Jenny (Lewis, of Rilo Kiley) and Johnny (Rice, of…well, Jonathan Rice) are pop singer-songwriters. They are also in love. They’ve written some songs together, 11 of which are on their new ‘duo’ album, I’m Having Fun Now. For the most part they are simple melodies sung over modest instrumentation. They sound comfy and contented which would seem in keeping with their status as a couple. Not that the songs make any mention of moons, Junes or spoons. It just feels unrushed, uncomplicated.
Jenny Lewis is in command of one of the most amazing voices in music today. It’s sweet and sincere and as big and open as the great outdoors. Her lyrics are literate and clever without succumbing to cheap irony or affectation. She sounds equally comfortable with folk, c&w and rock styles, but truth be told none of these tunes dig that deep into any of these genres. They all kinda glide by with the hint of each buried beneath the surface. Maybe they’d stick around in your head a little longer if they were more focused and driven. For a record with a tune called “Committed” they can come off as dilettantes at times.
The other big problem is that Jenny’s presence is so strong that it often over powers Johnny’s contributions. Maybe that’s not fair – no reason to expect things to be 50/50 here (what relationships truly are?), but after a few spins I still don’t have much of a sense of who Jonathan Rice is. His voice is pleasant but unremarkable and the same applies to the songs. Only “Big Wave” with its longing chorus and crashing chords really makes much of fuss. Which may be why it’s difficult to get really worked up about the record. It is casual in a way that makes it easy to like but difficult to love.
Jenny and Johnny’s I’m Having Fun Now at Amazon!
Sal Cannestra is a New York City native who relocated to Philadelphia in 2006. He has been writing about rock’n’roll music since 1984 for various publications. He also plays in the bands The Gerunds (www.thegerunds.com) and The Thirteen (www.myspace.com/thethirteenphilly)