When I start talking about my love for Jenny Lewis, some of my lesser musically inclined friends say, "Oh, that girl from Troop Beverly Hills?" While, yes, the creative storyteller did get her start as a child star, she's gone on to make a huge impact on indie rock and folk music. From her days fronting Rilo Kiley, to contributing vocals on the The Postal Service album, to dueting with her boyfriend in Jenny and Johnny, to a prominent solo career; Jenny Lewis alone makes the price of your ticket Saturday night totally worth it.
I present six essential Jenny Lewis songs, which span her musical career.
"The Frug," Rilo Kiley, The Initial Friend E.P., 1999
I initially downloaded this song illegally on Limewire way back. It reappeared on Rilo Kiley's B-sides and rarities compilation album RKives in 2013. The Initial Friend E.P., where it first debuted, went through three pressings and on the third got it's final name. "The Frug" harkens back to Lewis' Troop Beverly Hills days when she learned how to do The Frug and The Freddie, but also acts as an anthem for cautious single girls everywhere.
"Nothing Better," The Postal Service, Give Up, 2003
I won't lie, I have an unhealthy obsession with The Postal Service. While "Clark Gable" always held top spot in my heart, after seeing Lewis perform "Nothing Better" with Ben Gibbard and crew as part of The Postal Service's 10 year anniversary tour in 2013, I had a new favorite.
"Don't you feed me lines about some idealistic future. Your heart won't heal right if you keep tearing out the sutures," the songstress retorts to Gibbard's mistaken memories of a relationship gone awry.
"Portions For Foxes," Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous, 2004
I recently read a Digg article called, "What Would Jenny Lewis Play at Her Dinner Party?" where she states that she always saves track number three on her albums for the song that feels most relevant lyrically to her at the time. "Portions For Foxes," the lead single and third track on More Adventurous fills this role.
One of the primary reasons for my love affair with Lewis comes from her lyrics. The incredible songwriter touches on the feelings and emotions of the "every girl." On "Portions For Foxes," she recounts a familiar feeling, no matter your age, gender, or sexual orientation—being with someone who's bad news.
"I know I'm alone if I'm with or without you, but just being around you offers me another form of relief."
"Rise Up With Fists!!," Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat, 2006
Certain songs just stick with a person. I've included, "Rise Up With Fists!!" on a hundred different playlists since I heard it for the first time nine years ago. Lewis challenges all of us to rise up from the hypocrisy that leads our actions throughout this life.
"It's hard to believe your prophets / When they're asking you to change things / With their suspect lives, we look the other way / Are you really that pure, sir? / Thought I saw you in Vegas / It was not pretty, but she was (not your wife)."
"Big Wave," Jenny and Johnny, I'm Having Fun Now, 2010
One element that's noticeable about Lewis' music, be it with Rilo Kiley, Jenny and Johnny, or solo, she matches upbeat music with somewhat sad or disheartened lyrics. The juxtaposition between the two creates mixed emotions for the listener, which is likely how she feels in her writing. "Big Wave" has a beachy, surf rock feel, but the lyrics get darkly political discussing the American dream and how in order to achieve that we live outside of our means.
"Late Bloomer," Jenny Lewis, The Voyager, 2014
Choosing an essential song from The Voyager proved difficult, as it's an all around solid album. The songwriting and the diversity in musical sound from song to song all work together to create a cohesive album. While the video for "Just One of the Guys" is an absolute must-watch, "Late Bloomer" demonstrates Lewis' abilities as a seasoned storyteller. It reminds me of "Smoke Detector" from Rilo Kiley's Under the Blacklight album with it's risque themes and complete honesty. It's not every day you hear an indie rock song about the female perspective of a threesome with an older girl and the dude that wrote her favorite song.
When I saw Lewis live at The Wiltern in Los Angeles last August I walked out stunned. She played a career spanning set and, while she won't be headlining in Bend, we can hope the talented singer-songwriter does the same here.