Initially, I thought I would write an album review regarding Jenny Lewis’ The Voyager. Being that is has been a while since my last entry, I felt that it would be a nice way to re-engage myself. Especially as I had once been a music journalist intern. It’s nice to re-enter writing under the form that someone beyond yourself and friends has recognized some bit of talent in. Ultimately, though, it seemed that I should write something a bit more substantial, a bit more personal. In the words of Hemingway, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
So, allow me to bleed for a moment.
The last few years have been rather emotional. Lots of ups and lots of downs. There has been long periods of introspection and reevaluation of life, my achievements, and my future goals. Some shared, some not. Some never to be. Jenny Lewis’ The Voyager was released a week before I left for San Diego, CA. Earlier this year, in May Jenny Lewis held an interview with Rolling Stone about the upcoming album, saying that the album “got [her] through one of the most difficult periods of [her] life…a few really intense personal things happened, [she] completely melted down. It nearly destroyed [her]. [She] such severe insomnia….Many of the songs on The Voyager came out of the need to occupy [her] mind in the moments when [she] just couldn’t shut down.”
I can’t say the same, really. The Voyager was not a major life-altering album. To me. I will say it has its place. The California sound is there and it was nice that I had the chance to experience a small piece of that state around the same time that I was listening to the album.
The first track, “Head Underwater,” is possibly one of my favorites from the album. It does have a bit of a Katy Perry-esque pop undertone to it, which can easily be heard during the chorus. More so during the following lyrics:
My own mortality I contemplated
Down in the valley I got hypnotized
It left a mark that hasn’t faded
That’s when I realized
As an amatuer writer, primarily a journaler, I always consider if the audience is ever bored when reading anything I might write. The same feeling occurs even in conversation. Be it with family, friends, or even in relationships. “I don’t want to bore you / With how I feel…I never thought I / Would ever be / Looking out on my life / As if there was no bad there.” I feel like the latter part of this segment refers to that moment just as you wholly fall in love, completely trust, and are extremely comfortable with another person. While we all have experienced or done “bad,” when we’re finally at that point where we can wholly love it’s as if the bad no longer matters. Pure acceptance.
Again, this is not a review or even an analysis of the songs’ or album’s actual meaning. It is merely a personal reflection set to this album.
Of course, even with this pure acceptance, we still must remember our past. How it changed us. How we felt and grew. The track continues this back and forth, the ups and downs: “I put my head underwater, baby / I throw my clothes away in the trash….I messed around with something I always hated / I took a blanket into the bath /Opened my eyes and hallucinated / I took a nap and woke up in the grass.” Yet, we must always remember, though at times it can be very difficult, “There’s a little bit of magic / Everybody has it / There’s a little bit of sand left in the hourglass….There’s a little bit of fight left in the end.”
The second track, “She’s Not Me,” begins with somewhat of a Tom Petty-esque riff before Lewis begins, “I used to think you could save me / I’ve been wandering lately…” There’s something about a lost relationship that, at some time, made you feel as though this person, this other human being could “save” you from something, anything. From yourself? It’s something that takes a while to come back from after it ends. If you’re lucky, you come back with the knowledge or feeling that you are a good and decent person. That you are, regardless of your missteps, faults, and past transgressions, an awesome person, that anyone should be glad to know.
Ultimately, the hope is that you have continued to grow from it. Maybe it’s the next person you meet or that now you’ve grown and experienced a bit more in life, you can be more open. Maybe you have to allow yourself to be saved for someone to save you. I wonder if we ever get to that point. Can we ever fully trust someone? I hope we can. I hope I can. I’ve made a point of being open and honest with people. Not that I have my entire life. I’ve always been guarded and reserved. There are some people, though, who I feel I have to be open and honest with. Myself, of course, but also a very small select group of people.
Another line from this track, that we should all recognize, as it has been something I have even dealt with in life is: “I took you for granted / When you were all that I needed!” This can lead to a horrible mess. Just because someone is willing to help you and be there for you, there will be, at some point, a line drawn in the sand. Relationships, be it family, friends, or significant others, are not about what you can get from the other person (not entirely, at least). You can get great conversation, a feeling of comfort and safety, many things. If one person is doing all of the giving, then, really, isn’t only one person “in” the relationship?
(I’m going to apologize now for any grammar errors, missed references, and overuse of commas. It’s late and I’m trying to get this finished before falling asleep. Only a small number will read this anyway.)
