Tag Archives: Jenny Lewis

Favorite 40 songs of 2014

27, Passenger – A 27-year-old takes stock of his life. Witty, intelligent and occasionally sad.

1,000 Deaths, D’Angelo – D’Angelo emerges from his hibernation to drop one of the more interesting discs of 2014. Welcome back.

Avant Gardner, Courtney Barnett – Stream-of-consciousness psychedelic folk. Plus Barnett uses “emphysema” as a verb.

Bad News, Sleeper Agent – Love him or hate him? To be decided …

Blinded, The Bots – Not sure either of these brothers is old enough to drink. They are, however, old enough to kick musical ass.

Come Back Home, Trampled By Turtles – Amp the speed up to ludicrous and belt out top-notch bluegrass tunes. Repeat as necessary.

Dat Sound Good, PRhyme feat. Ab-Soul and Mac Miller – DJ Premier always sound good. Here, teamed up with Royce da 5’9″ and guests Ab-Soul and Mac Miller, the track rolls as the rhymers raise their game to keep up.

Dead Man’s Tetris, Flying Lotus feat. Captain Murphy and Snoop Dogg – I love it when hip-hop experiments. The production is unique and other-worldly, and Snoop lends the most familiar voice in the rap game to ground the track.

Don’t Mess With Me, Brody Dalle – Mrs. Josh Homme cranks out no-nonsense, ballsy rock.

Doses & Mimosas, Cherub – Probably my favorite song of 2014, and definitely not in my wheelhouse. A hedonistic, electro-funk disco kiss off that may be one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard.

Eye to Eye, Lee Bains & The Expressions – Soul music, done right.

FUNKNROLL, Prince – Ah, funky Prince sticks his head up again. Feels so damn good.

Guns + Ammunition, July Talk – I keep going back and forth on this one or Summer Dress. These Canadians are responsible for one of the best live shows I witnessed in 2014. Can’t wait to see them again.

High & Wild, Angel Olsen – A swirling haze of distorted guitars wrapped around Angel’s stoned, vulnerable voice.

I Just Don’t Understand, Spoon – Spoon’s always known how to ride a groove, but they upped their songwriting game on 2014’s They Want My Soul.

Indie Cindy, The Pixies – Classic Pixie sound, new Pixie song.

Jolly Fucker, Sleaford Mods – These guys land somewhere between iconoclastic Sex Pistols and Brit hip-hop star The Streets, a mix of UK punk attitude and stoner rap.

Just Another Bullet, Young Fathers – I’m not sure you can really go wrong with anything from Dead, but Just Another Bullet has some of the most interesting production I heard in the past year.

Legs, Chuck Inglish feat. Chromeo – A former Cool Kid teams up with the latest neo-funk stars for a track that should have been banging out of every third car over the course of the summer of 2014.

Like a Mighty River, St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Soul music, effortless and classic.

Little Monster, Royal Blood – Just a bass player and a drummer cranking out thick, deep, melodic metal.

Littlest League Possible, Guided By Voices – So GBV imploded in 2014? Bob Pollard will likely be back with seventy-two albums in 2015, so you won’t get much of a chance to miss the genius of this Midwestern songwriter.

Love You Forever, Jenny Lewis – If only Jenny’s output was at a rate closer to that of Bob Pollard and Guided by Voices. But you won’t hear me complaining about the final product.

Madness, King Tuff – If this was 1983, I’d be calling this “rad.” I’ll stick with that.

The Map, Parkay Quarts – Parquet Courts’ alter ego dropped this little nugget of madness late in the year.

Means to be a Woman, Brother O’ Brother – Bluesy Indiana rock of the highest order.

My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head, The Wind and the Wave – This is one of those songs where the first time you hear it, you’ll be singing along by the second chorus. And by that point, you’ll have already been stomping your feet and clapping your hands through the verses.

My Resignation, Besserbitch – A chewy nugget of punk-pop rage.

New American Standard, Wussy – Sometimes, nice and easy works. This stripped-down rock cut exemplifies that.

Not the End of the World (Even as We Know It), Faded Paper Figures – “Yeah / It’s hard / But it’s not the end of the world / Not even as we know it.”

