Jenny Lewis shares 'Joy'All', and more music you need to hear


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Nov 23, 2023

Jenny Lewis shares 'Joy'All', and more music you need to hear

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Thanks for reading the Toronto Star's Weekend Music Digest, a roundup of new music, concert listings and more.

This week: new music from Jenny Lewis, Big Freedia, Romy feat. Fred Again.., Blonde Redhead and Blake Mills.

Click here to listen along to the Spotify playlist.

Jenny Lewis: "Joy’All"

On her fifth solo, singer-songwriter (and former frontwoman for the indie rock outfit Rilo Kiley) Jenny Lewis comes off as that one super cool aunt, or maybe older cousin — the one who always finds adventure or attracts drama, and whose existence refutes the supposed dullness of middle age. "My 40s are kicking my ass / And handing them to me in a margarita glass / I was infatuated with an older man / and then I dated a psychopath," she sings with blasé charm on "Puppy and a Truck," a hilarious anthem for the rootless and independent.

Recorded at the historic RCA Studio A in Nashville, "Joy’All" is a joyous alt-country romp from a veteran artist whose songwriting feels as sharp as ever. "I’m just trying to get laid," Lewis admits over shuffling percussion and glimmering slide guitar on "Psychos," the album's infectious opening track. On the twangy "Apples and Oranges" she describes her new lover to an ex with brutal candour: "He's hot and he's cool / He's nothing like you." Meanwhile, the crunchy "Love Feel" pays tribute to the simple pleasures of a good party, complete with "ice cold Modelo," "PCP and mary jane."

But hidden beneath the tough exterior, there's tenderness, too. On the R&B-inflected title track, she references an incident that "almost destroyed" her as a teenager. "I’m not a toy, ya’ll / I got heart," the former child actor sings, her voice containing the slightest hint of sadness.

"The common theme as a human being is just: sh — gets real," Lewis told the Guardian. "There's a lot of suffering, of varying degrees, and how are you going to weather it?"

Big Freedia: "Bigfoot"

Following last summer's blockbuster single "Break My Soul," Beyoncé became the unofficial spokesperson for "the Great Resignation," a pandemic-era movement that supposedly empowered disgruntled workers to quit their jobs. But the song's driving force was actually the New Orleans bounce icon Big Freedia, whose 2014 song "Explode" was sampled liberally, and whose rousing directives provided the dance-pop anthem with its slogan: "Release ya anger / Release ya mind / Release ya job / release the time!"

Twelve months later, we’re blessed with a brand-new heater from Big Freedia, who goes absolutely bananas on their new single "Bigfoot." "Muthaf — ng Sasquatch stompin’ through your city / Comin’ for the big bags nothin’ itty bitty" she proclaims with booming authority over ground-shaking brass and clacking snares. Arriving just in time for Pride, "Bigfoot" is a a potent return from the 45-year-old, whose first album in nine years, "Central City," arrives later this month.

Romy: "Loveher"

There's a endearing sense of purity that underlies "Loveher," the first solo single from Romy, who is best known as the guitarist and co-vocalist of the influential indie rock trio The xx. Featuring production from in-demand English artist Fred Again, whose iridescent piano chords and driving house beat recall the dance-pop melodrama of Robyn, the track builds from timid communion — "Hold my hand under the table / It's not that I'm not proud in the company of strangers / It's just some things are for us" — into a soaring affirmation: "Love her, I love her, I love her, I love her," she sings in a gentle falsetto in the song's outro. The song has been described as a "proud and positive queer love story," but the emotions it contains are clearly universal.

Blonde Redhead: "Snowman"

I’ve always been a little creeped out by Blonde Redhead, the New York-based experimental rock band comprised of vocalist and guitarist Kazu Makino, who grew up in Japan, and multi-instrumentalists Amedeo and Simone Pace, Italian twin brothers who grew up in Montreal. As a teenager, I illegally downloaded the band's 2004 record "Misery Is a Butterfly" and felt very unsettled by Makino's eerie vocal melodies and the band's haunted house vibes — vibes that made Radiohead sound sunny in comparison.

On the band's new single, "Snowman," the trio wastes no time settling back into a groove that is as unsettling as it is hypnotic. Inspired by "the attitude and breeziness of Brazilian experimental music," the track builds around tensely strummed guitar chords and slow-burning percussion, setting the table for Amadeo's longing falsetto: "So like no man that you are," he sings. "It can be a blessing or a curse to be invisible and undetectable," the band explains. "It's something we all feel and desire at times."

"Sit Down For Dinner," Blonde Redhead's first album in nine years, arrives in September.

Blake Mills: "Skeleton Is Walking"

You’ve gotta have real gall — and serious chops — to record a four-minute guitar solo in the year of our lord 2023. But songwriter and guitarist Blake Mills pulls it off with apparent ease on "Skeleton Is Walking," a new single from his upcoming album "Jelly Road," which he wrote and recorded with the mysterious jazz musician Chris Weisman.

The track starts off simply enough — a bright progression of nylon string guitar chords form the foundation of a blissful groove that strolls forward at leisurely pace. But the fireworks start just after the 2:20 mark, as Mills assumes the role of prog-rock guitar god, laying down a fuzzed-out and highly expressive solo on a fretless sustainer baritone guitar. It's an exquisite and rare display of musicianship, and proof that the guitar solo is not dead yet.

All Week

Monday, June 12

The Zambian singer and rapper will be joined by Brampton hip hop prodigy Haviah Mighty for a Monday night show in downtown Toronto.

Tuesday, June 13

The Detroit post-punk outfit released their sixth album, "Formal Growth In The Desert" last week.

Wednesday, June 14

The legendary English alternative rock group will play a highly-anticipated show at the Bud Stage on Wednesday. Buckle up — Robert Smith and co. have been playing a set with close to 30 songs that spans almost three hours on their current world tour.

If you can't get tickets to The Cure, I suggest you make your way to the Phoenix for a solid indie rock double bill.

Thursday, June 15

The Canadian indie pop duo will be joined by Toronto electropop artist Dragonette.

It's 90s night at Bud Stage! The R&B girl group will be joined by Shaggy, En Vogue and Sean Kingston.

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Album of the Week Jenny Lewis: "Joy’All" Star Tracks: More of the best new (and newish) music Big Freedia: "Bigfoot" Romy: "Loveher" Blonde Redhead: "Snowman" Blake Mills: "Skeleton Is Walking" Janelle Monáe's Amaarae Christine and the Queens DJ Jayda G King Krule Squid Miscellanea from around the music world Newly announced concerts Toronto Concert Calendar: A selection of upcoming shows across the city All Week Monday, June 12 Tuesday, June 13 Wednesday, June 14 Thursday, June 15