January 12, 2007

"Rabbit Fur Coat" by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins

Rabbit Fur Coat - Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
I’m always late to the party when it comes to music. I didn’t stumble upon punk and hardcore until the beginning of 9th grade, and by then many of the bands I dug were out of commission. I always have that frustrated sense of "WHY HASN'T ANYONE TOLD ME ABOUT THIS?!?" Luckily this time around I was only about a year behind the hype.

I don’t remember how I first happened upon this album, but I know for sure that I was enchanted by the cover artwork - this strange little redhead girl in a dark hallway with some suspicious-looking identical twins looming behind her. It had a very The Shining feel to it. Creepy!

I think at one point mid-last year I searched out the album on iTunes, curious as to what sort of music the album would hold. It’s interesting, how your musical tastes change with the seasons – from the brief clips available to hear, I wasn’t enticed, and left it behind for awhile.

But for some reason, I don’t remember why, I came back to the album two nights ago. This time around the clips made me want to hear more, and I downloaded the album with no hesitation. I only listened to it briefly that first night, as I went on a bit of a spending spree, and purchased some more upbeat music and was rocking out to that instead. The following morning I spent some more time with the album, as it accompanied me on my morning commute. So blown away I was that I continued to listen to it, over and over again throughout the workday and into last night. Folks, this album is something special.

To be more specific about the genre, Jenny Lewis heralds from the indie rock band Rilo Kiley, and at the behest and backing of Bright Eyes singer Conor Oberst, recorded her debut solo album filled with songs of a more alt/folk/country bent. And it works spectacularly well. Upon first listen I thought of June Carter, or Loretta Lynn. She has been referred to as the “Emmylou Harris of the Silverlake set”, which in itself is a bit of a repulsive tag, though, respectfully, accurate. I would describe this as folk country reminiscent of the 50’s and 60’s, with modern, angsty themes and production value.

While her songwriting has been criticized as being simple and jumbled (which, after many listens I have to agree with on certain occasions), her voice transcends that, making the tracks a sheer joy to listen to. I was especially tickled by some of the perhaps-inadvertent homages to singers of time past, while still maintaining a unique quality. Case in point, her enunciation of the word “character” in the title track recalls the whispery diction of breathy songstress Julie London, popular in the 50’s. And for all it’s pleasures, I have to admit, there were also those moments when the lilt of her voice, or a change of key bowled me over and surprised me with tears – which is a strange pleasure in itself.

The Watson Twins (Leigh and Chandra) lend their voices in unison in what can only be described as, to use an obnoxious phrase I would never use in real life, “ethereal” backup vocals. Their inclusion is perfect. And the Traveling Wilburys cover “Handle With Care”, featuring the aforementioned Bright Eyes, Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie, and The Postal Service - a group Ms. Lewis also lends her voice to) and M. Ward, is a solid patch of whimsy in the middle of the album.

Below I’m including a few of my top picks from the album, so that you might get a taste of what this album offers. And as an added treat, the video for “Rise Up With Fists!!!” (featuring Sarah Silverman!!!), in a tongue-in-cheek Hee Haw performance, a wink-wink nod to her country-folk comparisons.

Please remember to right click the link, and save it to your computer if you want repeat listens. If you enjoy it these, please consider purchasing the album from Amazon or the iTunes Music Store. Thanks!

"Rise Up With Fists!!!" (3.3MB)
"Born Secular" (4.7MB)
"You Are What You Love" (3.9MB)

posted by julie at January 12, 2007 10:07 AM