Music News

Rilo Kiley's Lewis unleashes "Acid Tongue"

NEW YORK (Billboard) - It took Los Angeles band Rilo Kiley the better part of a decade to rise through the indie rock ranks, but with her 2006 solo debut, “Rabbit Fur Coat,” the group’s frontwoman, Jenny Lewis, quickly proved a force to be reckoned with.

Whether she’s kicking ass in a sparkly jumpsuit onstage with Rilo Kiley or baring her soul with an acoustic guitar, Lewis has built a sizable base of fans and celebrity collaborators alike.

Now on the heels of Rilo Kiley’s 2007 career best-seller, “Under the Blacklight,” Lewis is ready to unveil what else she’s got up her sleeve with “Acid Tongue,” due September 23 via her band’s current label, Warner Bros.

“It rocks a little harder,” Lewis says of the new set. On “Rabbit Fur Coat,” which was released on pal Conor Oberst’s label, Team Love, and has sold 129,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, she paired with the Watson Twins for a folk- and-soul-influenced collection of songs that showcased her intimate side.

But with “Acid Tongue,” her main objective going into the studio was to cut as many songs live as possible. In January, Lewis and co-producers Johnathan Rice, “Farmer” Dave Scher and Jason Leder retreated to Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California, for three weeks of all-analog recording sessions. “The vibes were fantastic,” she says.

The album features guest spots from a number of Lewis’ friends, including Elvis Costello, who duets with her on “Carpetbaggers”; the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson; and her beau, Rice. Actress/singer Zooey Deschanel offers backing vocals on several tracks (“I love being flanked by hot brunettes,” Lewis says), and Deschanel’s She & Him collaborator M. Ward provides a moody guitar part on “Pretty Bird.” Lewis’ sister Leslie also supplies backing vocals, and her dad, Eddie Gordon, plays bass harp on the honky-tonk-ish “Jack Killed Mom.”

One notable departure from Lewis’ previous work is “The Next Messiah,” a pulsating, nearly nine-minute cut that’s “actually three different songs that Johnathan Rice and myself wrote together,” she says. “I happen to be a Barbra Streisand fan, and Barbra Streisand fancies a medley, so we discussed stringing the three songs together.”

Compared with writing material for Rilo Kiley, whose last album was polished with glittering studio sheen, Lewis says she uses the band’s songs “as a reference point to go in the complete opposite direction” with her solo work.