A storied run in the early 2000s as the frontwoman of a band like Rilo Kiley can make it difficult to pull off a solo career. The band’s melodic take on the pop punk and indie rock sounds of the era earned them record deals with Omaha’s own Saddle Creek and even Warner Bros. For frontwoman Jenny Lewis, however, Rilo Kiley was no peak. Her newest solo album “On The Line” exemplifies everything she’s mastered in her past three solo albums and more.
Released March 22, “On The Line” features 11 easygoing indie-pop tracks that wander through multitudes of lyrical topics with a sly sense of wit and an ear for melody. The album is filled to the brim with memorable lines and singable tunes.
“Wasted Youth” is one of the most prominent and enduring songs on the album, thanks to its tasteful piano and wiggly, chorused-out guitar accompaniments. It features one of the catchiest hooks on the album, a wistfully crooned “I wasted my youth on a poppy,” followed by a set of “Do’s” that turn the melody into a fun and careless walk down the street.
That walk continues through the first single off of the album, titled “Red Bull & Hennessy,” where the Red Bull turns the walk into a bit of a jaunt. This track is one of the more active on the album, but still doesn’t stray too far from the bouncy ballad template the album employs. The flaming guitar solo at the end is fueled by a warm tone and driving beat that turns the track into a tastefully restrained rock ‘n’ roll freakout.
Lewis’ striking and effortless vocals are easily one of the strong points of the album, as her carefree lounge-singer style makes for emotionally stirring lyrical deliveries.
Her melodic ballads like “Do Si Do” recall Beck’s 2014 Grammy-winning album “Morning Phase” in both songwriting and production style. The song’s slow pace is accented by pounding drums and filled in by tasteful piano riffs.
The album’s title track comes in next to last, starting up with a grandiose chord progression on acoustic piano accompanied by Lewis’ acute vocals. When the track hits its full stride, the impact of the vast piano tone becomes even stronger with a rhythm matched by the hammering bass drum. The observant and introspective tone of the album is made clear as Lewis sings, “Whenever things get complicated, you run away to Mexico/ Boy, you got me infuriated, I’m never gonna let you go.” The songs throughout “On The Line” are a collection of tracks that seem to expose how Lewis has learned to understand her emotions, especially by singing about them.
“Rabbit Hole,” the album’s conclusion, could be the next feel-good hit of the summer. Lewis croons “I’m not gonna go down the rabbit hole with you again,” while smooth, full guitars strum away in the background in a twinkling, warm breeze of a tune.
While her work in Rilo Kiley remains undoubtedly excellent, “On The Line” cements Lewis’ impact as a solo artist. Her maturity and prowess in songwriting bleed through every wailed lyric and meticulously arranged guitar lead, making for one of her most exciting works yet.