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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 1999 | Little Record Company

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Reissue

Alternative & Indie - Released October 8, 2013 | Barsuk Records

With a sound that veers from the acoustic simplicity and poetic lyricism of coffeehouse folk to the bouncy, lo-fi infectiousness of D.I.Y. indie pop, this California quartet writes melodies so damn catchy, you might almost think you've heard them before. Songs like "Go Ahead" and "Bulletproof" showcase the band's most distinctive asset -- the sweet vocals and bittersweet lyrics of Jenny Lewis -- while the breezy hooks and driving beats of tunes like "Wires and Waves" and "Always" show surprising commercial potential. The 13-song album has a few weak spots -- guitarist Blake Sennett's cracking vocals make him sound like Elliott Smith's nervous kid brother on "Small Figures in a Vast Expanse," while a few of the down-tempo songs slow the album's momentum -- but stronger numbers like the gorgeous horn-laden waltz of "Don't Deconstruct" are the sound of a young band coming into its own. © Bret Love /TiVo

Alternative & Indie - Released July 27, 2004 | Brute - Beaute - Warner Records

For More Adventurous, Rilo Kiley's Warner-distributed hello to the big time, the Los Angeles band is more cohesive, more spotless, and tidier in its tangle of indie pop, torch song, and too-cool-for-school cynicism than ever before. This time out they favor craft over ruckus, rarefied over reckless. Sometimes Adventurous goes too far -- like Belle & Sebastian, RK's fastidiousness can become a sticky glaze. (The overwrought sway of "Does He Love You?" comes to mind.) But the album is a mostly-perfect collection of the various sounds the band does best, wrapped around easily findable hooks. They're well-dressed indie kids ready and quite able to charm the mainstream. Jenny Lewis' vocals are lighter than clouds and Petula Clarksweet, even if she occasionally spits venom. "Any asshole can open up a museum/Put all the things he loves on display," she dismisses in the Luna-like opener "It's a Hit." But Lewis' characters' faults and failings are just bruises on the Rilo Kiley fruit, blemishes that characterize the band's effortlessly clean swirl of live string arrangements, subtle synth/keys, and glowing acoustic guitar. "I Never" is a full-on, cast of thousands soundstage production, a robust, keening ballad filled with pedal steel, fuzzed-out Beatles guitar soloing, and Lewis' gargantuan voice. The title track takes us back to Rilo Kiley's earlier work with its atmospheric country feel, while "Love and War [11/11/46]" is refreshingly propulsive -- it could be Stereophonics covering Lone Justice. Most of the album's quieter moments are equally strong, if somewhat grayed out. Adventurous' stylistic restlessness might take some getting used to for new listeners. But fans from the Saddle Creek days will enjoy the greater attention to detail, and everyone will love the bountiful hooks. © Johnny Loftus /TiVo

Alternative & Indie - Released August 20, 2007 | Warner Records

Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley's 2007 major-label debut, is surely designed as the Los Angeles quartet's entry into the big leagues, the album that makes them cross over to a mass audience -- or perhaps it's just meant to make their now de facto leader, Jenny Lewis, cross over, since it plays as a sequel to her 2006 solo stab, Rabbit Fur Coat, as much as it plays as the successor to 2004's More Adventurous, putting the former child right out front, bathing in the spotlight. If More Adventurous gave the group's game plan away in its title, so does Under the Blacklight, for if this album is anything, it's a sleazy crawl through L.A. nightlife, teaming with sex and tattered dreams, all illuminated by a dingy black light. So, it's a conceptual album -- which ain't the same thing as a concept album, since there is no story here to tie it together -- and to signify the sex Lewis sings about incessantly on this record, Rilo Kiley have decided to ditch most of their indie pretensions and hazy country leanings in favor of layers of ironic new wave disco and spacy flourishes pulled straight out of mid-'80s college rock. Echoes of earlier Rilo Kiley albums (and even Rabbit Fur Coat) are still evident -- the title track is a slow country crawl at its core, the opening "Silver Lining" glides by on a subdued blue-eyed soul groove reminiscent of Cat Power's The Greatest, a move that "15" makes more explicit, while "Dreamworld" plays like an easy listening makeover of prime R.E.M. The latter is the only song here where Blake Sennett, once a co-captain with Lewis, sings lead, confirming that he's now firmly in a subservient role to his former paramour, who dominates this record the way Natalie Merchant used to rule 10,000 Maniacs, leaving the impression that the band is now merely her support group. This may not be entirely true -- Rilo Kiley still sound like a cohesive band here; Sennett's guitar is often forceful, not meek -- but Under the Blacklight nevertheless plays like a star turn for Lewis, for better or for worse. Better, because she reveals here that she has the charisma to be a star, leading the band through some dicey territory with her vocals, which are easily her best on record. Worse, because she's the one that pushes the band toward sheer silliness through her carnal obsessions, which all come from the cranium, not the crotch. Since Lewis writes about sex at a safe, studied distance -- and even if her vocals are newly throaty, she doesn't sound sexy -- the group overcompensates with stiff disco-funk since that, naturally, is music that signifies bad sex. And there is nothing but bad sex here. There's the tragic girl gets "money for sex" on "Close Call"; there's the implied pornography on the clenched-fist funk of "The Moneymaker"; there's the spoiled virginity of the title character on "15"; finally, there are two descents into the ridiculous with the threesome saga "Dejalo," which is topped only by the wannabe dance craze of "Smoke Detector," where Jenny takes men back to her room to smoke them in bed. That's a lot of cheap, tawdry sex, especially since it all feels affected, not lived in, which may be why Rilo Kiley labor so hard to get this knowing new wave disco off the ground, sometimes achieving some trashy fun, other times seeming a little adrift. After so much heavy lifting, it's not entirely a surprise that the band runs out of momentum by the end, letting Under the Blacklight peter out with "The Angels Hung Around" and "Give a Little Love," two songs that play to their former strengths and wind up being more endearing than much of the record. But, by that point, Rilo Kiley have done what they set out to do: they've made a record that leaves their indie rock past in the dust. This may not burn up the charts -- it quite consciously sounds more 1987 than 2007, which may keep some listeners away -- but not a note sounds like the work of a small, precious indie rock band, with the notable exception of "Dreamworld" which, of course, is Sennett's song. The rest of Under the Blacklight feels like the Jenny Lewis show, and even if this album doesn't push Rilo Kiley to the top, it's hard to deny that it feels like the launching pad for her ascent into true stardom. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

Folk/Americana - Released April 2, 2013 | Little Record Company

Rilo Kiley quietly unraveled, leaving behind a fair amount of unfinished business, much of which is rounded up on 2013's Rkives. Released six years after the slick splash of their major-label debut Under the Blacklight, Rkives rounds up existing rarities -- several B-sides and demos -- and six unheard songs, plus a remix featuring Too $hort. That is the most radical shift in sound on Rkives, but there are hints of the glitzy bombast of Blacklight scattered throughout the collection, particularly on the giddy Motown bounce of "I Remember You" and streamlined pop pulse of "Emotional," but most of this is firmly within Rilo Kiley's wheelhouse of moody, indie-stylized country-rock. Some of this is distinguished by dramatic tension ("It'll Get You There"), some is nicely sculpted songwriting ("All the Drugs"), and even if the whole thing is a bit messy, it winds up being a nice reminder of all of Rilo Kiley's attributes. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

Alternative & Indie - Released May 20, 2008 | Warner Records


Folk/Americana - Released March 19, 2013 | Little Record Company


Alternative & Indie - Released July 3, 2007 | Warner Records


Alternative & Indie - Released July 20, 2004 | Warner Records