Before 2004, the only people who really knew who Jenny Lewis was were people who held the 1989 film “The Wizard” (a cult favorite among kids of the era) in high esteem. The film co-starred a young Lewis, who since the turn of the century had re-surfaced as the singer of Rilo Kiley, a killer shape-shifting indie rock band who were slowly picking up followers in and around their Los Angeles home. In 2004, the band dropped More Adventurous, which elevated them from quiet favorite to crossover success (based largely on the strange ubiquity of the song “It’s a Hit”). On this day in 2006, Lewis broke away from Rilo Kiley and released Rabbit Fur Coat, a stunning solo album that established Watson as one of the greatest female voices in the indie world.
With an assist from the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat took the quirky melodies and conversational tone of More Adventurous and stripped it down to its core. Sparse but never desolate, the songs on Rabbit Fur Coat exist in a universe somewhere between folk rock, country, roots rock, blues and classic singer-songwriter tropes. (The fact that it contains a Traveling Wilburys cover is telling, as that band is a pretty clear antecedent to the album’s sound.) Lewis’ voice sits at the center of everything, authoritatively infusing the songs with powerful confessions and just the right amount of melancholy. Most of the tunes sound simultaneously triumphant and heartbreaking — especially the breakout single “Rise Up With Fists!!”
Lewis can currently be heard as part of one half of Jenny and Johnny, her tag-team effort with boyfriend Jonathan Rice.