Largely written during a week-long workshop run by Beck, Jenny Lewis’ fifth album casts her as a hard-nosed Stevie Nicks. ‘Psychos’ and ‘Balcony’ have the wide-screen, soft-focus of ’70s Fleetwood Mac but there’s usually a bite in her lyrical specificity.
She may joke about being “a rock-and-roll disciple”, with songs referencing AM Radio standards such as ’64 Malibus and John Denver, but this is a picket-fence America that, under its Nashville pedal steel and bouncing soul, is full of danger for teenage girls and where the essence of life is suffering.
The edge is easy to ignore given Dave Cobb’s production quality, which gives it a vintage classic rock vibe and captures the intimacy of a live band. This works particularly well on the stomping country-rock of ‘Love Feel’ and ‘Apples and Oranges’, which draw a thread to her Rilo Kiley days and make it sound like classic rock was always her destination.
If there are moments that slip close to cliché, such as the break on ‘Love Feel’ and the ’60s girl-group spoken word introduction to ‘Chain of Tears’, then it’s done with knowing intention. This means that Joy’All is less about cynicism than the hardened will to survive.