22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2008
Okay, so I KNOW there are those who can't stop waving the Rilo Kiley torch, or the Watson Twins torch as well, but this album is about Jenny Lewis and that's who I'm reviewing. She shines, to keep it simple.
The album starts slowly, with the whimsical flirting chords of "Black Sand" and then the dark, slow churning "Pretty Bird" keeps the flow going smoothly, finishing with a strum that shakes you and fades into silence. Not for long, cause what comes next is "The Next Messiah", which is one of those few album tracks that feels live but isn't, and therefore this meandering jam achieves the ultimate level of polished iridescence.
"Bad Man's World" brings you back out of that shake your butt drumbeat with another of Lewis's paradigms of songbird vocal melancholia, the likes of which we haven't seen I think since before Joni Mitchell's balls dropped (I refer to the effect her smoking has had on her voice over the years that has rendered her from soprano to tenor, which is still beautiful, don't get me wrong, I love Joni, but its no longer that crystal clear soprano you hear as the ghost voice on Neil Young's contribution to The Last Waltz).
But onward, to the meat of this album. "Acid Tongue" softly wails the tale of the road tripper, a road Lewis and so many hundreds of thousands out there have been on. She sings the song of no regrets, but simply having had her fill, despite her soul attraction to that particular journey and the places it has taken her. Following is "See Fernando", a song I must admit I prefer live with the Watson Twins, but it's still a great track and worth it. Had I never heard the live version before, I might have been all about this one. "Godspeed" breaks my heart, just an amazing song, one that floors you and rips you open and makes you want to hug your best friend for all the times you've had be painfully real with each other. This was my favorite song on this album.
Then there's "Carpetbagger", a song that I really wish Costello hadn't opened his mouth on, but the song is strong enough with its audacity and razor edge to have you forgiving Elvis the minute Jenny takes the mike back. Side not on "Carpetbagger", I live in SC, and there are so many bars that this song would not go over well in, but that doesn't mean the patrons don't need to hear it.
"Carpetbagger" goes into "Trying My Best to Love You", another slow churned, extra creamy Jenny ballad, which preludes the jaw dropping "Jack Killed Mom", a song that will make you see the Janis Joplin influence on Jenny Lewis, not one of emulation, but of pure SOUL, dig?
Ending this unfortunately short album is the sweet not saccharine "Sing a Song for Them", which is a gentle come down that reminds me of the Dead's "Ripple", Jenny Lewis ends her album with hope and wisdom and a smile on her face that you can hear through your speakers.
To quote my best friend, "Whatever she's on, I want two."
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2008
I've been a Rilo Kiley fan since 2003, and like someone else had said, I wanted to like this album. I really did. I thought Rabbit Fur Coat was pretty good, but this was a real disappointment. There are a lot of hipster kids who will say that this album is genius, and I really question whether they would listen to something like this if it wasn't Jenny Lewis. I'm leaning more towards no, they wouldn't. I saw her a few times on her 2006 solo tour, and "Carpetbaggers" and "Acid Tongue" were fantastic, but the studio versions disappointed me. Elvis Costello sounds out of place on "Carpetbaggers" and the backing/chorus vocals on "Acid Tongue" stick out too much and take away from what would otherwise be a flawless song. "Jack Killed Mom" is okay, as is "The Next Messiah," but I can't really listen to the others. The first two tracks are weak openers, and Jenny's voice takes on an odd pitch. The rest aren't all bad; I just can't get into them.
Sorry. I tried to like it, but ultimately, this record is less than what I have come to expect from Jenny.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2010
I was never a big fan of Rilo Kiley and never heard Rabbit Fur Coat when I first checked out this album. Some of the songs blew me away from the first listen. Others grew on me slowly. There's not a bad or boring moment on this album, except for Elvis Costello in Carpetbaggers, who makes me wish I was deaf for 15 seconds. There's a perfect mix of rock, country, folk, and soul here that sounds timeless. Jenny Lewis' voice goes from high and eerie (Black Sand) to low, tough and sultry, and she masters everything.
