Bottom line: The Voyager isn't only Jenny Lewis' best album (Rilo Kiley work included), it's also one of the strongest releases of the year so far. Fact of the matter is, everything on The Voyager works: from the gorgeous vocals, to the nostalgic (but never overwhelming) string arrangements. It's rare to find an album like this one, crafted by a singer on perfect form, supported by an incredible team of musicians, producers, and very valuable friends.
Musicians of 2014 take note: the bar has just been raised.
How to Eat This Album.
The Voyager is an album of delicious, carefully planned excess, so to properly eat this one you'll need to go for a full three course extravaganza. For your entrée, indulge a in plate of Gougeres (a fancy French way of saying cheese puffs.) They're rich, but not enough to ruin your palate, and they perfectly mirror the exotic yet warmly familiar feel of the album. Recipe here:
For your main, squid ink risotto is the way to go. Like The Voyager, it's at once familiar and strange, walking that delicate balance between good ole stodgy goodness and something a little more risqué.
Who doesn't like cheesecake? That's not even a rhetorical question - who doesn't like cheesecake? It's the only way to round off this album eating experience, and there's a great recipe here:
How to Drink This Album.
The Voyager might be have a surface layer of sweet, but there's a real weight to Lewis' vocals. So, how could you go wrong with a Brandy Alexander, a cocktail that's both creamy and a little rough around the edges?
My advice though: for a great Brandy Alexander, go for higher quality brandy. You'll ruin the whole experience by cheapening the main ingredient, and if that ain't also a life lesson, then I don't know what is.
How to Watch this Album.
The cheap gag here would be to recommend The Wizard, a film shot back in those days when Nintendo ruled the world and Lewis was a child star, but The Voyager's best cinematic equivalent is Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers. Like the album, Broken Flowers is almost disarmingly sincere - as funny as some of the scenes with Bill Murray and an oversexed Lolita wannabe named, well, Lolita, might be, there's a real sadness and passion to the movie too. It never goes for the cheap gag in the same way that Lewis never goes for the cheap emotion, and both works end up ultimately being about the same thing: lost love, the passage of time, and that strange, beautiful way we humans just keep on keeping on.
Tilda Swinton doin' her thing in Broken Flowers.
A little more obscure but equally good is the French film Girl on the Bridge. Ostensibly a romance (shot in black and white, no less) the movie has some real darkness at its heart too - a suicide attempt is the driving force of the plot. It's mystical, beautiful, and possessing genuine warmth: just like an album I know...
How to Read This Album.
This first choice might sound like a bit of a curveball, but Etgar Keret's The Nimrod Flipout contains the same biting, barely repressed passion as The Voyager. A collection of funny-sad short stories, this is Keret's best work: it's punchy, often laugh out loud hilarious, and powerful. In short, it's the kind of book you can finish in one sitting, and then immediately pick back up and jump into all over again.
Just as worth a read is Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice. Pynchon might just be my favourite author of all time - I don't think he's ever written a bad book, or even a bum line - and of all his work, Inherent Vice is the one with a tone closest to The Voyager's sense of wonder and pain. Pynchon has a reputation for being difficult, but this is one of his easiest reads: grab yourself a copy and lap up every word like the nectar that it is.