Rabbit Fur Coat

Rabbit Fur Coat

4.8 7
by The Watson Twins
     
 

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On Rilo Kiley's 2004 breakthrough album, More Adventurous, Jenny Lewis proved herself a startlingly good singer, an indie-rocker who didn't shy away from belting out a soulful showstopper like "I Never." And Rabbit Fur Coat confirms her talent. For her first solo album, Lewis drafts the WatsonSee more details below

Overview

On Rilo Kiley's 2004 breakthrough album, More Adventurous, Jenny Lewis proved herself a startlingly good singer, an indie-rocker who didn't shy away from belting out a soulful showstopper like "I Never." And Rabbit Fur Coat confirms her talent. For her first solo album, Lewis drafts the Watson Twins, Chandra and Leigh, to provide old-fashioned country harmonies and crafts an acoustic, rootsy sound that eschews the new wave electrics of her main band. She cites Laura Nyro and LaBelle's Gonna Take a Miracle and Bob Dylan's New Morning as models; other apt parallels would be Dusty in Memphis (check the intimate ballad "Melt Your Heart") and Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. (Bright Eyes mainstay Mike Mogus produced much of Rabbit Fur Coat.) Lewis's songwriting is as impressive as ever: the semi-autobiographical title track alludes to her youth as a child actor and family breadwinner, and the twangy "The Charging Sky" moves through a variety of points of view and references ("It's just you and God / but what if God's not there / But his name is on your dollar bill / which just became cab fare," goes one typically associative sequence). Lewis is well connected: She's helped out by M. Ward (who produced several tracks); by some of her Rilo Kiley bandmates; by members of Maroon 5 and the Decemberists; and, on a humorous cover of the Traveling Wilburys' "Handle with Care," by Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and Postal Service cohort Ben Gibbard (also of Death Cab for Cutie). But it's Lewis's smart songwriting and her aching, intimate vocals throughout Rabbit Fur Coat that will melt your heart.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The story line on Rabbit Fur Coat is this: for her first venture outside of celebrated indie sensations Rilo Kiley, singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis has made a "white soul" album, along the lines of Dusty Springfield or Laura Nyro. Which is why, of course, she brought in Kentucky duo the Watson Twins to provide bluegrass harmonies for the entire record. Which is to say that Rabbit Fur Coat doesn't quite live up to its billing -- especially when compared to The Greatest, Cat Power's genuine white-soul album that hit the stores the week after Lewis' solo affair. What Rabbit Fur Coat brings to mind is not Laura Nyro but, perhaps inevitably, Neko Case and the stark, arty Americana intimacy of her breakthrough, Furnace Room Lullaby. Not that Lewis has Case's throaty voice or commanding presence -- she can growl and slide into notes, but at her core she has a small, fragile voice, one that lends this muted set of songs intimacy, even if it also brings them to the verge of cutsiness. And that's not a word that should be associated with Rabbit Fur Coat, an album that's designed to be a comforting late-night confessional, from rousing stompers like "The Big Guns" through the bluesy crawl of "Rise Up With Fists" to bittersweet ruminations like the seemingly autobiographical title track and the cheerful, gangs-all-here singalong to the Traveling Wilburys "Handle With Care." Musically, this hits the mark -- not only does it return Lewis to the country leanings of Rilo Kiley's first album, it feels suspended in time and space, the perfect soundtrack to 2 A.M. But the spareness of its sound also puts undue emphasis on her writing, and while she can structure a song, she tends to overwork her lyrics, cramming too many words into a phrase and moralizing like a college sophomore ("Still they're dying on the dark continent/it's been happening long enough to mention it" or "Are you really that pure sir?/I thought I saw you in Vegas/it was not pretty/but she was," where the Watson Twins helpfully respond with "not your wife"). At her best, her songs have a grace and flow that obscure these flaws -- such as on "Happy," whose melody and attitude are not all that far removed from her most prominent booster in rock's old guard, Elvis Costello -- and -- even if they're still quite prominent upon any close listen. And since Rabbit Fur Coat is an album that's designed for close listening, that's a bit of a problem, but as a pure sonic experience, it's a moody, atmospheric listen that never gets quite as melancholy as it suggests and holds together better than any Rilo Kiley album to date.

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Product Details

Release Date:
01/24/2006
Label:
Team Love Records
UPC:
0898348000826
catalogNumber:
8

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Watson Twins   Primary Artist
Larry Crane   Track Performer
Greg Kurstin   Track Performer
James Valentine   Track Performer
Mike Mogis   Track Performer
Ben Gibbard   Track Performer
Mickey Madden   Track Performer
Jason Boesel   Track Performer
Jenny Lewis   Vocals
Conor Oberst   Track Performer
Leigh Watson   Vocals,Track Performer
Chandra Watson   Vocals,Track Performer
Johnathan Rice   Track Performer
Mike Bloom   Track Performer
Rachel Bloomberg   Track Performer
Michael Runion   Track Performer
Matt Ward   Track Performer

Technical Credits

Bob Dylan   Composer
George Harrison   Composer
Jeff Lynne   Composer
Roy Orbison   Composer
Tom Petty   Composer
Traveling Wilburys   Composer
Larry Crane   Engineer
Fred Kevorkian   Mastering
Mike Mogis   Producer,Engineer
Jenny Lewis   Composer,Producer
Matt Ward   Producer

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