Six years after packing it in, Rilo Kiley collect a bunch of archival material that makes for a delightful time capsule.
Released Apr. 1st on Little Record Company
Rilo Kiley quietly went their separate ways after alienating much of their indie fanbase with 2007’s Under the Blacklight, a major label debut that ditched much of their alt-country leanings in favor of poppier, new wave-y sounds and songs about sleazy sex. RKives plays like the farewell their fans never got, rounding up several b-sides, demos, and 6 previously unreleased tracks. For as polarizing as their last album was (I loved it, but then it was the first RK album I’d heard), it may come as a surprise that some of RKives‘ best tracks are leftovers from the Blacklight sessions, which make up the bulk of the album’s first half. The proceedings begin with “Let Me Back In”, a lovely little ode to the band’s home of Los Angeles that featured in their live set during the UtB tours.
More Blacklight outtakes show off the band’s many personalities: “It’ll Get You There” is a dramatic tension-builder, “Runnin’ Around” a synthy stadium rocker. “All the Drugs” shimmers in its instrumentation and in frontwoman Jenny Lewis’ storytelling. The country-soul shuffle of “Draggin’ Around” sounds like something from Rabbit Fur Coat, her 2006 solo effort with the Watson Twins, who also turn up on the piano-led ballad “About the Moon”. There are other guest stars: On the bouncy, fun “I Remember You” Lewis duets with North Carolinan pop artist Benji Hughes. The one jarring detour on RKives is a remix of Blacklight‘s “Dejalo” featuring rapper Too $hort that interrupts the flow right in the middle of the album, and is only interesting for the rapper’s single, sex-obsessed verse. Skip button, please.
There are also 3 outtakes from 2004’s More Adventurous, the absolute standout of which is “A Town Called Luckey” featuring Cursive’s Tim Kasher. If ever Rilo Kiley were to be described as emo (and they were, early in their run; see Lewis’ appearance in the Emogames), this is the song to make that case, a nearly 7-minute epic of post-hardcore textures over which Lewis weaves a tale of “a middle-aged crisis type thing” at 30. “American Wife” is a tale of stay-at-home misery with simplistic instrumentation, while “Patiently” is a soaring indie-pop number in the vein of “Portions for Foxes” with Blake Sennet—the oft-overshadowed other half of Rilo Kiley’s songwriting team—providing his yawny-sounding backups.
Reaching further back in time is “Emotional”, an outtake from 2002’s The Execution of All Things that’s a wonderfully streamlined pop number. “Bury, Bury, Bury Another” and “Well, You Left” come from the same period and were meant for an EP that never materialized; the former is an alt-country two-step complete with slide guitar, while the latter is one of two songs on which Sennet takes the lead and is a limp broken-heart lament. His other lead turn is on a demo version of “Rest of My Life” (the final version is on 2001’s Takeoffs and Landings), which has a fuller, electric take here than on the stripped-down album version. Sennet’s whimpery singing was never something RK fans were crying out for. If anything, it made Lewis’ voice all the more lovely by comparison.
The oldest track on the album proper is “The Frug”, a positively precious little handclapping ditty from their 1999 Initial Friend EP that became a fan favorite and appeared in the soundtrack to the Kate Hudson/Christina Ricci vehicle Desert Blue. Its cutesy lyrics belie a depressive undercurrent: “I can do the frug / I can do the Robocop / I can do the Freddie / I cannot do the Smurf / And I can hate your girl / I can tell you that she’s real pretty / I can take my clothes off / I cannot fall in love / You’ll never see my eyes / I will not call you back”. I don’t know the origin of the hidden track; it begins acoustic but then overlays with space echo and moves into an electric guitar solo, with Lewis singing about busking outside a convenience store: “Sometimes I stand outside the Quick-Mart / They say ‘tomorrow’s another day, Laura’ / I say ‘my name is not Laura'”. It’s interesting and I’d like to know where it comes from.
With the exception of the remix track, RKives is a delightful collection and well worth a purchase for any Rilo Kiley fan.