Friday, August 17, 2007

Reviews:: Rilo Kiley Under the Blacklight

I know this statement makes me sound like one of those annoying traffic time radio DJs but, seriously: The new Rilo Kiley - love it or hate it? With all the success the members of this band have achieved since More Adventurous, they would have been well served to call this new record Under the Microscope instead of the Blacklight.

Rilo Kiley is no longer just an acoustic band with a dreamy lead chanteuse and a Boy Meets World turned lead guitarist. In fact, those days are so far behind them, both personally and musically, that comparing their roots to who they are now is essentially pointless. It's been two years since the band played a show together, and almost four since they recorded tracks music. Obviously, influences change and so do tastes.

That being said ... are all influences good influences? I'm not sure. The record starts with the silky smooth Silver Lining. Jenny's vocals are spot on, and Blake's guitar work makes you pay attention and embrace the new sound. When we talked to Blake, he mentioned that the goal of the record was that they wanted to make sure every instrument that had something to say was heard. I think if his guitar work could talk on this track (well, not like the way Frampton's did), it would have a slight drawl and interesting anecdotes. It balances Jenny's beautiful vocals and the harmonies really remind me of the intimate sounds we heard on Rabbit Fur Coat.

Sadly, after the strength of the opening number, the record seems to fall apart for me. While writing for RK, Jenny has usually relied on cute heartbreak, so it was interesting to here her drift into the pseudo dark underworld of greed, prostitution and the risque. While I respect the fact she wanted to branch out and deliver more mature subject matter, I question the decision to build up the dark textures and themes for three songs, before jumping ship into a disco back beat and Fleetwood Mac realm. Close Call opens the door for the transition, and following it up with the double guitar frenzy and slinky bass line of Moneymaker really sets a tone for the record ... or so you think. Love it or hate it, Moneymaker is a marked divergence from standard RK work.

The thing that frustrates me about the new record is that after setting this deliberate tone (and taking the big risk of alienating their fan base), RK quickly goes another route on Breakin' Up. The track opens with some sound effects and Jenny settling back into a more familiar style, but then the Saturday Night Fever backing vocals start and I reach for the >>.

This is when I question if too many cooks spoil the broth? I was reading a review of this record - one where the author is on the love it side of the fence - and he claims, "It's not their most inspired set of lyrics, but that bridge of "and deep in my hands / I will if you want me to" is so deliciously Pat Benatar-esque it seems to transcend the band's oeuvre and leap into dance-pop classic." I have to wonder, honestly, when is the last time someone was rocking out to Pat Benatar in a non hipster-kitsch way? Dreamworld shows Blake and Jenny sharing the mic in a Fleetwood Mac-ish style, and while enjoyable, it makes me just think the record sat in the tub too long. There are so many wrinkles, you have trouble remembering what the original looked like.

The band tries their hand at afro/Cuban funk on Dejalo. The instrumentation is pretty solid, but the combination of Spanish chorus and pseudo rapped / sung vocals don't really mesh well. I actually thought that Give a Little Love was going to feature LL telling us that he needs love. Maybe it's my age, but I still love finding a full record, not a collection of songs. As this album jumps from style to style so frequently, I find it hard to settle into any comfort zone.

I don't want to give the impression that this album is all misses. 15 is simply gorgeous. The horns remind me of the soulful work of Van Morrison, but the band's identity still shines through. Jenny's lyrics and delivery are comforting and although the subject matter is a bit dark, it doesn't sound forced and is truly compelling. The Angels Hung Around is a straight forward country-tinged pop song. The acoustic riff sounds great, and the electric balance and heavier chorus sound great.

The one thing I must say, is throughout the record, Blake's guitar work is rock solid. He crafts nice lines that shimmer, which sadly, just makes me excited to see how he does with the next Elected record.
MP3:: Moneymaker

Posted at 12:02 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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