Jeffrey Lewis, A Turn in the Dream-Songs, Rough Trade
"A cult boyfriend’s like a record in a bargain bin, no one knows its worth ‘til a collector comes in." —Jeffrey Lewis, "Cult Boyfriend"
As a studio art major, who's done little with a degree that took a decade+ to pay off, I've always had a soft spot for artist-musicians, like Daniel Johnston and John Dwyer. New York's Jeffrey Lewis has been releasing records and cassettes since the 1990s, but remains best known for his award-winning graphic art.
I love this label-provided description of his work ethic:
Jeffrey Lewis is a truly deserving talent with amazing stories to tell. He's carved a great little space for himself in the world, and he works HARD. He’s never toured at a loss, and his DIY methods of living his musical career allow him great liberties. He is comfortable sleeping on people’s floors on tour, and happily books himself and manages himself (with some help from his brother/bass player Jack). He publishes his own comics, keeps meticulous and legendary to-do lists, and epitomizes DIY.
Then there's this:
Jeff went to college in Upstate New York, at SUNY Purchase. His senior thesis there was on the comic book Watchmen, and he now lectures on the topic worldwide since the film's adaptation in 2009.
Olive Juice Music
The press notes also reveal that Lewis counts the following as admirers: Ben Gibbard ("Hands down my favorite contemporary songwriter") and Jarvis Cocker ("The best lyricist working in the US today"), but don't hold that against him!
Past collaborators include J Mascis, Kimya Dawson (Moldy Peaches), Peter Stampfel (Fugs, Holy Modal Rounders), and Ernie Brooks (Modern Lovers).
Recorded in Britain with members of the Vaselines, Dr. Dog, and Au Revoir Simone, his sixth full-length is as whimsical as his art (Fuff, The Beats, and Jews and American Comics), but in a style I find more perceptive than precious.
As a singer, he's more of a rough-hewn talker, which suits his wry observations about money and pop culture, while his song structures are simple and forthright, with a few exceptions, like the title track, which veers into a flute-infused psych-folk direction, and "So What If I Couldn't Take It," where he shifts gears from deliberate finger-picking to fast strumming studded with flares of feedback.
The album features a different title and arrangement.
Rough Trade releases A Turn in the Dream-Songs on Tues., 10/11/11. (I previously wrote about Thee Oh Sees and artist-musician David Shrigleyhere).