Oblivious, Jessica Lee Mayfield – Hints of Mazzy Star and Sleater-Kinney. I just love the guitar sound.

Question Everything, Logic – Quit listening to the lies and bullshit and see the truth. #logicforpresident

Raw Milk, Parquet Courts – When I hear Parquet Courts, I think of a lot of good 1990’s bands: Pavement, Sonic Youth, Slint, etc. Courts manage to reflect those influences while crafting their own sound.

Talk to God, Goat – It’s interesting and a bit hypnotic, rock grounded in folk tradition.

Two Weeks, FKA twigs – Twig’s album, LP1, is incredibly overrated. That said, promise shines through on tracks such as this one.

Violent Shiver, Benjamin Booker – Unrestrained blues rock that’ll have you bouncing off the walls.

Watch You Change, Drowners – I said it earlier this year, these rockers have one of my favorite lines of 2014: “There’s not a shoulder / cold enough for me / to give her.”

Welcome to America, Lacrae – Fight for your country and return, only to be targeted as a thug or gangster by the society you served. Welcome to America, indeed.

West Coast, Lana Del Rey – This and Brooklyn Baby drew me into Lana’s web.

On the bubble: Brand New, Pharrell feat. Justin Timberlake; Bring Me Your Loves, St. Vincent; Brooklyn Baby, Lana Del Rey; Chaghaybou, Tinariwen; Change My Ways, Tony Molina; Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck), Run the Jewels feat. Zach de la Rocha; Disco Shit, Cherub; D.R.E.A.M., Pharoahe Monch feat. Talib Kweli; Drown With the Monster, White Lung; Emerald Tuesday, Cibo Matto; Fall in Love, Phantogram; God & Nature, Loudon Wainwright III; I Don’t Wanna Go Home, Curtis Harding; I Wanna Be a Yank, Fucked Up; Jerk Ribs, Kelis; Lonely Sunday, Reignwolf; Longer Than You’ve Been Alive, Old ’97s; Lost Boys, Sir Michael Rocks feat. Mac Miller and Trinidad James; Never, The Roots feat. Patty Crash; Other Lovers, Devon Dubois; Owen, Frankie Cosmos; People Don’t Get What They Deserve, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings; Porkpig, Logic; Riff Randall, Sleeping Bag; Rollercoaster, Bleachers; Sexy Socialite, Chromeo; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Flaming Lips feat. My Morning Jacket, Fever the Ghost and J. Mascis; Strut, Lenny Kravitz; … to the bars, Sterile Jets

Honorable mentions: Ain’t So Simple, Protomartyr; American Horror, Speedy Ortiz; Black and White, Parquet Courts; Blind Faze, TOPS; Blue Moon, Beck; Bobby Reid, Lucette; Can’t Break Me Down, Billy Idol; Cedar Lane, First Aid Kit; China, BRONCHO; Creepin’ Jenny, The Pack a.d.; Dog Bumped (Live), Tim Barry; Don’t Leave Me Dry, Spanish Gold; Faithless, Black Veil Brides; Frequencies, Katie Herzig; Ghost & Pains, Wildbirds & Peacedrums; Heady Ways, Fly Golden Eagle; Heavy Metal and Reflective, Azaelia Banks; I Am Me, Logic; I’ll Go To Sleep, BLUFFING; I’m Only Joking, Kongos; The Impasse, Hookworms; Interference Fits, Perfect Pussy; Just One Drink, Jack White; Life of Sin, Sturgill Simpson; Long Gone, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger; Looking for Something, Paolo Nutini; Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, The Flaming Lips feat. Miley Cyrus and Moby; Magic, Mystery Skulls feat. Niles Rodgers and Brandy; Native Korean Rock, Karen O; Now Here In, Cloud Nothings; Parade of Choosers, Centro-Matic; Place Names, Cymbals Eat Guitars; Red Water, Diamond Youth; Run Rabbit Run, Black Pistol Fire; Runners, Lacrae; Sisters, Raveonettes; Slow Coming, Benjamin Booker; Sober, Childish Gambino; Soul Food, Big K.R.I.T feat. Rafael Saadiq; Summer Dress, July Talk; Supernova, Ray LaMontagne; Take Away These Early Grave Blues, Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra; Top Notch, Manchester Orchestra; Tongues, Joywave feat. KOPPS; Uno, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib; World Away, Tweedy

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Favorite 10 albums of 2014

Benjamin Booker, Benjamin Booker – Maybe my favorite album of 2014. I wrote before that Booker is “somewhere between the Black Keys and the Black Crowes.” I still think it’s a fair assessment.