The single from this album, which has now been somewhat exhausted, “Just One of the Guys,” has a fairly relatable chorus:
No matter how hard I try to be just one of the guys
There’s a little something inside that won’t let me
No matter how hard I try to have an open mind
There’s a little voice inside that prevents me
I’ve always been to be as nice a guy as I can, I try to be a gentleman. I usually blame my parents for that, but also because I like to think that guys can still be the stable, gentlemanly characters from those old classic films. It would require someone to have actually seen those films for them to expect it, I assume. Otherwise, why would we have so many guys acting and treating women with so much disrespect? Or do women not respect themselves as they did before? I don’t know. There are so many cultural theories now, that I don’t know that I should fully buy-in to any of them. All I do know is that men shouldn’t break women down, they shouldn’t or be a religious or monetary burden (“I’m not gonna break for you / I’m not gonna pray for you / I’m not gonna pay for you / That’s not what ladies do”). Of course, I’m being rather general. Sure, our economy is and, for a long time, will be horrible. I don’t think I have to go in-depth here, I would imagine everyone understands. Again, I’m making assumptions. However, I will say that only a few people/reviewers that I have seen had mentioned something I had thought of when I heard the line “I’m not gonna break for you.” Bob Dylan. In Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman,” he sings about how “she” “breaks just like a little girl.”
I will ignore commenting on the part of the song where Lewis states, “There’s only one difference between you and me / When I look at myself all I can see / I’m just another lady without a baby.” It’s a statement that reaches for emotion, especially in the accompaniment, but it has been an exhausted line when it comes to album reviewers.
“Slippery Slopes,” the fourth track, helps to remind not to get too involved in something or, at the very least, to be cautious. I have to weigh everything out. Not allow myself to get too close to something too soon. While the track opens with the line “I am still into you / Dreams really do come true / I feel it everywhere,” only moments later do we hear a sort of compromising “And if you don’t wreck it, then I won’t wreck it either.” I feel like this shouldn’t be something that needs to be spoken between two people. Almost as if this sort of validation of the relationship is ultimately detrimental. I do wonder, though. if in some ways this is absolutely non-detrimental. In the case where you just want to have a complete open discussion with someone in your relationship and want to be sure that they are as involved or as dedicated to it as you are.
There is a line a bit later referring to freedom and how joyful it is to simply be free. It’s true, there is joy in being free. Free from a downward-spiralling relationship, especially. It makes you wonder if all relationships are really the same. When you wonder this, it, for a while, makes you feel it to be true. That the only thing that truly makes sense is caring for and worrying about yourself. As if being single is the best way to live one’s life. While there have been times when I have tried and struggled to believe that, I don’t think it will ever be possible. I could go out an experience everything that life has to offer, but at the end of the day, all I have are personal experiences. No shared experiences. No one to discuss how we may have viewed the exact same thing, at the same time in a different way. No one to share perspectives. Sure, I can do this with family, friends, or even a stranger. That all ends. There’s something about coming home to someone, not just a dog. Though the dog helps. “If for just one second it helps us to remember / That we like each other the most.”
As we approach the fifth track, “Late Bloomer,” I am continued to be somewhat put off by the album and it’s feminine references and undertones. Not that I am anti-feminist or anything. I just tend to prefer lyrics, I guess, that aren’t as obviously gender specific. Yet, Lewis does allow for some “bending” throughout. She opens “Late Bloomer” with “When I turned 16 I was furious and restless,” which I think a lot of people can relate. The age is something of mythical creature. We’re extremely happy. Able to drive, gain a little more freedom from our parents, start forming more serious relationships with other people. Yet, we also experience a great bit of angst at this same time. We’re not adults, we’re not free, our first serious relationships fail. We continue to attempt to find who “we” are. And fail. Repeatedly.
