Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Jenny Lewis: The Voyager [Warner Bros., 2014]
After a five-year absence if you don't count the time she threw herself away on Johnathan Rice--which if we are to take these songs autobiographically (as of course we are not) is kind of a syndrome with her--Lewis's formal command remains a wonder. If terse, well-turned, literal, indelible songcraft is so easy, why can't Aimee Mann or Gillian Welch or for that matter a more attractive character like Elizabeth Morris bring it off right down to the B sides? Every melody stands alone; every arrangement tops it off; every vocal nails it; every lyric parses with just enough mystery and mordant self-regard to make you crave some backstory. But her bad romances are so nonstop that their cumulative effect wears thin. You begin to suspect that her characters never achieve the consummations they think they wish because it isn't love they're looking for--it's perfection, or control. A-