September 6, 2007

Record Review: Rilo Kiley

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Jenny Lewis’ smart and sexy voice saves Rilo Kiley. Hearing the lead singer of the alternative band is something everybody should experience. If you have never had the pleasure, then I suggest you get to your computer and download as soon as you can. Or, you could do the old fashioned thing, and go out and buy their new CD. Under the Blacklight, their fourth full-length, is strikingly different from their previous efforts. The band claims that this is the first record they “worked on in a legitimate recording studio” — an L.A. studio where the Rolling Stones and Sheryl Crow have also recorded. Producer Jason Lader, who has previously worked with Gwen Stefani and Jay-Z, worked on the first four songs on this album. These may have been a few of the things that contributed to the difference in the fourth Rilo Kiley album. But whatever the reasons, there is no denying that the album is different. The first song, “Silver Lining,” is my favorite on the album. But it doesn’t sound like any of Rilo Kiley’s stuff I have heard in the past. The album’s other single, “The Moneymaker,” is, like the whole album in general, quite a departure from the familiar sound. Furthermore, “The Moneymaker,” with heavy disco and funk influences, has a far different feel than the rest of the songs on the album. The song has already received attention because it’s music video features real porn stars, which happens to be the subject of the song. In fact, many of the songs revolve around or make mention of sex. The rest of the songs go back to the band’s earlier roots of folk and country music that are now mixed with R&B. While Rilo Kiley’s earlier stuff was more rock slanted, revolving around guitars and vocals that garnered the foursome a large following, Under the Blacklight has less of that raw electric feeling. Lewis’ songs are still backed by the same able-bodied rhythm section and the great guitar work of Blake Sennet who also sings lead vocals on “Dreamworld.” Under the Blacklight offers a more universal and grown up sound that enters mainstream pop music. Though the sound is lighter and more rhythmically based, the themes of the songs are subtly darker and adult oriented. Skeptical fans should be thankful for the change; Rilo Kiley proves that they can make music that is just a regurgitated version of their earlier work. But it still takes some getting used to. No matter how you feel about the new sound, the album has one saving grace: the clean, clever lyrics and beautiful voice of Jenny Lewis. This is one thing that hasn’t changed. Lewis is more than a beautiful redhead for young boys (and girls) to admire. She has a way with words that is simple and compassionate and her delivery is, at the same time, sweet and suggestive. The first words on the liner notes say, “Rilo Kiley is Jenny Lewis, Blake Sennett, Pierre de Reeder, Jason Boesel.” Let me summarize that for you: Rilo Kiley is Jenny Lewis.