Having ditched her Rilo Kiley bandmates (albeit temporarily) and the Watson Twins—her collaborators on 2006’s otherwise-solo effort Rabbit Fur Coat—malleable indie songstress and onetime Las Vegas resident Jenny Lewis has found herself a new playgroup in an upgraded musical sandbox.
A motley assortment including Elvis Costello, boyfriend Johnathan Rice, M. Ward, Paz Lenchantin, Chris Robinson and Zooey Deschanel join in the veritable jam session, as does Lewis’ sister Leslie and her long-absent father, bass harp and harmonica player Eddie Gordon. Like Coat, Acid Tongue mines the emotional fallout from her parents’ acrimonious divorce, with the rousing shape-shifter “The Next Messiah” and franticly building “Jack Killed Mom” paying filial tribute through prisms of religion and violence.
Whereas Coat’s classic country verged on hokey melodrama, Tongue serves as a showcase rather than an overt statement. Prevalent strings, alt-country stomp (“Carpetbaggers”) and slinky, sultry minimalism (“Bad Man’s World,” “Pretty Bird”) contribute to an overall blues-rock feel; elsewhere, “Godspeed” evokes the Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You,” while the irresistible “See Fernando” recalls “Sugar Daddy” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Though it lacks its predecessor’s emotional cohesiveness, Tongue is nevertheless as pretty a patchwork as they come.