At 38 years-old, Jenny Lewis hasn’t lost that girl-against-the-world mentality. Navigating adulthood, social anxiety, and contemplating one’s own mortality has never sounded so happy as when it’s set to Lewis’ bright alto, sun-drenched guitars and SoCal soul. The Voyager marks her third solo effort, and never has she sounded so sure about how unsure life, sex, love, and the pursuit of happiness could be.
The Voyager sees a bolder, much more soulful version of Lewis’ indie pop. Sassy and engaging, tales of a 16 year-old’s Paris rendezvous (“Late Bloomer”) and a life-changing break-up (“The New You”) see Lewis playing up her strengths as a enigmatic songwriter and frontwoman. With an acoustic guitar balancing out the electric, the record rides along more like Fleetwood Mac and less like Lewis’ previous group, Rilo Kiley.
The album tackles the narratives of life, love, exes, and fame as inescapable, no one is running away from any of it, but rather dancing in celebration of how fleeting it all actually is. Much of the album seems to draw inspiration from symphonic, ’60s pop like The Troggs or Peter & Gordon. It’s sonically easy-breezy, but lyrically intricate and concerned. Only on “Love U Forever” does Lewis plug in and challenge her own hand with a ’80s new-wave rambler, sounding much like the ultimate girl group, The Go-Go’s.
But the rush of glistening keyboards against a mostly mellow record was maybe too little too late and Lewis finds herself once again in her comfort zone. The album’s title track is stripped and back to basics, with Lewis softly crooning, “The voyager’s in every boy and girl. If you wanna get to heaven, get out of this world.” Is it too bold to claim “The Voyager” as Lewis’ own rendition of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World?” She, as indie-pop’s leading heroine, already seems to be on to something new, accepting that her own journey is far from over.