Search The Line of Best Fit
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Jenny Lewis is choosing happiness on Joy'All


Release date: 09 June 2023
Jenny Lewis - Joy'All cover
08 June 2023, 09:00 Written by Emma Thimgren

After putting a pause on songwriting during the pandemic, Jenny Lewis joined a songwriting workshop hosted by her collaborator Beck in 2021.

Here the new album Joy'All would begin to take shape using different writing prompts as guidelines, and it’s clear Lewis has made an effort to step outside of her comfort zone.

She coined the term “Joy'All” to symbolize this new direction, which she describes as “joy to all” and “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”. A sunny counterpart to 2019's breakup album On the Line, although the failed relationship still looms just below the surface. The album is the first one under a new record deal with Blue Note/Capitol Records and it’s also the first one Lewis has written alone. She describes it as finding total autonomy in the songwriting. Gaining this independence is mirrored in the lyrics, where she deals with entering her forties and finding her way back to herself.

Joy'All is the first time she has worked with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb, best known for producing the music of country artists such as Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile and John Prine. He brought with him his house band consisting of Nate Smith and Brian Allen, a staple in his characteristic live sound. The record aims to evoke soul, 90s R&B, country and classic singer-songwriter records, but the result ends up leaning into groovy americana, honky tonk and psychedelic folk music.

This eclectic sound is a first for a Jenny Lewis solo project and seems miles apart from the cool pop sound she neatly nailed on her two latest albums. The new path in itself makes sense for Lewis, especially the conjuring of classic singer-songwriter records. On the cover of the album she’s wearing Skeeter Davies' actual clothes, and the image is also a reference to one of the singer's own album covers. But somewhere along the way, the ambiguous nature of the productions became too overbearing. The heaviness is simply too much for her mid-tempo songs.

She stresses the importance of community as a musician in her latest interviews, but this group effort is not only overcrowded – it completely drowns Lewis out. Her clever song melodies get lost in the clutter and the chaotic instrumentation washes out her pop sound. Mainly it’s the misplaced percussion that commands too much attention, hurrying a forced tempo and making the songs feel fragmented. On some of the songs, her vocals are placed so far back in the mixing that they feel like an afterthought. It ends up being too big of a compromise on her sound.

The songs “Psychos”, “Apples and Oranges”, “Essence of Life”, “Cherry Baby” and “Chain of Tears” work the best. They are mostly slower songs, which hold a more satisfying balance of joy and melancholy. Based on her distinctive acoustic guitar, they are able to manoeuvre wordy lyrics while still being melody driven. The common denominator being that they’re the most reminiscent of the old sound. Joy'All ends up being a bit of everything and never establishing a clear enough character. The injection of joy is refreshing yet contrived, and all the simultaneous changes seem too big of an undertaking for her collaborators, who are not able to cultivate her sound.

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