Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Under The Blacklight - Rilo Kiley

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Well Moneymaker certainly "divided" the fans and pre-release reviews of this album seem to have been similarly divided.

For the record, I like Rilo Kiley and the "shocking news" that they'd somehow gone "pop" on their 4th album was never going to upset me that much was it? Neither was the proclamation from some sources that RK had "sold out" by making a catchy album with one eye on actually selling a few copies.

If anything my "fear" was perhaps that Jenny Lewis' solo album Rabbit Fur Coat had somewhat raised the bar. It was a sublime record that was perhaps better than anything Rilo Kiley had ever come up with; which is high praise indeed.

The album starts on a pair of very high notes indeed. Silver Lining, which had been previewed online in the weeks leading up to the album release, is in many ways a typical Rilo Kiley song. It's message seems to concern the collapse of a close relationship, not that you'd particularly tell by the upbeat and catchy tune, and the only thing different is an added sheen (which some fans labelled an "over production"). Close Call is just as good.

Moneymaker turns out not to be typical of the album, and as such does reveal itself as a rather strange lead single, but if long term fans were apoplectic at that change of sound, Breaking Up, with its disco stylings, may well give them a heart attack.

The album's title track in some ways sums up the whole album; the beginning sets it up as something akin to a hip hop track, yet it soon dissolves into a typical guitar led track. For all the hype that this is a "new" Rilo Kiley, there is a distinct impression that it's a moving forward from what's gone before, rather than starting from scratch.

I've never seen the point of giving Blake Sennett vocals on a Rilo Kiley album (perhaps that's just me being biased mind you) so we'll somewhat skip over Dreamworld. It's better than Ripchord from More Adventurous mind you. (I'm aware I'm being a little harsh there, but I can't imagine anyone listening to Dreamworld and not thinking "this would sound better with Jenny Lewis singing it").

Dejalo sounds something like Gwen Stefani would come up and is no doubt another track that will send the rabid fans scuttling to the corner with their heads in their hands. Those with an open mind however might just find it difficult to resist.

15 shows that RK have lost none of their lyrical bite (concerning as it does an older man grooming a 15 year old girl on the internet); it's brass fuelled chorus is delightful and will have you singing along with scant recognition of what you're actually singing!

Smoke Detector is reminiscent of early Rilo Kiley, and indeed whilst catchy never really seems to go anywhere; it's saved by a criminally catchy chorus though. The Angels Hung Around is the most "Rabbit Fur Coat" esque song on the album before we close with the electro pop gem Give A Little Love which once again marries an extremely catchy tune with sentiments that are quite literally heartbreaking.

So all in all it's a triumph. Some, perhaps wishing to sentence Rilo Kiley to life-long "cult" (i.e. not selling many records) status will try and tell you that the album strips away everything that made them great in the first place but that is absolute nonsense. This is the sound of a band stepping up their game.

It's everything you loved about Rilo Kiley...and more.

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