Curtis Harding, Soul Power – Today’s R&B so frequently sounds way too clean or way too dirty. Soul Power keeps a fresh, live sound throughout.

July Talk, Guns + Ammunition – A great one-two, male-female vocal combination. Saw them live in October, and I was blown away by their stage presence.

Jenny Lewis, VoyagerVoyager is a departure from the country-tinged solo albums preceding it. It’s Lewis’s lyrics that keep me coming back for more.

Parkay Quarts, Content Nauseau – Parquet Courts’ second release of 2014 was another impressive entry into their short catalogue.

Perfect Pussy, Say Yes to Love – Hard, heavy and awesome. I can’t wait for more from PP.

Pixies, Indie Cindy – It’s Frank Black’s band now, and it works. Not a classic, but better than 95% of the new releases from old bands getting back together.

Royal Blood, Royal Blood – The Lord said there shall be metal. And there was.

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything – It’s not easy, and it’s not catchy. But it is awesome.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Half the CityHalf the City recreates that classic Stax/Muscle Shoals sound, and St. Paul and Co. do it well. They also put on a show on the live stage.

On the bubble: Courtney Barnett, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas; King Tuff, Black Moon Spell; Lacrae, Anomaly; Tony Molina, Dissed & Dismissed; Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal; Spoon, They Want My Soul; Jack White, Lazaretto; Angel Wilson, Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Honorable mention: Cherub, Year of the Caprese; Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence; First Aid Kit, Stay Gold; Guided By Voices, Motivational Jumpsuit; Kelis, Food; Logic, Spectator; Pharoahe Monch, PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; Pete Molinari, Theosophy; PRhyme, PRhyme; Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2; Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Give the People What They Want; Spanish Gold, South of Nowhere; St. Vincent, St. Vincent; Trampled By Turtles, Wild Animals; Tweedy, Sukierae; Young Fathers, Dead

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Fave albums of 2014, so far: The 3Q wrap-up

Benjamin Booker, Benjamin Booker – A powerful burst of blues rock, somewhere between the Black Keys and the Black Crowes.

Curtis Harding, Soul Power – Today’s R&B so frequently sounds like it’s made in a hermetically sealed studio with computers. Soul Power is so warm because Harding and the band at times sound like they’re performing live, not just cranking out the same riffs over and over until they get handed to the geek with Pro Tools to be cleansed and assembled for distribution.

July Talk, Guns + Ammunition – I’ll be seeing this group open for Rural Alberta Advantage in October, and I’m really looking forward to it. The songwriting is strong, and the one-two, male-female vocal combination creates a unique sound.

Jenny Lewis, Voyager – Do I love it as much as Rabbit Fur Coat or Acid Tongue? No. Voyager loses the country sound for a poppier sheen. Regardless, Ms. Lewis is still one of the smartest and funniest lyricists around, and that elevates her latest effort.

Tony Molina, Dissed & Dismissed – If Rivers Cuomo cut the cute shtick and just made hook-driven punk pop, the album would sound like Dissed & Dismissed.

Perfect Pussy, Say Yes to Love – This is one of those albums where not only do I like the collection for what it is, but I’m also excited about the potential it teases.

Pixies, Indie Cindy – It’s rare that an old band gets back together and makes a quality album (The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, etc.). The Pixies defy that expectation with a disc that stands with their best.

Royal Blood, Royal Blood – When you think of two-piece rock outfits, the Black Keys and the White Stripes tend to come to mind. But this bass-drums combo is much more No One Knows than Ball and a Biscuit.

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything – Prince once said, “Let’s get crazy.” Silver Mt. Zion took them up on that, making a sprawling, psychedelic punk album worthy of Sonic Youth.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Half the City – Another album that’s been on this list since the first quarter, Half the City is a well-made collection of Southern soul music. I can’t recommend these guys enough live.