The Next Messiah is just about the smoothest, most energetic, rocking song I've ever heard, and it's basically three songs. See Fernando and Jack Killed Mom are in the same vein.
Acid Tongue sounds like a classic folk song. It's simple and powerful, as are Godspeed and the other low-key songs here.
I've gone back and heard some great songs from RFC and Rilo Kiley's albums but nothing compares to this one.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2008
"I wear a ponytail like a waterfall / Loudspeaker cause a landslide / I got a room key and a Johnny / A good buzz, feelin' alright," sings Jenny Lewis on the swingin' "See Fernando," the immediate standout track from her second solo album, Acid Tongue. Those rhythmic one-liners, penned while touring for her breakout debut, 2006's Rabbit Fur Coat, say an awful lot about the Rilo Kiley front woman. She's somewhat of a girly girl; she likes rock n' roll and isn't afraid of its time-tested clichés; she's got a man (singer/songwriter Johnathan Rice) and wont flinch at the chance to tease her listeners about closed doors; and she likes to shamelessly knock a few back whenever possible. Whether that's the real Lewis or not hardly matters, it's her stage and studio persona, and it - along with her gift-from-heaven voice - has brought her a long way in the last five years.
Rabbit Fur Coat put the Lewis namesake on the map, elevating her from her longtime standing as the fire-haired indie-rock darling who fronts Rilo Kiley to the level of respected adult solo artist who gets consistent plan on NPR. It must be said that using the term "solo," however, has never felt right with Lewis. Rabbit Fur Coat not only prominently featured two backing vocalists (those creepy Watson Twin gals) on every song, but also M. Ward, Mike Mogis, Rice, Conor Oberst, Ben Gibbard, Jason Boesel and many others. Likewise, Acid Tongue features a cast of heavy hitters, including Elvis Costello, Rice, Paz Lenchantin, Ward, Zooey Deschanel, Chris Robinson, Benji Hughes, Farmer Dave Scher and, well, many others. But that's okay; nothing wrong with calling in the pros. The personality Lewis put into both her writing and vocal style prevail over all sidenotes on Acid Tongue more than ever, positioning the still-budding lyricist at the center of the sound, loud and pretty, the lovechild of Dusty Springfield, J.J. Cale and The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed. Look at those influences; the word here, clearly, is "timeless."
A very even mix of instantly hummable ballads, country rockers and mid-tempo pop tunes fill Acid Tongue's 11-song tracklist, kicking off with "Black Sand," a piano-laced ballad that gets right to it, feeling like a fragile voiced hook from beginning to end. The arrangement here, and on all of the album's ballads, is simple, subtle and organic - likely recorded live-in-studio (or at least made to sound as such). Lewis' voice is at the center ... but we'll stop saying that, her voice is always at the center, even on all those great Rilo Kiley records. Next up is "Pretty Bird," a mid-tempo blue-eyed soul tune that makes for a slow start to this dirt road acid trip. No worries, though, a little three-part tune called "The Next Messiah" hits next. This song is, without doubt, the hardest Lewis and her crew have yet worked together in the studio. Clocking in at nearly nine minutes and featuring 11 musicians and multiple vocalists, the song is made epic from the intro, featuring a swaggering rhythm section and Lewis strutting her stuff over loud, sexy guitar riffs and a star-studded chorus of singers with half of Lewis' vocal chops. Great in concept, "The Next Messiah" is hardly the kind of song that anyone is ever going to skip directly to or put on a mixtape. Mostly, this song was made for three reasons: 1) fun in the studio with hip musician friends; 2) something different, something ambitious; 3) made for the stage and buzzed crowds. It's a good tune, surely, but probably would've been better suited as the final cut on the album.
