OK, first off I'm just going to go ahead and state the obvious - Jenny Lewis is HOT. It's far from the sum total of why I love her and her music, but damn if she just isn't one smoking lady. In fact, she's most definitely in my list of five (the others? Well, that would be Mad Men actress January Jones, pop siren Mandy Moore - (and Ryan Adams, Mandy? Really?)Natalie Morales, NBC news-temptress, and Natalie Dormer, the doomed Anne Boelyn from Showtime's The Tudors. Just in case you were wondering.)
Huge, completely gratuitous photo
Again, though, all that aside, Lewis is an awesomely talented singer and songwriter, with a voice almost as pure and beautiful as Neko Case. Lewis is also the lead singer of indie rock band Rilo Kiley, one of my very favorites of the 2000s. Though Rilo Kiley put out a new album a couple of years ago, they are currently on hiatus as Lewis explores her solo career.
Her first album was the countryish Rabbit Fur Coat, which had a nice hit with the sublime "Rise Up With Fists" and an awesome Hee-Haw tribute for its video
Jenny Lewis - Rise Up with Fists - The funniest home videos are here
As great as that album is for Sunday morning lounging, I actually prefer Acid Tongue more (and I'm probably in the minority there). I like the wide variety of styles she uses in that one; it's more dynamic and has a few rock songs on it too, one of which is this one - "The Next Messiah"
When this came out, I remember reading an interview with Lewis in which she said this song was meant to invoke the multi-part, narrative songs that she grew up listening to as a kid in the 70's. It does tell a story, though I'm at a loss to figure the damn thing out. If you'd like to give it a go, have at it. And, indeed, there are three distinct parts to this eight minute opus.
Part one is a straight ahead boogie beat, with Lewis' voice taking front and center. Part two begins at 2:48 with a funky breakdown and backbeat. Part three at 5:11 (after a cool false ending)has Lewis trading off lines with a male vocalist over a soft strumming guitar. This part has my favorite bit of this song, the "Ohh-ohh" she sings in a blues key at 6:35, 6:49 and 7:31. Unexpected and sexy. The last minute of the song (at 7:51) circles back to the boogie beat, making the listener feel effectively like he's gone somewhere.
I've seen Lewis perform twice now, once in 2005 with Rilo Kiley and this past summer, both times at the 40 Watt. Last summer's show was supposed to go be at the Georgia Theatre, but the week before the show it burned to the ground. Embarrassingly, the first thought I had when I heard it was on fire was, "Crap, does this mean I don't get to see Jenny Lewis?"
Thank goodness the show went on as the 40 Watt generously hosted her, and my wife and I ended up going and getting a hell of a treat. In fact, she opened with "The Next Messiah", which I thought was a song she would just choose to skip live, as I thought it wouldn't translate well. She killed it. You can't imagine how small the Watt felt when she belted out, "He's the neeeeeeext moo-si-uhhhhh" at the top of her lungs at the end of that song.
I apologize for not having an album version, but it seems her record company has a huge copyrighted stick up its butt. The times I posted above are for the album version, but you should get the idea.