"I just try to keep the dream alive,” Jenny Lewis declares on “Higher”, one of the nine songs on the debut album from Nice as Fuck (NAF). What precisely that dream may be is hard to say, considering the many divergent projects Lewis has contributed to in recent years.
From the ashes of Rilo Kiley’s dissolution came a successful solo career, punctuated most recently with 2014’s memorable The Voyager. There was also I’m Having Fun Now, the album she made with guitarist and boyfriend Johnathan Rice, released under the name Jenny and Johnny. A friend to talented musicians, Lewis has stayed busy, guesting on records and touring with the likes of M. Ward, Ryan Adams, and Conor Oberst. In short, it seems that Lewis is often dreaming. Now, her latest dream has come to life.
Comprised of Lewis, Au Revoir Simone’s Erika Forster, and The Like’s Tennessee Thomas, NAF borrow liberally from punk, funk, pop, and more, a refreshing shift in sound for Lewis, who in her solo work has primarily focused on lyrical witticisms and melodic rock with the occasional country twang. There is little twang to be found with NAF — or any texture for that matter. Most of the nine tracks that make up their record are built around fast bass lines and simple percussion, relying heavily on harmonies and vocal delivery to stand apart.
On “Door”, NAF’s first single, Lewis nearly moans the final word when she sings, “If you believe in peace and love/ And the message above/ Don’t close the door.” As the song continues, harmonies set in over her wordless coos. The effect, not dissimilar from what the Watson Twins provided Lewis on Rabbit Fur Coat, is a subtle reminder that NAF is not Jenny Lewis by another name, but rather a new yet still connected trio.
Yes, much of Lewis’ aural aesthetic can be found in NAF’s sound, but the little differences — the tinge of funk on “Cookie Lips” or the bouncing bass on “Angel” — define this record as the work of three people. Whether this surprise offering is the first of many or a one-off effort, NAF justifies its existence as more than a lark or an impulse by having a message and taking a chance.