Jenny Lewis CD review

The Tampa Tribune, March 3, 2006
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Jenny Lewis With the Watson Twins: “Rabbit Fur

Coat” (Team Love) B+; The Elected: “Sun, Sun,
Sun” (Sub Pop) B-

BY ROMMIE JOHNSON
The Tampa Tribune

How long can Rilo Kiley pull it off, standing with one foot in the gutter and the other one on the red carpet? Give ‘em credit: When they swung for the fences on ’04′s “More Adventurous,” they titled the leadoff track “It’s a Hit” with a wink and a nod to the indie hipsters: “We’re not really selling out — we’re just having a laugh!”

As the impossibly adorable girl-next-door in the band, Jenny Lewis gets most of the attention, and “Rabbit Fur Coat” takes that to the bank. Lewis flavors her lovely, country-tinged pop with a dash of gospel, and puts her sugar-sweet voice to use questioning life, the universe and everything. That it’s all set to sing-along melodies doesn’t necessarily make Lewis’ self-doubt ring less true; it just makes it harder to ignore the gnawing sense that she’s having her cake and eating it, too.

With his “other” band, The Elected, Rilo Kiley band mate Blake Sennett pulls off something truly special: a record so painstakingly perfect as to have almost no character whatsoever. Its sun-kissed California country-pop is polished to within an inch of its bittersweet life, leaving Sennett somewhere between Gram Parsons and a used car salesman.

When he gets excited, his voice can match the frayed, desperate wail of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst (the tail end of “Would You Come With Me”) or the soaring melodrama of Freddie Mercury (“Biggest Star,” “Did Me Good”), but mostly Sennett just cruises safely down the middle of the road. For all its charms, the disc feels like the musical equivalent of silicone breasts or the Big Mac the show on the commercial: It’s too flawless to be real.

Tribune reviewers eat anonymously. Rommie Johnson can be reached at (813) 259-7426.

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