Album Review: I'm Having Fun Now by Jenny and Johnny
Very Good, Based on 9 Critics
NOW Magazine - 80 Based on rating 4/5
I'm Having Fun Now is Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice's debut album, though the couple have worked together since they met five years ago through Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst (while Lewis was recording Rabbit Fur Coat). [rssbreak] These 11 songs came out of downtime during Lewis's Acid Tongue tour. Demoed in North Hollywood with her Rilo Kiley bandmates and polished at Mike Mogis's ARC Studios in Nebraska during a blizzard, the resulting album has the spirit and energy of a demo while benefiting from a full, jangly pop rock sound.
Real-life sweethearts Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice are power pop’s new power couple. Brought together by a shared love of crisp boy-girl harmonies and ultra-hummable, ’60s-inspired melodies, they sound Cracker Jack sweet on I’m Having Fun Now even when they’re feeling bitter. He scoffs: ”God, it makes me queasy when you smile.” She retorts: “I’ll forgive you/ If I outlive you.” Yep, these two lovebirds were made for each other.
Jenny and Johnny are a composite hybrid of Jenny Lewis (who for now, appears to have largely forgotten about Rilo Kiley in place of an increasingly long line of side projects) and singer-songwriter Jonathan Rice, who has graduated a unique and unconventional path from being Lewis’s backing guitarist, to her lover, to collaborator. Which was certainly news to me; not least because my initial thoughts pertaining to the doe-eyed snapshots of them on the album cover was that they appeared awkward, fake and unconvincing. Relationships: what do I know? Their first album together certainly has an appropriate title.
Jenny Lewis, as even her detractors would confess, is a magnetic frontperson. Her alto is naturally bright and sassy, but she can contort it into soulful low tones, coquettishly thin coos, or an earthy twang. She's an engaging narrator with crisp, conversational elocution-- she bites into consonants with relish and is comfortable indulging in ooey-gooey vibrato if the mood is right.
New Musical Express (NME) - 60 Based on rating 3/5
Another boy-girl duo unleash their love on the world via the medium of music. Brilliant. Actually, this one almost is. Jenny ‘[a]Rilo Kiley[/a]’ Lewis, and Jonathan ‘Just Recorded Under His Own Name’ Rice’s brand of folk-indie-pop – jangly guitars, sweetly shared harmonies, echoes of the Deep South – isn’t groundbreaking, but probably wasn’t supposed to be.
Jenny is singer/actress Jennifer Lewis – usually found fronting Rilo Kiley – and Johnny is her boyfriend, Jonathan Rice, who has worked with Lewis since 2005, and has also backed Elvis Costello. However, this isn't some lovey-dovey snuggle up. With the duo sharing vocals and occasionally bickering like Jack and Vera Duckworth, the pair's sound is comfortable – somewhere between 1980s indie jangle pop, 1960s Byrds-type guitar chiming and modern MOR.
Certainly, the title I’m Having Fun Now is a good indication of what the first album by LA lovebirds Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice is all about. Lewis may be regarded as one of the finest singer/songwriters of her generation, but her ambitions are kept in check here: all she wants to do is have some fun and maybe get some people to pay attention to her longtime boyfriend, who has had several attempts at the brass ring -- most notably the major-label 2007 Further North, which did get him some play on The OC -- but has never managed to grab it. An album-length duet with Jenny does force Lewis admirers to pay attention to Johnny, but I’m Having Fun Now doesn’t do him any enormous favors.
Who would have thought that the '60s pairing of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra would have such an impact on like-minded male/female pop duos several decades later? Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are doing a bang-up job with She & Him; Scarlett Johansson and Pete Yorn have thrown their hat into the ring with Break Up; and Mark Lanegan's work with Isobel Campbell has already produced three full-lengths. .
Jenny And Johnny are the adorable duo of Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and her singer-songwriter boyfriend, Johnathan Rice. Comparisons to She & Him are inevitable, but it’s mostly due to the band’s indie boy-girl matchup, than for the music itself—though they do both share an affinity for all things retro. While She & Him go more for a sound that melds Phil Spector’s ’60s pop with Motown, Jenny And Johnny are more rock ’n’ roll, as evidenced on the jangly (and slightly garage rock-ish) lead single “Scissor Runner” —the two do indeed sound like they’re having fun.