New Music 07/2019 – Christine and the Queens, Jenny Lewis, Neko Case

Excellent follow-up from the gender-bending French singer; my two favourite musical redheads release solo albums after a five-year break.

Christine and the Queens – Chris

I saw Christine and the Queens’ fabulous live show back in March, but it took me some time to get around to her second album, on which French artist Héloïse Letissier adopted the moniker Chris – who is, in her own words, a “horny, hungry and ambitious” woman – and a striking short-cropped androgynous look that indicated a powerful inner transformation. Sometimes artists or bands arrive with a fully formed image, but it can often be more thrilling to watch an evolution. Compared to the debut, Chris is more exuberant and assertive, and abundant with funky sweaty pop gems. I was also pleased to discover that my edition was in fact bilingual, with both English and French versions of the album (I have a feeling that the French version will be getting more spins).

Jenny Lewis – On the Line

I like More Adventurous just fine, but for my money Jenny Lewis’ solo career vastly surpasses Rilo Kiley, her former band. This one, her fourth album, delivers more of the strong songwriting and vivid storytelling, sung in a voice that’s become a bit more weathered with age, which lends the record’s bittersweet moments even more poignancy. Like a soft cat’s paw with its hidden claws, Lewis’ deceptively catchy and pretty folk-rock songs with a sunny California sheen hide biting lyrics about familial and romantic troubles, mental health issues and addiction.

Neko Case – Hell-On

Despite my admiration for her remarkable voice, I’ve always been a rather sporadic follower of Neko Case and more or less lost contact in the last few years, before a live concert earlier this year re-ignited my interest. Hideous fugly cover art notwithstanding (seriously what were they thinking??) Hell-On is a treat. It’s probably the most eclectic album in her catalogue, which is not surprising considering the amount of collaborations that include pop producer Björn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John, Mark Lanegan, and Eric Bachmann who pops in for a lovely melancholy duet on country-tinged Sleep All Summer. In other ways, it’s a very typical Neko Case album, where conventionally catchy and poppy songs like Bad Luck sit next to weirder, hard-to-classify numbers.

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