo Kiley was no fluke and that she’s the real deal. When she wants to, Jenny can make great music, and while the album doesn’t particularly contain anything new or groundbreaking, it’s an extremely solid album that is a must have for any Rilo Kiley or Jenny Lewis fan.