This is where Jenny Lewis finally exploits her fame. The critically beloved singer-guitarist from Rilo Kiley isn't as famous as Death Cab for Cutie or Conor Oberst — but chances are you've got at least one friend who thinks she's hot. If this sounds a bit exploitative, well, the formerly awkward alt-country singer of six years ago is damn well ready for some commercial exploitation. The mountains of blow (and blowing) she detailed on last year's Rilo Kiley CD, the excellent Under the Blacklight, made for a great L.A. album, her greatest for the time being, although her bests never stay that way for too long, as she keeps topping herself.
Lewis continues to write great songs and shape shift their environments, making them sound so damn simple, she practically writes her own reviews. Two of the rockers on Acid Tongue rank among her best ever — the surfy rave-up, "See Fernando," and the sly, pummeling duet with Elvis Costello, "Carpetbaggers." And her first foray into nine-minute ambition couldn't be more fleet: "The Next Messiah" comprises three blues songs in the "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" mold, all of them a riot. The production is both thudding and light, with an analog sparseness and a live feel almost antithetical to its practiced perfection. The spontaneity trumps not just her dozy, overly adorned Rabbit Furcoat solo debut but also most of Rilo Kiley's catalogue. The ballads overflow, but most of them ("Black Sand," "Badman's World," the soulful title tune) make the most of her country-soul costuming, stretching her voice and character ("World" snatches "I've been a bad girl" from Fiona Apple) and steering her second solo effort toward Tarantino-soundtrack vaudeville bliss.
Dan Weiss writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.