Rilo Kiley front-woman Jenny Lewis delivers evocative, twangy songs on her second solo album Acid Tongue, which was released Sept. 23. The singer's soulful voice rises above the guitars and piano, spinning poignant stories of love and its complications.
The stripped-down quality of Lewis' album differs from Rilo Kiley's 2007 release, strongly pop-influenced Under the Blacklight. The sounds are more reminiscent of her first solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat, interspersing notes of indie rock with a laidback country sound, perfect for swaying on a slow afternoon.
Without her Rilo Kiley bandmates beside her, Lewis' voice is less an accompaniment to catchy melodies and more the main attraction. Several tracks display this shift, namely "Trying My Best to Love You," a slow ballad about a difficult romance which Lewis renders strongly without overwhelming bravado.
Lewis mixes soul-scratching songs with more upbeat numbers, such as the standout "See Fernando," a faster-paced, foot-stomping whirl of musical energy. Another jumpy number is "Jack Killed Mom," a surprisingly catchy song about the unusual subject matter of matricide. On several tracks, such as this one, background vocals accentuate Lewis' voice and give it a gospel sound.
For Acid Tongue, Lewis rounded up an impressive list of supporting acts, including Zooey Deschanel and Elvis Costello. Lewis' duet with Costello on "Carpetbaggers" provides another bouncy, catchy song for the album.
The title track "Acid Tongue" is another great slowed-down song in which Lewis displays her powerful pipes, lushly crooning lines like "We were unlucky in love / but I'd do it all again." With the slow tracks, Lewis has the ability to draw in listeners with a delicate intimacy that makes fans believe in her heart-wrenching renderings.
Occasionally though, Lewis' consistently pretty songs blend too much with each other, making them difficult to distinguish. The nearly nine-minute track, "The Next Messiah," for example, is difficult to digest all at once and might have worked better broken up into several separate songs.
Lewis' songs on this album are not as instantly memorable as the tracks on Rabbit Fur Coat, but with time the intricate stories within Lewis' lyrics come out and leave their mark. Fans of Under the Blacklight may appreciate this chance to hear Lewis' voice in a more natural, less ornate setting than the grooving tracks of Rilo Kiley's group effort.
With this album, Lewis establishes herself as an accomplished vocalist and songwriter that will no doubt leave an impression on the music scene with her tender confessionals.