I like Rilo Kiley. I can’t help but groove to their country-inspired brand of indie rock loosely influenced by Straight Outta Compton, De La Soul, and The Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique. I find vocalist Jenny Lewis’s quirky, choppy, and occasionally incomprehensible lyrics and pleasantly girlish voice refreshing. I like when asked what “Rilo Kiley” means, guitarist Blake Sennett gives a plethora of equally insane answers which includes Rilo Kiley being a character in one of his dreams who predicted the date of Lewis’ death. I also feel a nostalgic connection towards the bands’ humbling child star roots which includes Lewis’s role in my childhood slumber-party-staple Troop Beverly Hills and Sennett starring as one of my first memorable crushes in Nickelodeon’s Salute Your Shorts.
Yet, I have no love for “Give a Little Love” -- the last track on Rilo Kiley’s new album Under the Black Light. To me, its cheesy electric beats sound like a musical sequel to Kip Dynamite’s, “Always and Forever” and should -- along with Lewis’ white-girl butchering of the Spanish language in “Dejalo” -- be fed to a hungry llama. Yet, I fell immediately for the Black Light after my first listen to the opening tune “Silver Lining”, and I’m totally sweet on “Dreamworld” where Sennett and Lewis’s hushed and intermingled voices conjure anything but fatalistic forecasts.
In fact, every song on the album feels like a hit or miss, which reflects the album’s mixed reviews. Rolling Stone and musicOMH.com found it to be a bold new move which may take fans of a band a few listens to appreciate. Hartford Courant called it superficial and Pitchfork claimed Black Light was “not a commercial album so much as Rilo Kiley's conception (or misconception) of what a commercial album is.”
But who cares what I or music critics think of the album. Should we dictate whether or not this album’s for you? That’s why I decided to get the peoples’ review, and took Black Light (or more specifically my iPod) to the endless line of Space -- where the doors are always vibrating with house, pop, and crunk -- and then Space’s musical antithesis, Circa 28, where DJs spin everything from M.I.A. to Morrissey.
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Although my initial intentions were to be as egalitarian as possible, it was hard to get any body outside of Space to take time from their busy-standing-around-and-doing-absolutely-nothing schedule to listen to a song or two. Most people stared at me blankly, ignored me, or (awkwardly, nervously, suspiciously) said no. Finally, I bumped into M. Hape who bopped his head to “Dreamworld”, originally mistaking it for a Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. After a few moments, he said “It sounds like something I’d listen to.” I then played him “Give a Little Love” to which he dissed Lewis’ voice. On the other hand, Monica Teague, a petite blonde in a JLo-inspired black dress, really liked “Give a Little Love” but wrinkled her nose at “Dreamworld” saying it sounded like something she had heard before.
Perhaps this familiar sound she was referring to was Fleetwood Mac which was the comparison that UM alum, Chris Baker drew at Circa 28. Being a fan of the band, Baker was excited to hear some songs off of Black Light but seemed deeply disappointed a few beats into “Give a Little Love” saying that it sounded like “Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears mixed with The Postal Service,” (interestingly, Lewis sang backup vocals on The Postal Service’s album Give Up). “It sounds like anything else you’d hear on Y100,” said Loriel Beltram a cigarette-smoking, dreadlocked South American that I had to bribe with a lighter for his opinion, “if you took away her voice, it’d sound like any other R&B song.”
“It’s sort of a musical evolution,” said Brian I’m-Too-Fucked-Up-To-Remember-My-Last-Name who, through sips of his Jack and coke, lucidly summed up the consensus, “some people will get it, some people will get turned off by it, but really, can you blame a band for trying something new?” I can’t, and besides, if Lewis and Sennett never embarked on the notion of trying new things, the only song Lewis would ever be known for singing is “Cookie Time”. -- Elyse Wanshel
Rilo Kiley performs Monday, October 1 at Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale. The show starts at 7:00 p.m., and tickets are $20. All ages welcome. Call 954-727-0950, or visit www.jointherevolution.net or www.ticketmaster.com