Most people who haven’t slept for five days would see a doctor. Instead, former Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis began writing songs for her first solo album in six years. Plagued by insomnia following the break-up of her band and death of her estranged father, the 38 year-old American crafted the bulk of The Voyager from a very dark place. While it shows on introspective laments ‘Slippery Slopes’ and the title track, there’s just as much defiance to counter the gloom, and it’s the combination of the two that makes this ten-track effort better than the average alt-country release. Lyrics flit between breezy and burdensome on highlights including the bar room stomp of ‘You Can’t Outrun Em’ and JJ Cale-esque riff on ‘She’s Not Me’, while throughout the brutally honest tale of fading youth on ‘Love U Forever’, Lewis lays herself barer than before. Top-drawer production from Ryan Adams rounds off what is both the sound of an artist looking for closure and calm, and a welcome and overdue return to making solo albums.
For The Big Issue
The best thing about Metronomy’s 2011 breakthrough The English Riviera was that founder and chief songwriter Joseph Mount allowed what began as a fairly obscure solo electronic act to finally blossom into a full-blown band. The result was an album of exquisite and visionary pop that turned the quartet into an international concern, and once again it’s when Mount relinquishes control on Love Letters that the resulting sounds are most exciting. After three tracks of beeps, clicks and pseudo-baroque synth tickling it finally happens in exuberant and celebratory fashion on the sing-along title track, followed by the laid-back ‘Month of Sundays’ and creepily noir-ish ‘Boy Racers’. The mood doesn’t last throughout the second half of the album, and despite ‘Reservoir’ offering somewhat of a lifeline, the end comes in rather limp fashion with the plodding ‘Never Wanted’. Eclecticism has always been a large part of Metronomy’s appeal, but Love Letters is an album of two halves, and only one of them is in any way memorable.
In a recent interview Elbow frontman Guy Garvey said that the name of the alt-rock quintet’s sixth studio album is “born from our love for space rock, prog, Primal Scream and Spiritualised.” One listen to the title track later and it’s clear to see why that statement makes perfect sense; everything about it is as grand and weighty as anything the band have done so far. Making music with big, sweeping themes makes sense for Elbow right now, as they deal with the highs and lows of family life and growing old, as on single ‘Fly Boy Blue/Lunette’ and ‘Charge’. Despite the fact the majority of this album was written during a difficult break-up for Garvey, he manages to keep his melancholia in check for the most part, although he walks a fine line on ‘This Blue World’ and ‘My Sad Captains’. Ultimately, the song-writing is as strong as ever, and long-time fans will delight in the loss, remorse, joy and redemption that are part and parcel of any Elbow release.