Despite the band members’ numerous side projects and solo careers, Rilo Kiley has left their fans empty handed since 2007. Without fair warning, the band quietly called it quits in 2011, leaving only an album released four years prior as their farewell. Now RKives, a compilation of b-sides and previously unreleased material, is the the last gift Rilo Kiley will impart to their wanting fans. The album was just released on Tuesday, and one comment I read on it bemoaned that there is little in this record to turn a newcomer into a Rilo Kiley fan. True. But what that review fails to see is that RKives isn’t about new fans at all.
Had garnering new fans been the band’s intention, they would have re-formed and put out a record with a sound meant for today’s musical landscape — an album complete with a super-producer and glossy, synth-heavy undertones (a story that sounds eerily similar to the oft-impugned Under the Blacklight release). Instead, the album’s archives are a love letter to those who long ago pledged allegiance to Rilo Kiley and traveled with them on their journey. Released on Rilo Kiley bassist Pierre De Reeder’s Little Record Company label, RKives is a personally gift-wrapped scrapbook from which we can relive Rilo Kiley’s proto-indie gestation.
Nothing soothes the soul quite like the familiarity and emotional resonance of Jenny Lewis’ voice. Featuring tracks from the period of their first EP through Under the Blacklight, this collection runs the vocal gamut, from those coquettish coos to her devilishly demanding and full-bodied croons. RKives tracks both the band’s musical trajectory as well Lewis’ own growth. We traverse the determined but lo-fi, falsetto-based narratives of The Frug as well as echoes of Lewis’ rich bravado and masterful campfire storytelling — trademarks that make her the marquee solo performer she is today.
“Bury Bury Bury Another” is a nice companion piece to “A Man/Me/Then Jim” off the More Adventurous album. It bridges Lewis’ Rilo Kiley identity to the yearning yet glamorous aesthetic of her alt-country solo alter ego. The Watson Twins, who played such an integral role on Lewis’ first solo outing, 2006’s Rabbit Fur Coat, are featured on “About the Moon.” The track “Dragging Around” is standout. A thoughtfully restrained, aching work that was discarded from Under the Blacklight and was re-imagined in the form of the latter’s tune “Breaking Up.” It is a track that would be at home on Lewis’ sophomore solo effort, Acid Tongue.
As we look back, Rilo Kiley’s exit may, in fact, have been perfectly timed. The fabled band that borne the indie scene as we know it from the intimate clubs of Silver Lake just as noticeably then retreated the scene a decade later. The glitzy direction in which popular music was headed clearly did not fit Rilo Kiley. If I can borrow from the band, they perhaps prophetically even sum up their goodbye best on “Draggin’ Around” — “Here’s to the younger ones when they replace me,” Lewis waxes. Thanks for the memories, Rilo Kiley.
Album available to stream at Pitchfork.
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