Everything you need to know about Jenny Lewis’ newest album, “On The Line,” can be found at the end of the first verse of the first song.
As the heavily strummed guitar minor chords fade to the slow pounding of a grand piano, Lewis croons with confidence, “Even though we were just friends/ I think of us as bookends/ And I’m gonna love you until I die.”
It’s quite the statement, full of vulnerability and grief and acceptance and courage. That’s Jenny Lewis.
“On The Line,” the fourth solo album by the former Rilo Kiley front woman, is simultaneously her most ambitious and most raw yet. It’s stripped down, letting vocals and piano do most of the heavy-lifting, but every note, chord and word is chosen with extreme intention. Created in the midst of Lewis’ breakup with her partner of 12 years and the death of her long-estranged mother, the album is about examining the meaning in every moment and figuring out how to take in all that information while still moving forward.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Lewis is full of despair, as she told NPR in a March interview.
“Well music, for me, is when I feel most connected to the cosmos or the best version of myself,” she said. “It’s not always light stuff, but I think when you’re making your soul music it can get ugly sometimes. But the joy for me is in the creation and the collaboration and the process.”
While “On The Line” is her most personal album, it’s not lacking in the collaboration department. Ryan Adams, Jim Keltner, Beck and others contributed on “Red Bull and Hennessey,” arguably the best song ever written about the worst possible cocktail, with none other than Ringo Starr sitting behind the drum kit.
“To sit in the control room and watch [Starr and Kelter] play together, it was like a bullet train,” Lewis told NPR. “I mean, the power, the sound, the feel is like a big boy pirate ship.”
Musicality has long been the driving force bringing life to Lewis’ lyrical narrative, from the brooding indie rock of Rilo Kiley to her solo career, which is heavily influenced by Americana and folk: the eternal sound of Los Angeles’ ephemeral Laurel Canyon. Behind all of that is her genius of knowing when to build it up and when to strip it away and let the melody do the talking.
In the title track, about being dumped for an “Eastside girl called Caroline,” the chorus bursts forth with a raging melody that will be stuck in your head for days. It’s incredibly powerful and hard-hitting, consisting solely of drum, piano and vocals. Sometimes less is more. It allows those intimate moments to become bombastic.
Lewis will bring all of that to the Pink Garter Theatre on Friday, and tickets are still available. It will surely be, as Lewis told NPR, “magical.”
“Standing in front of a couple hundred people, sometimes it occurs to me what it was that I meant,” she said. “And I think we, as artists, open that channel, and it’s a little bit magical.” ￼