Rilo Kiley

Rilo Kiley's Official Website!

By Alexandria Brown

WHEN: 1997-present

CULPRITS: Jason Boesel (drums), Jenny Lewis (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Pierre de Reeder (bass), Blake Sennett (guitar, vocals) / Former members: Dave Brock (drums)

ALBUMS: The Initial Friend EP (2001 – originally released in 1999 as Rilo Kiley, re-released under the same name in 2000 with extra tracks, and released again as an EP with a cutdown version of the hidden track); Take Offs And Landings (2001); Execution of All Things (2002); More Adventurous (2004); Under the Blacklight (2004)

HOW: I came to Rilo Kiley in a backwards way. Stars opened for Death Cab for Cutie a few years ago so I decided to check them out live.  The Elected, fronted by Blake Sennett, opened for Stars. I had a crush on Blake when he was on “Boy Meets World” and for one scene in “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” so I picked up their two records. The guy who sold me the records mentioned Rilo Kiley so I bought them as well. Truth be told, I much prefer The Elected to RK, and I really dislike their latest album, Under the Blacklight (save “Silver Lining”), but their earlier records are easily some of my favorite music ever, particularly Initial Friend and Take Offs.

WHY: Rilo Kiley is fronted by Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett, two former child actors who fell in love, formed a band, broke up, but stayed together musically. At first the records are split evenly with both Blake and Jenny working hand in hand with writing and playing. As time wore on, Blake stopped participating in the creative aspect of making music. Being a hardcore member of Team Blake, I theorize that Jenny’s ego has been pushing him out, but who knows what the truth of the matter is. She certainly gets most of the attention nowadays. And maybe that’s why I dislike Blacklight so much. Jenny tends to limit herself to songs about her having sex, other people having sex, saccharine love affairs, and how sex and sexiness function in the entertainment industry — not that there’s inherently something wrong with that. In between all that, Jenny shows off her (genuinely impressive) vocal skills. Blake brings depth, complexity, and a crazy-ton of subtlety to the lyrics while adding hazy country twangs and the simple earnestness of “real” indie pop. I think that’s the crutch of it: I’d like Jenny (and Blacklight) a lot more if she brought the same amazing talent for singing to composition and lyric-writing.

Their non-Blacklight albums I absolutely adore. Initial Friend and Take Offs sound more like a couple of twenty-somethings messing around with a few guitars. Blake and Jenny were still sorting out their feelings for each other, both pre- and post-breakup, and the sweetness and lightness of the tunes help soften the ever-present anger and frustration brought on by a disastrous relationship.  Their vocals are shaky and cracking, not the polished and overproduced sound Jenny acquired during/after Adventurous. The songs are honest and pure. They’re undiluted by fame and popularity, and were written for themselves rather than to please Warner Bros. and KROQ. They were also a lot more experimental, more musically curious and inventive, and more willing to put themselves out there when they were younger. Age, experience, and success have altered them, though I suppose I can’t really fault them for changing.

SONGS: If you’ve come to them from “The Moneymaker” (not on this mix since it’s all over the radio) then this mixtape might surprise you. Blacklight, and especially “The Moneymaker,” are still more anomalies than anything in the RK canon.  But I firmly believe that in order to understand where someone is going you have to understand where they’ve been (hey, I was a history minor, what do you expect?).

NOTES: I cut off the last minute on “Salute My Shorts!” because it’s just a minute of silence.

On a side note, if you do find yourself enjoying the older Rilo Kiley, definitely check out The Elected’s albums: Me First (2004) and Sun, Sun, Sun (2006). Jenny also has two solo albums: Rabbit Fur Coat (2006) and Acid Tongue (2008). Pierre de Reeder has his solo record: The Way That It Was (2008).  Jenny also had vocals on The Postal Service’s Give Up (2005).

LINKS:

Ben Gibbard’s cover of “Silver Lining”

Rilo Kiley live on NPR

Click on the list below to hear songs by Rilo Kiley on Lala.com!

Click the list to hear Rilo Kiley on Lala.com!

SAMPLE SONGS:

“Portions For Foxes” from More Adventurous

“Spectacular Views” from The Execution of All Things

“Ripchord” from More Adventurous

________________________________

Alexandria Brown is a librarian by day, writer by night, and archivist in training.  She was born, raised, and still lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and when she’s not at work or procrastinating on her homework for an ongoing Master’s degree you can usually find her at the beach, driving to the beach, or setting up iPod playlists to listen to at the beach.

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~ by eastbk on October 1, 2009.

2 Responses to “Rilo Kiley”

  1. Excellent write-up.

    I also felt completely let down by Under The Blacklight (except for The Silver Lining), mainly because the songs were just meaningless and oversexed.
    But I’m a big fan of Jenny Lewis, more so than of Blake, and I think she did used to write good sex-related songs – like Glendora or The Frug. That’s probably due to what you said; that they were more willing to put themselves out there.

    Really brilliant summary, and compilation – thanks!

  2. So glad you included that lyric at the bottom…one of my faves 🙂

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