Sunday, February 10, 2008

Jenny, I Got Your Number

Entertainment Weekly's Shirley Halperin reports the following:

-- Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis has sidelined her band obligations for a minute to work on another solo album. For the past few weeks, Lewis and a team of Los Angeles cohorts, including singer-songwriter-boyfriend Johnathan Rice, Interpol touring player "Farmer Dave" Scher, and Rilo producer Jason Larder, have been logging full days at Sound City studios in the San Fernando Valley, where Tom Petty's Damn the Torpedoes and Nirvana's Nevermind were recorded. The all-analog sessions also saw several famous friends drop by to lend a hand with guest vocals, among them Zooey Deschanel, the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson, M. Ward, and Elvis Costello, who duets with Lewis on one track. A source who's heard the record says, "It all sounds super natural, nice, and simple. Like it doesn't belong in any decade. It's just timeless." --

If you look over to the right, you'll see Rilo Kiley's Under the Blacklight listed as one of my favorite albums of 2007. I didn't make a list for 2006, but if I had, Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins would have appeared on it for Rabbit Fur Coat, her remarkable first effort away from her band.

The point? I am a fan.

So it pains me to say that I find this press release just a bit worrisome. Just a bit.

First of all, there is nothing inherently superior about analog recording. Sure, plenty of classics were recorded that way, including all the usual suspects (Beatles, Stones, you know the roll call). But so was Terry Jacks's Seasons in the Sun. Analog recording in this day and age is at best a mildly interesting experiment, at worst, a pointless hindrance.

Secondly, there are very very (very) few occasions when stunt casting on an album has worked. There's ... Okay, I can't think of any. But there must be some. Much as I admire Elvis Costello (metric tons worth of admiration) and M. Ward (really good low-tech record from last year), I think they could best serve Jenny Lewis by getting the hell out of her way. Chris Robinson is best known to the general public for his divorce and as for Zooey Deschanel, she sang well enough in Elf and all, but come on.

In the end though, if the songs are there, none of this will matter. And if a few more people pick up the record because Zooey Deschanel is on it (?), then I say, "Hooray."

I'm rooting for you, Jenny. Here's hoping you make 2008's Top Ten.

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