by Luke Baumgarten and Joel Smith & r & & r & Jenny Lewis & lt;a href= & quot;http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/stat?id=rQy1MLe70wI & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp;RD_PARM1=http%3A%2F%2Fphobos.apple.com%2FWebObjects%2FMZStore.woa%2Fwa%2FviewAlbum%3Fp%3D108236045%26s%3D143441%26partnerId%3D30 & quot; & Rabbit Fur Coat & lt;/a & 3 STARS & r & Jenny Lewis is worried about her soul. The Rilo Kiley frontwoman, on her own for the first time since her band became an indie mainstay, opens her new disc with an a capella song about the Devil. On the uber-catchy "The Big Guns," she leads with the line, "I've won hundreds at the track but I'm not betting on the afterlife." Two songs later she sings, "It's a surefire bet I'm gonna die / so I'm taking up praying on Sunday nights ... I might as well / as insurance or bail."
It's appropriate, then, that she's accompanied by Chandra and Leigh Watson, twin gospel singers from Kentucky, who lend a little church to the album, which veers from Lucinda Williams-esque ballads to good-ole country rock (Ben Gibbard, M. Ward and Bright Eyes stand in as the Traveling Wilburys on an able, though unoriginal, cover of "Handle With Care").
Problem is, Lewis seems more muddled than enlightened by her existential wondering, and her songwriting is as clunky as ever. It's a fate from which all the haunting melodies and jangly guitars in Christendom can't quite save her. -- Joel Smith
The Robocop Kraus & lt;a href= & quot;http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/stat?id=rQy1MLe70wI & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp;RD_PARM1=http%3A%2F%2Fphobos.apple.com%2FWebObjects%2FMZStore.woa%2Fwa%2FviewAlbum%3Fp%3D121169367%26s%3D143441%26partnerId%3D30 & quot; & They Think They Are the Robocop Kraus & lt;/a & 3 1/2 STARS & r & Hot damn, if bands could mimic themselves the way the Robocop Kraus mimic them, we'd be in business. Oddly named (because they're German, and therefore strange) the Nuremburg quartet's first full-length album is a studious synthesis of a large scope of Americana. It's most obviously dance punk, which is great when it's good -- as this is -- though it's even more than that.
More to the point, RK's songs seamlessly integrate and reference a spectrum that includes Fugazi ("I Picture You"), the Talking Heads ("In Fact You're Just Fiction"), Mark Mothersbaugh ("After Laughter Comes Tears") and -- inexplicably -- the Arcade Fire ("Small Houses Odd Cars").
Also: Is there anything more dance punk than Robocop? No. Think about it. Beside that (intuitively obvious) fact, Thomas Lang's accent is flawless, his cultural touchstones are meticulously polished. Sure it's a little derivative, but stack enough derivation and you get back around to innovation. Or something resembling innovation. -- Luke Baumgarten