Jenny Lewis seduces with her Acid Tongue

Plus new CD releases by The Bird and the Bee, Will Bernard and Sing It Loud

(Warner Bros.)

On her 2006 solo debut, Rabbit Fur Coat, Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis glided through an Appalachian dreamworld and, with a spectral voice, convinced us to follow. On her new disc, Acid Tongue, the singer/songwriter periodically stomps her boots and sneers while exploring similar terrain. The journey just got a lot more interesting.

Acid Tongue includes plenty of quirky meditations on lost love that recall her previous adventure: the indie-folk title track; the strings-laden torch song "Trying My Best to Love You"; the white-girl soul album closer, "Sing a Song for Them." But then there's the guitar fury of the nearly nine-minute "The Next Messiah," the heavy blues blowout "Fernando" and the twang-rocker "Carpetbaggers," a duet with Elvis Costello.

These well-placed jolts give Acid Tongue balance — a component that was lacking on Rabbit Fur Coat. Lewis shows that her delicately seductive vocals are more versatile than her debut suggested. But in doing so, she never loses the innocent charm that wooed listeners the first time around.

With regard to lyrics, Lewis is not above a sophomoric verse like "Because I've been down to Dixie/ And dropped acid on my tongue/ Tripped upon the land/ Until enough was enough." The singer makes the lines work, though, with a delivery that alternates between innocent whispers and emotive wallops. Plus, there's the soaring, sweet, close-harmony chorus of "You know I'm a Liar" that's so hypnotic it renders everything in between practically moot. Most of the songs on Acid Tongue have a similar effect. 4 stars —Wade Tatangelo

The Bird and the Bee

(Metro Blue)

Bird and the Bee singer Inara George did not get the soulful vocal chops of her late father Lowell George, but she did inherit his sense of quirkiness. The debut full-length by the L.A. duo consisting of George and keyboardist producer Greg Kurstin is a charming slice of eccentric electro-pop with a hint of jazz flavor. The melodies at first come off as sing-songy, but subsequent listens reveal lots of harmonic ingenuity (especially the leadoff "Again and Again" and "Fucking Boyfriend"). George's voice is airy and ethereal, and occasionally doctored with effects (including Vocoder). Kurstin's instrumental backdrops deftly combine the computer-driven with the organic (acoustic guitar, trombone). The Bird and the Bee may come off as rather slight, but you can't deny its stickiness. 3 stars —Eric Snider

Blue Plate Special


At first blush, Blue Plate Special sounds like another typical, funky outing by an ad hoc group of players from New York's jam-jazz mafia — guitarist Bernard, keyboardist John Medeski and bassist Andy Hess — along with New Orleans drummer Stanton Moore, a fellow traveler. And while the disc does work from a familiar template, it brims with a lot of energetic playing, some appealingly riffy tunes and a few splashes of variety. The best stuff veers from the format a bit — like "Blister," a take on African highlife right down to Bernard's echoey guitar solo, or the ska-flavored "Gonzo," or "How Great Thou Art," which the quartet performs with churchy commitment. Medeski's solemn organ sets the backdrop for Bernard's slow and sensual slide guitar. In fact, for all the colors and textures Bernard coaxes from his axe — from goodfoot grooving to jazzy octaves — it's his slide playing that makes the biggest impression. 3.5 stars —ES

Come Around


Just when it appears that the market for highly-polished pop-rock with an emo bent has finally gone the way of the real estate boom, we're met by another band willing and able to ape Motion City Soundtrack. The latest in the tired trend is Minneapolis quintet Sing It Loud, which drops its debut full-length, Come Around, on Tues., Sept. 23 on the (mostly) venerable indie label Epitaph. Motion City Soundtrack guitarist Josh Cain produced the record (hell, if the kids are going to copy your sound, might as well charge for a first-hand tutorial, eh). Still not impressed? Motion City frontman Justin Pierre makes a cameo on the single "We're Not Afraid." To Sing Out Loud's (or the producer's) credit, the songs are rife with catchy guitar riffs and saccharine synthesizer runs. By record's end, though, it all amounts to a predictable bore overflowing with gobs of forced cheeriness. 2 stars —WT

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