She was searching for the writer of a song that made her shiver
She listened over and over on a Walkman cassette
She said, “Come with me, late bloomer, for a little while
I wanna see that fire burning in you, little child”
How could I resist her?…
And I wanted to kiss her, but I hadn’t the nerve
We found the writer, he was just some kid from Boston
I was jealous as I watched him talking to her
But man, was I astonished, he didn’t look like no Adonis
Forgive me my candor, but I just had to have her
The above excerpt from this track has a lot of emotion and personal reflection, as well. I remember wanting to be in a band for many reasons. I enjoy music, love music. Yet, there’s also nothing like being able to do something creative that draws someone to you. I feel like this could be any passion, really: “I wanna see that fire burning in you….” Underneath, of course, the writer, the musician, the artist, they’re all “just some kid from Boston.” Ultimately, I think sometimes we have to have candor. We can’t always “play the game.” Sometimes we need to come right out and just say what we’re thinking. Say that you “just had to have her,” say you like her, say you want to be with her, say you love her. Just say what is in your mind. It’s Russian Roulette, but sometimes, sometimes, It’s the luckiest you’ve ever been.
Track six, “You Can’t Outrun ‘Em,” starts to hit home a bit as the opening lines resound: “You got struck with some bad luck / There’s a black cat by your side…” It almost begs you to recall your past and how “After all that you’ve been through / Haven’t you learned anything? / You can’t outrun ’em, you can’t outrun ’em…They want your head, you can’t outrun ’em.” I like to think that the following lines are suppose to be hopeful in some way, but It’s also possible that there’s a hint of pessimism and desperation: “I guess two souls will meet again / When the universe thinks they should”
As we begin entering the back end of the album, Lewis references the Twin Towers in “The New You.” This is something I reference a lot in my own writing, as it was one of the major events of my generation. It was an event that truly shaped many of the views and opinions of those I grew up with. Of course when Lewis sing, “When the twin towers fell and it all went to hell / I knew you’d be leaving me soon / It’s what tore us apart, you perfected the art / Of making it all about you,” it’s most definitely a metaphor and not an actual corresponding event.
Whatever you’re avoiding / Will greet you at the dawn / ‘Cause it’s a new you every day / Putting on a different face / And the farther that you run from it / How will you overcome it?…
And you struggle with sobriety / Dreams of notoriety…Contempt for high society, social anxiety
The above reminds me of how, sometimes, I will wake up in the morning thinking I’ve escaped a thought, feeling, or have decided never to do something again – regardless of what it might be. Yet, as dawn comes, I shower, I look out to the rising sun, whatever it is/was is ready to follow as my shadow. All I want is a new me, every day. To change my perspective, to be optimistic, to find something or someone to help me run. But, that’s really not why things or people are there. They can help, certainly, but it’s not “all about you.” Our struggles, our dreams, everything is a joint venture. Whether they are mine or yours.
I will skip, track eight, “Aloha and the Three Johns” and move on to track nine’s “Love U Forever.” I don’t know what to say about this song quite yet. There are certain lines that I think I might be able to relate to in some ways. Or maybe I can and it’s just not something I’m willing to announce to those who may read. After all, I have to remain somewhat of a mystery and have something for myself, right? Here are a couple of lines to consider:
When I met you, you were just a boy / And you were tongue-tied and wearing corduroy / When you kissed me, I was so annoyed / Because I was already gone
I could love you forever
I could love you until all the Polaroids fade
I could love you until all our hair turns gray
While I wasn’t born in the “Daisy Age,” the lines, “We were kids then, in the Daisy Age / And we wore peace signs as the riots blazed / When we candy-flipped, we’d stay out too late / Because we were already gone” remind me of being in high school and wanting to be a socialist in many ways. I think it was just a phase, for the most part. I’m still quite liberal in most of my views. This is well-known and exhausted by most readers at this point. If it ever pops up again, I may write something more.
I will ignore the NASA shuttle Voyager, for now, in this post as it relates to the final track (and the ablum), “The Voyager.” It is somewhat humorous, though, that as I was listening to this album, I began talking to someone about NASA, space, technology, and even time. The opening lines, “By the time I got your letter, I lost my mind…I’ve been sipping that Kool-Aid at the Cosmos,” also reminds me of that particular person and how “…the voyager’s in every boy and girl / If you wanna get to heaven, get out of this world.” We will always have to watch our step though as we may “[see] it printed in black and white / The voyager goes up in smoke.”
Some artistic similarities of note: The Byrds, The Go-Go’s, Randy Newman, and obviously Beck and Ryan Adams.
(I understand that this is neither a great album review nor the best “personal” entry I’ve ever made. Give me a break, it has been a while. The fact that I even accomplished doing this tonight is good enough for me. I promise to get back into the habit of writing more. Hopefully the next update will have a bit more substance and interest.)