jefflewis_emcoverWhat I really want to do in reviewing the new Jeffrey Lewis album is just to transcribe the lyrics to the entire thing. Actually, I have. They're up on the Jeffrey Lewis message board now. Read them and you should be able to make up your mind.... Okay, okay, I know, making up minds is supposed to be my job. You know Jeffrey Lewis already, right? He's the adorable-existential-witty-socialist-intenselyvulnerable singer-poet-comicbookartist from the same New York anti-folk scene that gave us The Moldy Peaches and Regina Spektor. Without wanting to make it seem like this review is totally biased from the off, I suggest that if you haven't heard him yet you buy all his albums, listen to them obsessively until every word is etched on your soul, and then follow him round on every date of his next tour. In an entirely non-creepy way, of course.Anyway, after the diversion of 2007's 12 Crass Songs, in which Jeffrey and friends set about transforming a dozen of the 70s anarcho-hardcore band's screeds into folk-punk sing-songs, this is the first "proper" Jeffrey Lewis album since 2005's City and Eastern Songs. That album was co-written by Jeffrey's brother Jack, who lent a number of songs on the album an edgier quality with crashing electric guitars. This album is more ambiguously co-credited "& the Junkyard", presumably meaning any of Jeffrey's friends who could and did help out; as such, only one song on the album bears an obvious Jack influence (made more unmistakable by the introduction two minutes in: "This song was written by Jack; it's called 'The Upside-Down Cross'"), with the rest tending towards Jeffrey's (usually) gentler and more contemplative style.People paying close attention to Jeffrey Lewis' goings-on will probably recognise at least one or two songs here, as with such a long gap between albums and an often pretty busy live schedule, over half have reared their heads in some form or another over the past few years. Between these and the remaining songs, you have everything you want from a classic Jeffrey Lewis album. There's musings on the minutiae of life, and there's bold declarations on the nature of human existence. There's heartfelt and deeply vulnerable pleas and confessionals, and there's whimsical nonsense, and then often there's both at the same time. There's hilarious, there's sad, there's touching, there's hopeful, there's heartbreaking and soul-piercing. Actually, there's a lot of the latter, something deeply personal and timelessly true captured in the smallest observation or an offhand quip.The album starts on a lively note with 'Slogans', combining a celebratory racket with a shockingly earnest and beautiful rallying call for anyone who too easily believes the worst about themselves: "I kept repeating it to myself 'til I convinced myself it was true, and everyone you meet is not better than you". Then 'Roll Bus Roll', a meditative tale of road trips and a contemplation on the need to keep going to make sure everything will be okay: "And then the sun setting on my youth makes that old shadow get taller, oh, but it's all fine as long as the bus makes the city behind me get smaller and smaller". The third song, 'If Life Exists', extends this theme, grieving and celebrating one's helplessness at the hands of one's emotions ("Now I am more happy and I wish I was more happy... But emotions in the brain, they'll always be the same") and reaching contentment through a focus on music. 'Broken Broken Broken Heart' is just what it says on the tin, in Jeffrey's own unmistakable style: a plaintive expression of deep sorrow and guilt in cheerful sing-song form (with handclaps, no less).Fifth song 'Whistle Past the Graveyard' moves a little away from the immediately personal and onto grander questions of life and, in particular, death. A fast paced acoustic number, it combines the ridiculous - hurrah, the zombies are back! "I don't want to hear the corpses talk... Or discuss how much they want to eat my brain") - with off-the-cuff thoughts on the meaning or lack thereof of life: "Some people say life is empty... Some say I'm wrong and I'll die and go to hell, but I'd be happy just knowing there was a point so it's just as well". Next is the single - there's a cute video if you care to look on Youtube - 'To Be Objectified', a celebration of human insignificance and a return to the theme of finding value in the little things.The musical centrepiece of the album is the aforementioned 'The Upside-Down Cross', a dark, sprawling and insistent eight-minute song in which Jeffrey and Jack share vocals. It provides a change of pace both musically, all brooding metallic guitars, crashing pianos and urgent shouted vocals, and lyrically, a tale of romantic activism around the world and romantic failure in a personal world. Where in 'The Upside-Down Cross' the protagonist is the centre of the universe, this is immediately countered by 'Bugs & Flowers', another gentle consideration of humanity's insignificance.But wait! There is a low point! 'Good Old Pig, Gone to Avalon' is a somewhat misjudged piece of nonsense reminiscing about a wonderful, er, pig. That said, it perhaps depends on one's taste in silliness: I wasn't complaining when Jeffrey was singing about the zombie apocalypse. But then, that was teaching us a lesson we'll one day all need to know, whereas most of the people reading this will probably never meet a pig.'It's Not Impossible' is quiet and sad but subtly optimistic, a tiny revelation that what was once believed impossible isn't necessarily so, and can be applied to anything you like. Finally, the album is finished with a long and sweet recounting of "Minnie the Moocher"'s adventures around the galaxy, which can either be taken as a nonsense tale or mined for hidden metaphors as you see fit.Overall, the album is, of course, beautiful. It maintains the consistency of quality seen on Jeffrey's last album, whilst containing more heart-piercing moments than any other. By all rights it should secure a special place in anyone's heart (and in eight months' time, their end-of-year lists).86%Jeffrey Lewis on Myspace