Jenny Lewis, “On the Line” (Warner Bros.)
Lewis has had a rough few years leading up to her new solo album. Her mother died of cancer. Her 12-year relationship with singer-songwriter Johnathan Rice ended. But these songs aren’t about falling apart. They are about putting things back together.
“Can you be my puzzle piece, baby, when I cry like Meryl Streep?” she asks in the lovely, melancholy “Party Clown,” which is vocally reminiscent of her breakout “Rabbit Fur Coat,” but maintains the mix of ’70s rock and hip-hop-tinged rhythms of her more recent work. “When I crack my head open, I want my baby next to me.”
Lewis has always been a meticulous, detailed writer, either on her own or in her former band, Rilo Kiley. However, the combination of her circumstances and the ambitious mix of musical styles behind her lyrics here makes her songs more poignant than ever. And she has plenty of first-class help.
When the drums kick in on “Heads Will Roll,” it’s obviously Ringo Starr. He teams up with the great Jim Keltner on the groove-driven “Red Bull & Hennessey.” It’s one of many in “On the Line” about escaping the world’s pressures, with Lewis’ cooing vocals contrasting nicely against the muscular drumming.
On “Do Si Do,” produced by Beck, Lewis sings about using music as an escape from suicidal thoughts. Then, on the breezy, Carole King-ish “Wasted Youth,” she sings of the repercussions of escapism, from heroin to Candy Crush.
The girl-group simplicity of the title track tries to mask the complicated calculations of a narrator trying to keep her boyfriend from straying. But it also captures the album’s main theme — that it will be fine either way.
Lewis performs Friday at the Palace Theatre in St. Paul.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
The Chemical Brothers, “No Geography” (Astralwerks)
Back in the mad, bad 1990s, Manchester, England’s Chemical Brothers — Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons — crafted a brand of electronic music infused with big, block-rocking beats that borrowed as much from hip-hop as from Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. Not only did they start an indie-electro movement that would include the Prodigy and Fatboy Slim, but they made hits that oozed into pop’s mainstream, especially as their once-tough tones grew cleaner and less raw.
“No Geography” is a return to their original unbridled, grungy funk, with zero big-name guest appearances and a density and aggression that’s been missing from their sound since the start of the 2000s. Using vintage electronic and sequence-based equipment, but sticking with the melodicism they’ve developed over the past three decades, tracks such as “Got to Keep On” and “Free Yourself” are noisy, bass-booming anthems rich with dynamic layers and creaky textures. “Bango” sounds like its title. The wobbly “Mah” is loose, rubber-band funk that could make you seasick, yet you won’t want to stop moving. “Eve of Destruction” is both effervescent and apocalyptic, while freeing your mind in order for your rump to follow. You can’t ask for more when it comes to frenetic dance music.
A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Billie Eilish, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”
• George Strait, “Honky Tonk Time Machine”
• Steve Earle, “Guy”
• Son Volt, “Union”
• Gang of Four, “Happy News”
• Marvin Gaye, “You’re the Man”