Indie rock princess Jenny Lewis is no stranger to collaborations. Whether it was with The Watson Twins on her highly praised debut solo album Rabbit Fur Coat four years ago, her vocal contributions to The Postal Service’s hit record Give Up or her long songwriting partnership with fellow Rilo Kiley member Blake Sennett, Lewis may not have stood alone musically but she has always stood out.
Scottish-American folk singer/songwriter Johnathan Rice has two solo albums to his name, with a little mainstream exposure on shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and The O.C. to his credit, along with opening for R.E.M. in London in 2005. But in recent years, he has mainly stayed out of the spotlight as a session musician for Elvis Costello, touring musician for him and Lewis, and producer (of her 2008 second solo album Acid Tongue). That is, until now.
Now a couple living in Los Angeles, Lewis and Rice have joined forces to release I’m Having Fun Now (Warner Brothers), a pop record that sees both singers and musicians play to their strengths, with the help of Bright Eyes member Mike Mogis, who handled production duties. His production credits also include The Faint, Rilo Kiley and his own band.
Lead single “Scissor Runner” is a guitar pop gem about a romance gone cold, with Rice taking the lead vocals at first, then being joined at the oral hip by Lewis, making for some dreamy vocals (with a bit of reverb to color the atmosphere) at various points. Musically, the clean guitar chords have a slight resemblance to Pearl Jam nugget “Down.”
Much of the album’s lyrics deal with the unhappy side of relationships, despite the album title and cheery musical stylings throughout. Power popper “My Pet Snakes” is but one example.
Other highlights include the infectious Lewis-fronted “Big Wave,” power popper “Committed,” “Just Like Zeus,” and the light, acoustic-based “Switchblade,” featuring both Lewis and Rice on lead vocals. The a cappella vocals by Rice on “While Men Are Dreaming” and Lewis’s sleepy vocals that come later make for a bit of a contrast to other tracks on the record, but isn’t the best cut of the bunch.
With its decidedly more upbeat pop numbers than not, fans shouldn’t mistake this couple’s new offering for a She & Him-style record or a substitute for the next Rilo Kiley release. It’s not groundbreaking music by any means, nor is it supposed to be. After all, the duo put “fun” in its album title for a reason: to just make good music, some of which has elements of ’60s pop, as well as the breezy, slightly fuzzy underground sounds of The Chills, Comet Gain and other jangle rock of the ’80s and ’90s.
If you’re a fan of either artist, especially the more established Jenny Lewis and her trademark sweet ‘n’ sassy vocals, I’m Having Fun Now is a no-brainer to add to your collection.
For more on this “power couple” and a free download of “Scissor Runner,” visit the official Jenny And Johnny website.
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