Late at night in Los Angeles, in twang-pop collective Rilo Kiley’s swanky tour bus bunks, Jenny Lewis sits, quietly humming her ultimately personal tales of the road, shaggy-haired boys, religion and childhood. So personal, in fact, that Jenny set aside this batch of sparse, midnight tunes for her own solo venture. Think of it as Jenny time.

Jess Cox

She, coupled with the help of Kentucky-born folk sisters The Watson Twins and her A-list indie-world friends, bred Rabbit Fur Coat, the official solo offering from Kiley’s much-adored lead woman. Don’t cry, dear Kiley enthusiasts: No one’s breaking up. Fur Coat is simply the fulfillment of a hankering. It’s a decidedly predictable move, especially for someone like Lewis, the poster girl for contemporary indie pop.

She’s already had three moderately successful albums with the band that’s closest to her heart, but remember, it’s Jenny time. How else can she explore her creativity but through publishing those songs she penned when she was frustrated from being surrounded by smelly boys for half a year on the road? Or the ones where she recalls her mother’s strange wardrobe (“Rabbit Fur Coat”) or muses on abstract activism (“Rise Up With Fists”).

She’s emotionally vulnerable, all right, but with her first solo effort, Lewis offers more insightful lyricism and toe-tapping countrified pop to create an honest and impressive body of music. Fur Coat ultimately cements Lewis’s spot as one of the great female-pop powerhouses (think Neko Case) and illuminates her future as a songwriter, collaborator and performer.

Listen to “Big Guns,” and imagine Lewis in a dusty and smoky Southern bar, clad in worn cowboy boots and singing her heart out with thumbs hooked into belt loops. This is the kind of ambiance Fur Coat exhibits, and even those turned off by what might be considered a contemporary country tune will surely be attracted to Lewis’s intelligent voice and impeccable arrangements.

“Handle With Care” is modern fashioning of the classic Travelling Wilbury’s tune, only this time, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison are replaced by indie superheroes Ben Gibbard, Conor Oberst and M. Ward. Sacrilege? Maybe so, but this who’s who of Seth Cohen-worshipping indie darlings is actually pretty damn catchy. The album flows well, only really slowing with lengthy, down-tempo tunes like “Born Secular.” Even then, though, Lewis and the Watson Twins still manage to keep the listener at bay with snarky musings on religion. With Bright Eyes putting up the money for the album, Lewis and the Watson Twins are primed to present this delightful little album to a mass of eager devotees. But then again, she doesn’t really need any help. It’s Jenny time.

Music Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
Rabbit Fur Coat
Team Love

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