Honorable mention: Cherub, Year of the Caprese; Courtney Barnett, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas; First Aid Kit, Stay Gold; Lana Del Ray, Ultraviolence; Guided By Voices, Motivational Jumpsuit; Lecrae, Anomaly; Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal; Pharoahe Monch, PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; Pete Molinari, Theosophy; Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Give the People What They Want; Spoon, They Want My Soul; Spanish Gold, South of Nowhere; Trampled By Turtles, Wild Animals; Tweedy, Sukierae; Angel Wilson, Burn Your Fire For No Witness

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Jenny Lewis, Indianapolis, 7/31/2014

Jenny Lewis at Old National in Indy.

Jenny Lewis at Old National in Indy.

Way back in 1995 I saw Cypress Hill as part of the original Lollapalooza tour. About midway through the set, B-Real started to kick into the second verse of some song … only to begin repeating the first verse. A few lines in, he realized his error, and stopped the song. “Sometimes when you smoke a lot of weed, you forget shit.” Cypress Hill started the song over, did it right this time and played one of the most energetic sets of the day.

I thought of that when Jenny Lewis and her band stopped Late Bloomer, a track from her newest disc, The Voyager, on Thursday night in Indy. It was their first time playing the song live, and there was some confusion at the end of the second verse. The band, Jenny and the crowd had a brief discussion about what was to come next, and when the correction was agreed upon, Jenny and the band started again and finished to great applause.

That’s what the live show is about: Figuring out how those perfect, clean, heavily tinkered with songs from the album translate in the less-than-perfect real world. Some artists throw fits, argue or yell, creating tension in the group and between the group and the audience. When artists handle it with aplomb, such as B-Real and Jenny did, it sets a relaxed, enjoyable tone.

As a whole, the show was terrific. I’ve always through Jenny has a pretty voice, a flawless voice that plays nicely off the lyrics about flawed individual. What I didn’t realize is how strong her voice is, and live that surprised me more than anything that happened on stage. She and the band played a majority of the new album – Late Bloomer, Aloha & The Three Johns, She’s Not Me, Slippery Slopes, Just One of the Guys, Love You Forever, etc. – tossing in a few from Rabbit Fur Coat (including my favorite from that album, Rise Up With Fists) and Acid Tongue, and even a Rilo Kiley track (the powerful A Better Son/Daughter).

If you didn’t walk in a fan, you sure walked out one.

Other notes …

* The Apache Relay opened and weren’t bad. But I’m confused as to why they needed their third guitarist-slash-second keyboardist. He didn’t seem to add anything to the mix other than another body on an already crowded stage. They also didn’t seem to go off script much. If you’re going to have that many instruments up on stage, someone should jam or go off at some point. Decent, but a bit tepid.

* I got the distinct displeasure of hearing someone absolutely butcher the sound for Perry Farrell’s vocals during Jane’s Addiction’s set a while back at Old National Centre. Last night, Jenny’s voice kept getting buried in the mix. I’m not sure how you hid the voices of such two powerful singers, but I sure as hell wish that would stop happening. Beginning to think it’s not worth it to go to Old National to hear a band, because you aren’t likely to hear the singer.

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Forecastle 2014, in review

The fellas from Reignwolf flat out shred.

The fellas from Reignwolf flat out shred.

Before I get to the music, I just want to say how much I appreciated the free valet bike parking the festival offered. Really enjoyed not having to get into my car or worrying about my bike being stolen while I took in the tunes. Thanks to the folks at Forecastle and MailChimp.

DAY 1

The Black Lips – They were fun to watch live and are good at what they do – a 1950s rockabilly-punk hybrid. Also the first time I’ve ever seen a member of a band periodically try to spit and catch it in his mouth.

Gary Clark Jr. – Please, Gary, don’t slow it down. The three slow songs really dragged the energy down. When Gary and his crew would kick it into high gear, and the intensity and energy would soar. Bright Lights, Big City, my favorite, got a makeover, with some heavy syncopation on the chorus that was a nice live change.

Spoon – These guys find a groove and ride it. I’ve enjoyed them on disc, particularly Kill the Moonlight and Gimme Fiction, but live they’re much more than the sum of their parts. Probably the first time I’ve seen a few thousand people simultaneously bob their heads for an hour.

