Jeffrey Lewis has always been one of the most exciting artists around in the lesser-known underground indie ranks, be it for his awesome comic books or tremendous live shows – including “low budget videos” that would make use of his drawing skills. He’s always been applauded for his childlike enthusiasm for whatever project he would undertake - what other predominantly acoustic acts could get away with an album full of Crass covers? Or transforming their live shows into a documentary on the history of communism? Or even singing the highly personal ‘Broken, Broken, Broken Heart’ live, whilst the ex-girlfriend it was written about is standing mere feet away and playing keyboards on stage. After 2009’s Em Are I, where Jeff seemed to take on a slightly more mature (ok, there was a song about a luminous pig…) approach to songwriting and delved into a more cohesive full band sound, what can we expect from A Turn In The Dream-Songs?, his sixth album proper to be released on Rough Trade.

Previous albums have seen Jeff and his band start with a garage rock blast, but that’s not the case here with ‘To Go And Return’ starting very slowly, all acoustic and psychedelic, the drums turned right down and conversations about wishing on a star and how “the earth will hatch soon." With the album title mentioned in the lyrics, this opener is a very dreamlike and slow-burning 5 minutes, reminiscent of the slower moments from his previous album – and ends with an almost Indian music vibe, with woodwind instruments making an appearance. It’s a far cry from his live shows, which include one battered guitar and two broken keyboards. ‘How Can It Be?’ is more of a traditional song, with a 60s vibe, handclaps and unique backing vocals from his brother and bass player, Jack. Covering a lost love, despite moving on to a new relationship, it’s full of standard Jeffrey Lewis self-depreciation: “The girl that’s on my arms is gonna have to see tears” and the closing “Is this really just the way it’ll be?." Another slower moment, ‘I Got Lost’, is full of self-doubt, questioning and male/female harmonies. You can feel Jeff was in a bad place while writing this and was wondering where he was meant to go next as it drifts along: “We must have slept through some crucial step, and ever since, been out of our depth.”

A couple of strange instrumental tracks act as preludes on the album and break up the ‘real’ songs, they’re both very short and show a curious dip into drone noise and glitchy experimentation. After the first of these, ‘Boom Tube’, Jeff returns to far more traditional fare with a shout of “The Misfits are cult rock n roll” opening ‘Cult Boyfriend’. With the tone and pace bringing to mind his classic ‘Back When I Was Four’, the song is full of references to under-appreciated comic books, novelists, radio, food and cult leaders. He even mentions Peter Jackson’s much under-rated early film ‘Meet The Feebles’. In between this and some J Mascis-sounding guitar riffs, Jeff discusses how: “Most women that I meet seem totally unfazed, until sometimes there’s somebody who seems totally amazed. I might not be in magazines or have a heart-throb face, but in a few devoted hearts, I found a strong fanbase." Incredibly clocking in at just over two minutes, there’s so much to pick up and it is deserving of repeated listens. It also ends with typical down-on-his-luck Jeffrey Lewis judgment: “This song probably ain’t gonna go very far beyond an open mic, it’s guaranteed though that two or three people are really gonna like it." ‘Krongu Green Slime’ slows down proceedings once more while Jeff talks us through “the land before time” and the “time before land” when all there was on the world was green slime. He tells us how land and creatures started to prop up, somehow making us feel sorry for this slime, even though all of “life’s merchandise” he discusses is what brought us here. One of Jeff’s key strengths has always been how he approaches things from an angle different to the norm, and this six minutes show he’s lost none of that ability.

Following on from this is a triple bill of songs about loneliness. ‘Try It Again’ is a traditional pop song full of misery and longing, making particular use of triple vocal harmonies between Jeff, Jack and drummer Dave Beauchamp: “Looking for friends, you’re wasting your time” and “I got a room to myself, I’ve got my art and my health, this loneliness in my guts must just mean I’m nuts” are two of the stand-out lyrics. ‘When You’re By Yourself’ takes the simple idea of talking through all the things you can do when you’re on your own, from cooking and cleaning, “so much to do just to eat by yourself," through to going to a restaurant – all above waltz-sounding instrumentation. Jeff manages making a trip to the bathroom and talking to the waitress sound like wondrous things. Of course, it ends with the walk home on your own. It’s as close to a musical version of Seinfeld you’ll ever hear. The finale of these three is the album centrepiece ‘So What If I Couldn’t Take It’ – a hysterical tale of a botched suicide attempt by rat poison that ends with disastrous and hysterical consequences. The dark music gains more and more pace and momentum as the narrative heads towards a ridiculously brilliant climax that involves the mob, the FDR, Sylvia Plath and even Pitchfork. After this, things are more relaxed with ‘Water Leaking, Water Moving’ discussing how water is used and how it makes up 90% of us, although that percentage soon crawls out as soon as we die. The final official song, ‘Reaching’, is not quite the big ending you’d hope for, but this is more than made up for by the secret track, ‘Mosquito Mass Murderer’, where Jeff turns his hand to rap surprisingly successfully. Reminiscent of Buck65’s lighter moments, he tells us all about the various ways he kills mosquitoes as: “It makes me grumpy when they try to make me lumpy." Completely unexpected but brilliantly performed, it also has the classic line: “If you come in like a sucker, you can go out like one." You’d be a sucker to miss out on this record.