Jenny Lewis

Acid Tongue (Warner Bros.)

At this point, it's pretty hard to make music about the tension between sin and redemption without sounding hokey. That whole church thing had already been reinvented a zillion times (see: Cash, Cave, Kanye) before Jenny Lewis took a dusty side trip from Rilo Kiley on 2006's Rabbit Fur Coat, a set of God-focused songs spiked with clever modern hiccups.

Now, on Acid Tongue, she's once again got one foot in a holy-water font and the other in a hell-hole, howling for a savior and/or drug dealer. Thing is, she's really good at that stuff—better than she is at cooing in falsetto through the pair of down-tempo flimsies that start the record. The real fun starts with "The Next Messiah," a thrilling, eight-minute-plus revival-style rave-up electrified by guitar work from her boyfriend, Johnathan Rice. Lewis has help in other places too: "Carpetbaggers," a tune about ruthless temptresses, is a catchy duet with newfound fan Elvis Costello; sister Leslie Lewis sings on the live favorite "See Fernando"; and singer/actor Zooey Deschanel offers sensitive She and Him backing vocals on the oh-so-'70s love ballad "Tryin' My Best to Love You." And on the hymn-like title track and centerpiece, Jenny's very own boy choir (including Rice and the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson) adds gorgeous harmonies to a confessional chorus.

Lewis is definitely a chosen one in the talent department, but she doesn't really let on.

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