The abovementioned "See Fernando" is the hands down overall highlight here (and one of the best songs of the year), but the record's title track, "Godspeed" and "Sing a Song For Them" make for some of Lewis' very best work yet, ranking this a commendable follow-up to her much loved debut. The songs - again, all taking the timeless-or-bust route - all have their own personality and the musicianship here is better than on said debut. The cohesiveness and instant accessibility of Rabbit Fur Coat, however, isn't here; Acid Tongue is a sultry soul-meets-folk-rock album that comes off like more of a dusty 60s collection of 7" singles than, say, a Laura Nyro front-to-back experience. All this means for the listener is that a little more time and fortitude is needed to get to know this stellar set of organic folk-rock. Hardly a problem when you have an angel-voiced country heart singing about room keys and lying about acid trips and murders over always solid, always rustic arrangements. Here it is, the sound of Fall 2008. (Greg Locke)
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2008
I first listened to this record (at least 5 times) when it was posted on Jenny Lewis's myspace page. Then I purchased the CD the day it came out and gave it another 4 listens. Here is my conclusion:
Acid Tongue isn't a carbon copy of Rabbit Fur Coat. Why would we want what we've already heard? What Jenny brought us here is not only a collection of exciting new material but also a variation of the aesthetic found on Rabbit Fur Coat. For me, the biggest difference between Rabbit Fur Coat and Acid Tongue is that on Acid Tongue, Jenny is not holding back vocally. This is evident on tracks such as (but not limited to) The Next Messiah, Trying My Best To Love You, and Jack Killed Mom. Her voice is so dynamic, especially when she alternates from her higher register where her voice is sweet with a beautiful vibrato, to the middle of her range where her sharp-tongued lyrics benefit from her country twanged snarl.
And yes, The Watson Twins are absent from this record but Jenny has such a talented group of friends singing backup/harmonies that I honestly don't miss The Watson Twins (they are very talented, too). My one gripe is on the track Carpetbaggers where Elvis Costello duets with Jenny. I don't think his voice matches the bluegrass style of the song and wish Jonathan Rice would've done the duet instead (as he did on the RFC tour).
Finally, what makes this record so appealing is its ability to offer slower, mellow tracks as well as some very rocking, dance-worthy ones (not in the night club sense but rather, an alt.country hoedown).
So please enjoy Acid Tongue whether you are new to Jenny Lewis or have worn through 3 copies of Rabbit Fur Coat.
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2008
This is one of those albums that I can't listen to just once, even though nearly every song could stand alone.
For this album, Lewis and her collaborators left behind most audio editing technology to give a more natural sound to it. The songs sound incredibly geuine without being gritty, and there's still plenty of rock.
"The Next Messiah" will, no doubt, be one of the most talked about songs from this disc. It's around 9 minutes long, but it flies by and seems perfectly at home among the other songs.
It's hard to write a slow song that's still incredibly catchy, but this album has many. "Black Sand," "Godspeed," and "Pretty Bird" are infectious but wouldn't sound out of place in a coffee house. "Carpetbagger" and "See Fernando" are more up-tempo and equally viral, "Carpetbagger" featuring Elvis Costello on vocals. I'm not convinced his vocals fit the song, but he definitely lends that Elvis Costello presence to the song.
For those who are bigger fans of Rilo Kiley or Rabbit Fur Coat, there are songs that could be at home there too. The title track could be a Rilo Kiley song as it tells the story of a woman who's given up smoking and drugs but hasn't convinced herself that redemption is available just yet. The penultimate song, "Jack Killed Mom" has a fun spirit that is purely of this album but also a gospel influence that would be right at home on Rabbit Fur Coat.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2009
After the first, and even second listen, I was firmly in the 3.5 star camp. Once someone pops in Acid Tongue for the first time, especially if they're familiar with Rabbit Fur Coat, it is somewhat surprising. On RFC, after a small minute track to warm up, three of the next four songs were very upbeat or powerful songs (The Charging Sky, The Big Guns, and Rise Up With Fists !!, only with Happy intervening). On Acid Tongue, two consecutive slow tracks begin the album. "Black Sand", while pretty, is subdued for a first track (especially considering that she opens her live shows with See Fernando), and "Pretty Bird" is much more of a complement for it in style, and possibly slower in pacing to boot. "The Last Messiah" follows, which is nearly nine minutes, and the first time you hear it, you definitely notice it's nine minutes, as you're dying for something new. "Bad Man's World" goes back to a slower pace, which I know threw me off of my expectations for Acid Tongue on the first lesson.
