Jeffrey Lewis - A Turn in the Dream-Songs

by James Bray Rating:7 Release Date:2011-10-10

Jeffrey Lewis is continuing a great tradition of the American chansonnier; he's following in the footsteps of other great, somehow distinctly Jewish, singer/ song-writers like Jonathan Richman and Randy Newman.
Lewis is creative and neurotic in equal parts; he's arty and east coast but all his songs have a lightness and a sense of humour that undermine any kind scenester pretention.

A turn in the Dream is an album built on fun, little acoustic songs. The musicianship is very 70s singer/song-writer with guitar strumming and picking and the occasional mandolin and strings. The vocal delivery is very different, it's fast paced, literate, forlorn, funny and deadpan; almost like an 80s observational comedian. Take for example these lyrics from "When You're by yourself", "and when you have to go to the bathroom, you can't leave your stuff, you have to take it with you; You have to take your jacket and backpack with you to the bathroom, when you're in the restaurant by yourself." As well as music, Lewis also writes and draws his own comic books and you can hear this his songs; they're little vignettes of alternative american life.

He has plenty of upbeat and catchy tunes; look for "Reaching" or "Cult Boyfriend" on the soundtrack of the next indie movie sleeper hit. The problem with this indie style is that it can become mawkish, overly sentimental and kooky; falling into wooly romance and excessively cute melancholy. However, Lewis doesn't fair too badly in this respect, although he does get a little trippy and self-indulgent, especially on instrumental tracks "Boom Tube" and "From Draz."

Overall, the songs are fun and enjoyable, they'll never be big hits but they're happy where they are. Where Lewis really succeeds is his evocation of this "alternative" world of thrift stores, open-mic nights and record stores; his music is homemade, inclusive and he even makes fun of the cultish little scene that he creates. Lewis is a bedroom protest singer, he's goodnatured and polite and sounds like he'd be happy singing on stage wearing shorts and a t-shirt. In A Turn in the Dream- Songs Lewis continues to chronicle mainstream alternative American life and, if you like Ghostworld or Daria or, I dunno, the soundtrack to There's Something about Mary, it's definitely worth a listen.

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