Jenny Lewis: "Completely Not Me"
from Girls, Vol. 2: All Adventurous Women Do (Atlantic; 2014)
By Maura McAndrew | 29 January 2014
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been happy to hear Jenny Lewis’ name begin to emerge as an influence for a new crop of young artists. As a Rilo Kiley fan since the band’s early days, I’ve often felt that Lewis’ talent has been somewhat overlooked, a fate which befalls those ahead of their time. Lewis’ two solo albums, Rabbit Fur Coat (2006) and Acid Tongue (2008), which were both lauded and seemingly swiftly forgotten, are echoed in the work of many, such as She & Him and HAIM, and between Waxahatchee and Swearin’, the Crutchfield sisters have the Rilo Kiley sound covered. So now that Lewis’ sound—’70s Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter with a sprinkling of indie rock cynicism—is fully in vogue, where has she been?
Lewis’ last album was 2010’s I’m Having Fun Now, an underwhelming outing with partner Johnathan Rice that was missing her characteristic wit and earthy sound. Aside from a couple of film scores (including this year’s Anne Hathaway film Song One) and a Rilo Kiley retrospective (last year’s Rkives), Lewis has remained quiet for the past four years. Thankfully, she’s not planning early retirement: a new solo record has been completed and ready for a possible spring release, and it appears Johnathan Rice is sitting this one out (at least nominally).
To tide us over, Lewis has recorded a song for season three of HBO’s Girls, a show about a group of young women who probably sang along with Rabbit Fur Coat in their teenage bedrooms. The new track “Completely Not Me” eschews the breeziness of I’m Having Fun Now, and instead feels like a lost track from Rilo Kiley’s last, ‘70s-inspired record Under the Blacklight. It’s a welcome sign that Lewis’ exceptional voice and songwriting gifts are as strong as ever, with clap-along Tom Petty verses soaring into an ethereal chorus that few other vocalists could pull off. The production is more noticeable here than on other Lewis recordings—there are deep, stomp-along drums and a crisp piano riff—but it’s undeniably a Jenny Lewis song. And while it’s nice to hear other artists working under her influence, there’s no substitute for the real thing.