Jenny Lewis
On The Line


4.0
excellent

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
March 31st, 2019 | 31 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I could hear everything, together with the hum of my hotel neon.

When I last saw Jenny Lewis, touring behind 2014’s The Voyager, she opened her show alone, behind her piano on a raised dais in that ridiculous rainbow-hued suit. “I’m not the same woman that you were used to,” she sang before those drums kicked in, the stage lights illuminated her band in hazy backlight, and confetti streamed down by percussive command; and then her thesis statement: “I put my head underwater baby, I threw my clothes away in the trash.” In a little over a month I’ll be seeing her again, this time at the Hollywood Palladium. That venue is a sizable triumph for any artist, but one that seems almost limiting for a songwriter now painting on as widescreen a canvas as On the Line. Give me the timeless backdrop of the Hollywood Bowl; the sylvan fairy tale surrounding the Greek Theatre; hell, even the chintzy, chipped old Hollywood regalia of the Wiltern if you must.

Of course, I'm being selfish – wherever she plays, Lewis will make it her own. At this stage of career she inhabits a singularly distinct sound, an experience more akin to listening to an era than any one artist. At her best, she sounds like how Hollywood sounds to all the wistful dreamers streaming west on the 10 over the years, like those mythic venues where all the legends Lewis now parades like talismans on this record – a Beatle here, a Heartbreaker there – sweat and bled: a dream just within reach. It’s difficult to think of a track that exemplifies this idealized vibe more than opener “Heads Gonna Roll,” a painstakingly detailed, sweepingly epic relationship drama that ebbs and crashes waves of love, frustration, uncertainty, and regret. With side-eye descriptions of “convertible red Porsches” and private jets as symbols of a hollow love high on its own supply, the rot at its heart is gorgeous and seductive. The metaphor may be obvious, but “Heads Gonna Roll” and On the Line as a whole never feels manufactured, or, really, like anything less than Lewis telling it to you straight.

Making the personal feel representative of an entire city and a certain mythos is not for the fainthearted, but Lewis, with her tantalizingly specific lyrics and casual non sequiturs, does it so well throughout On the Line that you hardly notice the sleight of hand. Consider the drug-addled “Party Clown” or the fractured, frustrated “Hollywood Lawn,” songs where you don’t even notice the decay settling in, thanks to that Sunset Blvd. sheen and those deep, sonorous piano melodies. “Wasted Youth” rides a timeless shimmer of a riff into a bouncy contemplation of everyday addiction (“I wasted my youth on a poppy / just for fun / just because), while “Red Bull and Hennessey” and its chugging guitar is more of a blunt instrument, fitting the disgusting cocktail of its title and the cynical surrender in its lyrics: “Never gettin’ back again without that spark.” It’s true that the record leans a little too heavily into mid-tempo morass for its own good. By the time the gospel-tinged optimism of “Dogwood” rolls around, one gets the sense that Lewis may have contracted a touch of Important Singer-Songwriter grandeur from the Carole King piano she taps on throughout. To its exceedingly well-produced credit, though, nothing here can be considered a throwaway (although the Beck-influenced funk of “Little White Dove” comes awfully close).

Lewis has now been making music as a solo artist longer than she did as frontwoman for Rilo Kiley, a band consistently lumped in with its Saddle Creek mates but one that always felt more at home among the palm trees and the canyons. It’s not hard to see the similarities between The Other Woman tragedy of “Does He Love You"” and the self-lacerating, self-doubting “Taffy” – “I wanted to please you, my dress was see-through / as I looked through your phone / I am such a coward / how could you send her flowers"” The characters in Lewis’ stories are always self-aware enough to dissect their flaws, not quite strong enough to fix them. It’s a vicious cycle that Lewis has been cataloguing for decades, but rarely with as much poignancy as On the Line – a bittersweet gift from the traumas in her personal life over the past five years. What to make, then, of “Rabbit Hole,” where Lewis sounds like she’s finally broken through. “Bad habits will be broken / Boy, I have kicked a few / and seven days off the dope and I’ll be as good as new / I’m not gonna go down the rabbit hole / with you, with you, with you again,” she sings, independent and defiant. But Lewis knows herself better than to continue fooling herself, as that dizzying outro makes clear; she’ll just do it on her own terms: “I am gonna go down the rabbit hole / without you, without you.”




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user ratings (48)
Chart.
3.2
good
other reviews of this album
Christopher Y. (3.5)
A rather lacklustre yet overall beautiful execution....



Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2019


12161 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"On the Line" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmfvvKDOEwE



"Wasted Youth" = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY8bdQRpmGU





is this thing still on?

Digging: Jay Som - Anak Ko

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
March 31st 2019


7866 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Hoping this one grows on me more



Head Underwater is straight up one of my favorite songs ever, have developed a super strong emotional connection with it

Digging: We Are Only Human Once - The Prettiest Boys in Town

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2019


12161 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

dude same, most of the Voyager actually. came out at a really important point in my life for me. "Love You Forever" in particular gets me every time

Observer
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2019


6937 Comments


gorgeous writing, rudy. damn.

Digging: Shadow of Intent - Melancholy

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2019


12161 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

glad you liked it jared, very rusty so writing this was a mess. great album to explore tho

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2019


842 Comments


Love your reviews.

Gotta listen to this still. The singles are great. She's so damn cool.

Gyromania
April 1st 2019


28202 Comments


yeah i still gotta hear this too. great review rudy.

"Head Underwater is straight up one of my favorite songs ever"

that and the title track are so good, played both to death by now.

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 1st 2019


12161 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks chan/gyro, means a lot. think both of you would certainly dig this one. not as immediate as the voyager imo but the songs have so much depth and her lyricism is still A++. this grew on me significantly

SherlockChris9021
April 1st 2019


192 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Damn, thought that I will be the only one who will review this album, never know that you will review it as well/steal my lightning. Still, very nice writeup, pos.

JoeTex
April 1st 2019


808 Comments


yep a nice set

alamo
April 1st 2019


1593 Comments


wasted youth has probably the worst chorus i've heard all year

guitarded_chuck
April 1st 2019


18020 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

real subtle album cover

Eons
April 1st 2019


2353 Comments


Is she the type of girl to have this album cover and be like ''yeah I look good so what'' or be like ''it was a statement on art in general and people's reactions to the image expose sexism and blah blah blah''

?

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 1st 2019


12161 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mmmm here’s the Sputnik I know and love

Atari
Staff Reviewer
April 1st 2019


24842 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

glad this got the klap treatment



it's quite intoxicating. her voice is sooo smooth

Digging: Oso Oso - Basking in the glow

grannypantys
April 1st 2019


2037 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

that mole keeps making me check my screen for a smudge

Veldin
April 1st 2019


3865 Comments


dig the artwork similarity to her last record the Voyager. Been a huge fan of Rilo Kiley since their Saddle Creek days, but haven't been huge on her solo stuff. I'll definitely jam this though. Thanks for the awesome review klap. Hope it's better than the new Laura Stevenson LP >_>

Eons
April 1st 2019


2353 Comments


The artwork is a fraud or not her. Just saw a recent interview with her about the album and her boobs looked completely flat in the interview. Bizarre.

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 1st 2019


12161 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for the detective work Eons, maybe go take a walk

JoeTex
April 1st 2019


808 Comments


eons u could be right. noticed a big difference between this alb cover and the previous one. maybe had some work done.



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