Jeffrey Lewis – ‘Em Are I

As the old man of 2009 prepares to transform into the irritatingly preppy baby of 2010, I thought I’d best reveal my number one. Have a great night everyone, whether you spend it out partying like it’s 1999 or stay in playing parlour games / watching Later With Jools Holland. Here’s to 2010 and its inevitable hover-trains and clothes made out of space-tinfoil.

1) Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard – ‘Em Are I

Jeffrey Lewis doesn’t have a very good voice. Musically this is fairly simplistic anti-folk stuff, with the odd crazy guitar solo. But, as he sings, “It’s hard to get too bored when you pick the right two chords”.

He has an unerring gift for melody, and lyrically… jesus. Where do you start with the lyrics?

Mr Lewis’ songs on this album mainly concern mortality, ageing, medication drugs, insomnia, the past, the future, how insects are disappearing, being depressed, being a shit in relationships,New York City, and how “going bald is the most manly thing” he’ll ever do. It can be dizzying and naked, like you’ve got a direct line to his internal monologue, like here on ‘Bugs & Flowers’:

“…And old people are rotting children and I still don’t have a cellphone but this seashell gets reception and the ocean won’t stop calling and I want a restraining order and tell me that you like me in the same sentence as a building…”

Regret and sad wisdom bubbles up around the puns and silliness – the lovely, chugging Roll Bus Roll finds him on an overnight Greyhound bus out of town, craving sleep and lamenting: “I wasn’t designed to have so much past”.

The closing track is the tale of Mini the Moocher from the Future, which sounds like the end-credits song for the best B-movie of all time key line. It juxtaposes his own life in New York city, with its crap dates, fearing the sound of aeroplanes and his bedr, to a magical world full of nonsense rhyming and riding “a dinosaur for song long that it turned into coal”.

Sure, there are a couple of crap songs. The opener is a bit post-strokes by-numbers, and ‘The Upside-Down’ cross, written by his brother, never really gets past its bass line. But the rest, from Whistle Past The Graveyard’s zombie-baiting bounciness to the devastatingly honest Broken, Broken Heart, is peerless stuff. His ability to lyrically bump from the colourfully meaningless to the heartfelt, without missing a beat, is a rare and magical thing.

There’s also a really good song about a pig.

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~ by jamboshoeshine on December 31, 2009.

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