Label: Rough Trade Release Date: 22/09/08 Link:

I’m guessing everyone’s already familiar with the wonderful Jenny Lewis but just in case, allow me to introduce her. Hailing from California, Lewis is the femme fatale that gives Rilo Kiley their edge. She’s also done a bit of acting in her younger days and released her first solo album, ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’, last year with her friends The Watson Twins. This time though, she’s truly solo, save for a few guest appearances from the likes of M. Ward, Elvis Costello and Zooey Deschanel. So, how does ‘Acid Tongue’ stand up against Lewis’ impressive back catalogue?

Mostly, it’s your typical Americana record with Lewis’ own little twists, of course. For example, ‘Jack Killed Mom’ ends with Lewis being backed by a gospel choir, whilst ‘The Next Messiah’ is three songs spliced together in a nine minute long medley. But what works best on this album is when she keeps her variations to a minimum and allows the songs to shine through simplicity.

‘Black Sand’ is a dark start to Lewis’ second solo LP, with the lyrical imagery coming to life as the poster girl for country pop’s words come spilling out of your speakers. You can almost feel the harsh seafront wind on your face as Lewis sings “I have this dream where I’m down on my knees on the black sand/I’m facing the sea as the wind pushes me down to my hands”. It’s this sort of powerful, vivid songwriting that makes this album so hard to get out of your head – for every line you’re also given a high definition, techni-colour vision.

‘Pretty Bird’, like much of ‘Acid Tongue’, boasts sparse instrumentation allowing the soft vocals to shine without distraction. ‘The Next Messiah’, as previously mentioned, is a three song medley that Lewis herself has described as her attempt to “do a Streisand”. Unfortunately for Lewis, the track just feels over-long, with nothing of note happening across the nine minutes time it takes up.

The record’s title track is one of the strongest songs on offer here, a no-holds barred reminiscing of times gone by, all apart from the line “You don’t know what I’ve done”, sung so coyly you know it’ll take a good deal of coercion to make the protagonist tell you what they mean. ‘See Fernando’ is another highlight (and sounds the most like Lewis’ other musical outlet, Rilo Kiley,) with its infectious verses and slight Spanish guitar feel.

Elvis Costello appears on ‘Carpetbaggers’ sounding as fresh and vibrant as he did back in the 70s, whereas ‘Tryin’ My Best’ is a touching string-led ballad that will melt even the hardest of hearts. ‘Acid Tongue’ finishes on the similarly tender ‘Sing a Song’, ending as it started with lucid imagery, this time of “alley rats and tenement flies”. Whilst its never going to be described as the most essential record, it is one worth owning if you find yourself craving honey-voiced female lyricists of the Americana persuasion.