Luckily, the album does pick up after that. The title track is still slow, but there's a spark behind it that I feel Pretty Bird and Black Sand are missing. There's a power, an interesting hook, something to remember. Then the album takes a spike in tempo, as the rip-roaring and very fast "See Fernando" begins to shape the image of the album. For the remainder of the album, Lewis has several great efforts, with Godspeed being the only possible "miss" on the final half of the album.
To this point, it sounds like a 3-4 star review. However, as you listen again, with the full context of the album, the earlier tracks become stronger. Suddenly, "The Last Messiah" lasting nine minutes is a little more acceptable when you see the huge role of the supporting cast on the remainder of the album, and the impact of them as such. Songs like "Black Sand" or "Bad Man's World" become significantly more listenable because you know that it will pick up later, and that this is the balance.
A month ago, I would have rated it 4/5. However, the album is just getting played more and more recently, and it is becoming better as time goes by. It's not perfect, it needed to be in a different order and I felt like a few tracks could have been omitted if she wanted to, but I think it's just on the cusp of 5 stars, barely.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2009
I have never heard of Jenny Lewis before. Never heard of Rilo Kiley, never heard of her first album, and would have probobly never hear about her if it wasn't for this album.
I picked it up after reading about Chris Robinson's involvement, and after getting some heartfelt reccomendations from friends with similar musical taste.
I was overwhelmed by the beauty and simplicity of the album. The humble majesty of the first two songs, Black Sand and Pretty Bird, cought me completely off guard. Jenny's voice and aesthetics often reminds me of Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris. Largely speaking, I feel like the mellower songs are the strong side of the album, adding to the first two tracks the beauty of Bad Man's World and Acid Tongue, and the melancholy of Trying My Best To Love You. The more rocking numbers are very fun as well, but I often find myself only listening to the mellow songs.
I have read some reviews here questioning whether people would still like this album if it wasn't for Jenny Lewis. As I said, I had no idea who she was before this album. I would even go one further and say that I'm not too keen to immediately explore her earlier recordings, as I feel like they can only dissapoint after the haunting beauty which awaits around every corner of this beautiful, simple album.
One for the books.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2012
I think both of Jenny Lewis's solo albums are great. Rabbit Fur coat is I think more even all the way thru but I think Acid Tongue rocks a lot harder, and has some extremely great songs and a couple ok.
Carpetbagger, Jack Killed Mom, Acid Tongue, Fernando, Next Messiah all totally rock out.
What I love about Jenny Lewis is that while she is a female songwriter and performer she doesn't try to sound like Shawn Colvin, or have a quirky little girl voice or use the same rhythm back track it seems like a million "Girls With Guitars" seem to fall into.
Musically she more reminds me of Matthew Sweet or something like that and she can belt it out and her songwriting is free of the self seriousness that so many female songwriters fall into.
Just a really great female singer songwriter that you can hear her influences in her music but she's not copying them and comes up with some really unique stuff.
20 years from now you can probably pick up this CD and still enjoy it and maybe by then she will be as famous as she deserves to be.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2011
I got this album when it first came out, listened to it once, and dismissed it because I thought it was awful. Fast forward to almost a year later when I got to see Jenny perform this album live. Watching her perform these songs live was fantastic and it gives a whole new depth to the music featured here. I relistened to what I previously dismissed and fell completely in love with what I was hearing. I now consider this to be one of my favorite albums because of the cohesiveness and the overall theme. It's definitely not just eleven songs slapped together.
When I first listened, I expected a mix of Jenny's previous work (Rilo Kiley & Watson Twins). This is nothing like that, and that's probably why I was disappointed initially. Once those preconceived notions were dropped, I was fully able to enjoy the music. Try it out.