It feels like forever since we saw Jenny Lewis strutting onstage in that iconic rainbow pantsuit of The Voyager era. The 2014 album was a mostly euphoric, nostalgic splash of pop rock that was as easy to dance to as it was contemplative, and it was the last we’ve heard from her till now. With her fourth solo release, On the Line, Lewis is reintroducing herself to us as the person she is now, five years later. Though it might not be immediately evident upon first listen to her new record, she’s been through an emotional ordeal. Her long-estranged mother passed away, she got out of a long relationship, and she spent some time on the East Coast, escaping it all.
In the aftermath of so much significant change, Lewis has done what many aim to do next: reinvent herself. She’s still the same beautifully honest singer and songwriter she’s always been, but she’s armed with a killer new look and an album that feels incredibly personal. Whether she’s finding ways to laugh at herself or wistfully looking back and wondering where things went wrong, Lewis taps into that same retro pop sound she perfected on Voyager. On the Line shimmers and sparkles even in moments of sadness, desperation, and frustration. This complex recipe shines best on the album’s title track. Lewis makes a plea to a flaky lover who runs “away to Mexico” whenever the going gets tough. On the soft and slow stunner “Dogwood,” we can feel her heart breaking as she tries in vain to make something work long after it’s expired.
Sonically, Lewis is having a blast with On the Line, getting comfy in a bigger, glossier sound that suits her easy, angelic voice so well. We hear it on the sly, synthy piano-pounder “Wasted Youth,” in which she reckons with her past only to douse us with a delicious bit of wisdom: “Just ’cause you’re young don’t mean nothing / We are here and we’re gone / Do something / While your heart is thumpin’,” she sings.
“Red Bull & Hennessy” is all loud guitars and glittering vocals, like an ’80s power pop anthem for letting loose. And on “Do Si Do” we hear Lewis build her harmonies to mountainous heights over a thumping beat. On the Line sweeps us up into the colorful world Lewis is so masterful at creating in her music, and wherever we’re at in our own lives, we can find some comfort knowing she’s felt those same feels, too.