OutKast – They’re not a rap group. They’re a damn funk band, and a fine one at that. They also played my favorite OutKast joint, Da Art of Storytellin’. My only issue was that they front-loaded all of the highest-energy tracks – B.O.B., etc. One or two of those toward the end would have been nice. Still, awesome to see Andre and Big Boi together. Record an album, please!

DAY 2

The Wans – Tight, young guitar rock crew. I’d see them again in a club or as an opener.

Jill Andrews – I saw her open for The Avett Brothers in early 2013 and absolutely loved her. Just her on acoustic guitar, with another guitarist in tow. However, I find her to be way too polished on disc, and that’s what I felt like when I saw her at Forecastle with a full band. Good for those of you into a more mainstream country sound, but just not my thing.

Spanish Gold – My biggest disappointment of the festival. I really, really like their latest release, South of Nowhere, and I was looking forward to the live show to see how they filled out their sound. And they pretty much sounded like they do on disc. They weren’t bad, but I was expecting some Santana-esque next level shit, and there was none.

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Sharon Jones is a badass. No further commentary necessary.

Johnnyswim – I went outside my comfort zone for this lovey-dovey duo. Solid performers, but a little soft for me. That said, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a prettier couple in person than Abner Ramirez and wife Amanda Sudano.

Slint – Hells yeah. I was hoping for sludgy 1990s punk metal, and Slint served it up. Also the first time I’ve ever seen a show underneath an interstate highway.

Jack White – White and his crew put on a clinic, blazing through country, punk, garage rock, rockabilly, metal and so on. They even threw in a theremin solo for good measure, as well as earning points for playing Blue Moon of Kentucky. It would have been the best performance of the weekend, except they got upstaged on Day 3 (see Reignwolf).

DAY 3

Sharon Van Etten – There’s something a bit mesmerizing about Van Etten. It was blazing hot, and she was cooler than the other side of the pillow, playing reserved, heartfelt, country-tinged cuts that kept the crowd’s attention. Her between song patter was a hoot, as well. Liked her enough that I’ll be re-visiting her new album, Are We There.

Trampled by Turtles

Dear Trampled By Turtles,

Have you ever noticed that when you play fast – sometimes even light-speed fast on tracks such as Wait So Long – the crowd is rowdy, energetic, dancing, yelling and loving every minute of it? And have you noticed that, when you start playing down-tempo songs that make up at least half the show, the crowd claps politely? I’ve seen you twice, and I’ve noticed it both times. Just something to think about.

Sincerely,

Adam

Jenny Lewis – Jenny was gorgeous (vocally and visually), the stage was awash in bright colors and the band – with some help from the Watson Twins – were dead on. I had to leave early to get to Reignwolf, but I will be seeing Ms. Lewis again at the end of July in Indianapolis, and I can’t wait.

Reignwolf – Oh. My. God. This trio, led by axman and singer Jordan Cook, are the balls (thank you, Ron Burgundy). Seriously, Cook was force of freakin’ nature, breaking string after string, taking the mic off the stand to sing and throwing it over his shoulder during solos, jumping all over while playing 95% of the set without a guitar strap and just flat-out shredding some amazing blues metal. As much as I loved headliners OutKast, Beck and Jack White and shows by other acts such as Spoon and Jenny Lewis, there’s no doubt in my mind that Reignwolf put on the best show of the weekend. I can’t wait to see them in action again.

Tune-Yards – I’ve listened to them on disc, and while they are unique and interesting, they’re not my thing. That said, I really enjoyed the live show and would definitely be interested in seeing them again. I hesitate to say much more because I only caught their last 2-3 songs after the Reignwolf set.

Ray LaMontagne – I’m not huge on LaMontagne, but I enjoy the new album, Supernova, quite a bit and was looking forward to his set. But live … snooze. Maybe it was just too hot for music that mellow, I don’t know. But I left early to get up close for Beck.

Beck – What can I say? This guy puts on a show, working Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean and Busta Rhymes’ Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See seamlessly into the middle of his own songs. The high point: Debra. My favorite slow jam, and he milked it for all it was worth. Maybe not as good as the time I saw him at Bonnaroo in 2006, but still terrific.

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