Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat (2006)
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I have only a passing familiarity with Rilo Kiley and I’ve never seen The Wizard, so, needless to say, I am not hip to all the Jenny Lewis love that’s been buzzing about the blogosphere for the last couple of years. Rilo Kiley? Decent indie pop band. Jenny Lewis? Decent indie pop singer. So, what does that mean for Rabbit Fur Coat?
First of all, that cover scares the hell out of me. It’s like those creepy twins from The Shining grew up and found themselves a very pale friend, and they all want you to come and play with them. Forever…and ever…and ever. Yipes. Thankfully, that vibe doesn’t carry over to the music; Rabbit Fur Coat is a charming, if slight, little slice of hipster-pop-meets-backwoods-folk that — even if it never quite scales the glorious heights you might expect from an artist who’s been getting so much critical attention — is still never less than enjoyable.
The idea behind the record is great — maybe even sort of noble: Take the quirky, lo-fi, postmodern West Coast pop vibe of Lewis’ other projects, and meld it with the quirky, lo-fi, classic country soul of artists like Dusty Springfield. The thing is, Lewis is a decent singer, but her voice isn’t cut out for what she’s trying to do here; it communicates neither the necessary experience nor the requisite personality. When she really tries to cop an Appalachian Gothic vibe, like on the title track, she just winds up sounding cute.
That doesn’t mean Rabbit Fur Coat is a bad record — not at all. Some songs, like the loping, funny “The Charging Sky” (download) and the fantastic, hootenanny-style cover of The Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle With Care” (download), come close to greatness. It isn’t quite the type of greatness that Lewis seems to be aiming for, but so what?