Juliette Lewis

Terra Incognita

Written by: PP on 17/11/2009 21:24:32

Even though it's been 15 years since Juliette Lewis' acting masterpiece "Natural Born Killers", she's been keeping herself busy with appearances in several movies and TV series each year. So how on earth does she have time to write music on the side? It's quite impressive indeed. Most people might know her musical career from the garage rock outfit Juliette & The Licks, but they disbanded earlier this year, probably because Lewis wanted to make headway in an entirely different direction. So she formed Juliette & The New Romantiques, who are most commonly referred to as just Juliette Lewis because the rest of the band members are just session & touring musicians. So lets just call "Terra Incognita" her debut solo album, which is Latin for "unknown land/territory", giving you a direct hint of what to expect from this release in comparison to The Licks.

The album has been produced by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of The Mars Volta, who also contributes his signature guitar lines on more than just a couple of songs, so no wonder the record feels so strange and artistic in nature. The number of different styles explored on the record is also very typical for a Rodriguez-Lopez record, as Lewis explores dark, avant-garde pop in perfect balance with straight forward alternative rock tracks. In short, the songs sound sexy, vibrant, and contain definite Latin undertones. You could argue for a parallel between "Terra Incognita" and the experimentalism that Brody Dalle took with Spinnerette, but although the two records share certain similarities, as a whole they're not necessarily in the same direction musicwise.

Lets take a few examples, then. "Romeo" has an odd Garbage or maybe even The Cardigans vibe to it, if either band suddenly went experimental. Straight forward alt rock can be heard on "Fantasy Bar", which brings in mind The Killers. But you'll also find a couple of tracks which display Lewis' remarkable singing talent, such as the bluesy, soulful "Hard Lovin' Woman" where she throws her voice into Janis Joplin type of soulful wail territory. It's quite an interesting contrast to the tracks where she engages in grungy, scratchy singing in the best Courtney Love manner, showcasing just how versatile this album is as a whole.

But oftentimes the songs come across a bit....strange, because there aren't many places to cling onto as a listener. Where the album really shines however is in tracks like "Female Persecution", but I'm afraid a large part of the reason is Omar's ingenious guitar experimentation that makes Lewis' wailing tolerable. Something like "Uh Huh" is so pop that it could've been sung by Len (think "Steal My Sunshine"), and considering it comes straight after Omar's guitar showcase... well, it just doesn't fit. "Terra Incognita" is a diverse album, which sees Lewis experiment from pop to blues to straight forward alternative rock, but the songs are lacking the spice that'll make them taste awesome instead of just decent.


Download: Female Persecution, Romeo, Terra Incognita
For the fans of: Spinnerette, The Mars Volta
Listen: Myspace

Release date 01.09.2009
The End Records

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