15 Dec 2015

Manhattan by Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts

From The Sampler, 7:35 pm on 15 December 2015
Jeffrey Lewis

Jeffrey Lewis Photo: Jacob Blickenstaff

Nick Bollinger embarks on a hometown tour from Manhattan's 'anti-folk' singer Jeffrey Lewis

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Jeffrey Lewis a New York City native and most of the songs on his new album are set on the Manhattan streets where he grew up. His music has been called acoustic punk or anti-folk, but it’s basically Lewis spinning his real-life yarns, in a way that seems somehow melodic, even when his tunes comprise no more than a couple of notes.

 If Lewis’s songs are usually written in the first-person and have a strong sense of autobiography about them, they are not as deliberately artless as those of, say, Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozalek. Lewis still takes the trouble to rhyme them up and shape them into appealing pop-like constructions, complete with hooks and choruses.

The bright immediacy and carefully picked-out details of Lewis’s songwriting employ a craft he might have honed in his other artistic endeavour, which is drawing comics. And, in a way, his songs are like little musical cartoons. But the album’s centrepiece is its moodiest track: ‘Back To Manhattan’ is a breakup story that follows a couple through a walk across the city in the dying moments of their relationship, and Lewis takes his time, maintaining that same unvarying walking tempo as he spins his long laconic narrative, like Lou Reed if he had been more concerned with the mundane details of daily life.

Songs played: Scowling Crackhead Ian, Back To Manhattan, Sad Screaming Old Man, Outta Town, Support Tours