When I am asked to describe my personal goals when making records, I frequently say that I'm looking to make classic, timeless works of art. I want to make albums that can be listened to for many years to come, without sounding tied to an era in any way. When I think of a scene where the recording process melded well with the art being created, surprisingly L.A. in the mid- to late '70s comes to mind. Stick with me on this. Recall the sound of productions like Fleetwood Mac's self-titled breakthrough LP (1975) and the top-selling Rumours (1977), as well as the lesser-known LPs like Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy (1978). Even Jackson Browne's semi-live Running on Empty is a solid sounding release. Studio equipment had hit a certain level of quality, and L.A. was full of engineers and producers pushing that level through the roof. It might not be your cup of tea stylistically, but you'd be hard-pressed to slight the straightforward quality of these recordings.
Jenny Lewis, formerly of indie darlings Rilo Kiley, returns on her third solo album with a batch of songs that feel very personal, yet draw the listener in. But what struck me about The Voyager was the similarity in presentation to these classic albums from the L.A. era described above. Solid players, distinct parts, and a real sense of timeless purpose inform this album, and my guess is that it will easily withstand any test of time. A big part of the puzzle is the production input of respected songwriter Ryan Adams.
Jenny says, "Ryan and I didn't know each other very well before this album - we had hardly even listened to one another's music, to be honest. But I'd heard he built Pax Am Studio at Sunset Sound, so I hit him up and asked if I could come in and record something. We put together a band - Ryan on guitar, Griffin Goldsmith from Dawes on drums, Gus Seyffert on bass, and [co- producer] Mike Viola on guitar and piano." These sessions were recorded by Charlie Stavish and David LaBrel. Jenny continues, "Every time I wanted to put a harmony on a song, Ryan would ask me, 'Do you come from a musical theater background?' His argument was that great songs, with great stories, don't need background vocals. I trusted the vision, and Ryan ended up being the person to get me over the fear of finishing something I'd been working on for so long."
The multi-talented Beck Hansen produced the single "Just One of the Guys," which has a starlet-studded video to accompany it. Engineered by Cole Marsden, Greif Neill, and David "Elevator" Greenbaum, Jenny says it was, "One of the tunes I'd tried a few different ways before I finally recorded it with Beck, at his home studio in Malibu [The Library]. He ended up producing the song, as well as contributing backing vocals."
Jenny's longtime foil and partner, Johnathan Rice, helps out co- producing and playing on several songs. Former Rilo Kiley bassist Pierre de Reeder performed various overdubs (see an interview I recently did in an upcoming Tape Op) at Kingsize North. Guest musicians include Benmont Tench (of The Heartbreakers), Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh), The Watson Twins, First Aid Kit, Lili Haydn, and many others.
The final touches for this great album include mixing by Rich Costey at Eldorado Studios, Burbank, CA, and mastered by Howie Weinberg [Tape Op #30] at Howie Weinberg Mastering, Los Angeles, CA.
Jenny says, "This record was the hardest one I've ever made. I truly thought I was never going to finish it, but I did. The Voyager tells that story: the longest night of my life, and the journey to finally getting some rest."
As a listener and a fan, I'm so glad it's completed and is part of my listening rotation.