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Under The Blacklight by Rilo Kiley

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Reviewed on 20th September 2007.


Under The Blacklight

By Rilo Kiley

July 2nd 2007: Rilo Kiley's latest single 'The Moneymaker' hits the internet, and all hell breaks loose; it's like the indie apocalypse - who knew fans of America's cutest band could be quite so vicious? If they think this is something new, Under The Blacklight is set to give them one hell of a shock - it features Jenny Lewis rapping (gasp!), a couple of songs that wouldn't feel out of place on a Kelly Clarkson album, and the lyric "My mama is an atheist, if I stay out late she don't get pissed."

So far what's been described sounds like a perfect recipe for the worst record of the century, but it actually works. Last year's side projects were two of 2006's sweetest records, but it's Miss Lewis and Mr Sennett together that really shine; opener 'Silver Lining' has the summery instrumentation of The Elected's Sun Sun Sun meeting the soulful vocals of Jenny Lewis' Rabbit Fur Coat. Perfect, really.

At this early stage of the LP, it's clear to see that the band are going for a more mainstream sound, which benefits, not hinders them (despite what many fans may think) - an example of this comes from 'Breakin' Up', a track that would've seemed unfathomable for Rilo Kiley to have written five years ago, but it's what suits them best - a full-on disco anthem complete with cheesy keyboards and 60s-style backing vocals; Jenny Lewis is a perfect pop star and she's finally embracing it with confidence.

Vocally it's Lewis' strongest work to date - she truly flourishes on the new album - take album closer 'Give a Little Love' for example; what would usually be an annoying RnB track - closer to Destiny's Child than Rilo Kiley - thrives on Lewis's magnificently confident vocals. It's also hella tight musically - the British invasion guitar line on 'Smoke Detector', the almost-shoegazey 'Dreamworld' and the bounty of hooks on display in 'Dejalo' make for fantastic listening.

One criticism for the album is the hit-and miss lyrics; when they work, they're fantastic (take '15' for example, a literate look at the seedy underbelly of teenage cybersex), but when the don't, the really don't - the aforementioned 'Dejalo' borders on cringeworthy, and you can't help but feel on songs such as 'Close Call' that words are only there to showcase Jenny's massive vocal talents, although any excuse is good enough. This is only a minor criticism though, because they generally work as a charming and knowledgeable account of life in LA.

So, this is Rilo Kiley's "Fleetwood Mac album" and a departure for the band. Hardcore fans may take time to warm to such a change, although you can't help but feel this is the music they're best suited to make. Under The Blacklight is a record full of hooks; a brilliant summer-pop album and their most confident and mature piece of work to date.



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