Jenny Lewis' voice is as clear as a mountain stream, her songwriting distills complex matters of the heart into poetically simple blasts.
From 1998 through 2014, the former child actor's vehicle was Rilo Kiley, whose indie-rock discography is almost blemish-free. Lewis' solo work is nearly as strong, as she'll demonstrate Friday at St. Paul's Palace Theatre in support of her latest, last week's On the Line.
Is there a better way to honor a life's work than subjectively ranking it? Not in our book! So ahead of the show, enjoy and/or quibble mightily with this undisputable rundown of Jenny Lewis' solo canon.
4. Acid Tongue (2008)
Over four Rilo Kiley albums and four solo ones, Lewis only has one minor clunker. Acid Tongue is fine, but it suffers from a bloated roster of guests. Nobody needs a shoehorned Elvis Costello feature ("Carpetbaggers") or a glut of cameos from then-boyfriend Johnathan Rice, Zooey Deschanel, M. Ward, or a goddamn Black Crowe, among several others. With extra apologies to Rilo's co-frontperson Blake Sennett, if Lewis has one consistent fault, it's letting dudes sing instead of her. Tongue, with its lazy gospel dabbles and lack of personal storytelling, has its moments ("Black Sand," title track), but it's largely forgettable.
3. On the Line (2019)
Here's the good news: The No. 3 album on this list is still pretty solid, as our very own Keith Harris illustrates in his recent review. The problem is its lagging, meandering middle. The bookend chunks, however, showcase some of Lewis' finest work ever. We're introduced to a "narcoleptic poet from Duluth" amid the wistful, piano-clinked swaying of opener "Heads Gonna Roll"; on the titular penultimate track, Lewis calls out a runaway ex with honied assertiveness, culminating in a chime-twinkling guitar solo.
2. The Voyager (2014)
Folks, the decision to place On the Line or Voyager in this slot tortured this reporter for literal minutes. But Voyager, with its glittery, rocking arrangements and surplus L.A. swagger, gets the nod. Problematic creep Ryan Adams -- who is absolutely canceled -- manned the boards on this one, which probably adds to its up-tempo appeal. Though it's Lewis, grappling with her incoming plunge into her 40s, who defines the record, with songs about baby-less anxiety, contempt for "child bride" side pieces, and nostalgic looks back at past lives and past lovers. Critics didn't give this one sufficient props at the time; Voyager highlights Lewis at her charmingly relatable heights.
1. Rabbit Fur Coat (2006)
Holy shit, what a folk-rock treasure. Rabbit Fur Coat arrived a year before Rilo Kiley's sexy swan-song glimpse into L.A.'s underbelly, the underrated Under the Black Light. The tone of those two full-lengths couldn't be more divergent. Where Black Light paints a hornily sequined nightlife scene, Coat is an exalted artifact of the Omaha indie community, heart and twang on overdrive. Underpinned by the lush harmonies of the Watson Twins, Lewis' crystalline voice effortlessly glides over her warmest acoustic arrangements, with production assists from Bright Eyes' Mike Mogis. Even the Traveling Wilburys cover, "Handle With Care" (featuring Ben Gibbard, Conor Oberst, and M. Ward), provides a wholesome time capsule of when the world didn't seem entirely on fire. This record is comfort food, and it's endlessly listenable.
Where: Palace Theatre
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $30-$50; more info here