Thursday, December 6, 2007


"They'll see all of it, they'll see all of me, all of the good that won't come out of me, and all the stupid little lies I hide behind."

This time around, a less-obscure pick for those who are familiar with their (formerly) indie bands. Rilo Kiley is at its core its two singers, Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett, known for the former moreso than the latter. Their lyrics are interesting, often with important messages hidden behind neat stories and anecdotes or amusing writing. They've recently approached the spotlight, signing to a major label and having their music showcased on a number of TV shows and films.

I'm biased toward Jenny Lewis, I'll say that straight out. I will pretty much always pick a song sung by her over Sennett, and that's a fact. I just like her voice and style more. That said, I'm not a huge fan of either's other work for the most part. Jenny's CD with the Watson Twins didn't hook me, and Sennett's band The Elected only have a couple songs I'm fond of. The closest non-Kiley work either has done that impressed me is Lewis' involvement in The Postal Service, with Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard.

I'd try to be spread out over their 4 albums and other works, but of course there's a bias as I prefer some songs and albums over others.

Rilo Kiley - American Wife (Portions For Foxes B-Side) (Sendspace link)
It might seem like an off choice to start with, but this is quite possibly my favourite Rilo Kiley song. It's certainly one that gets a lot of playtime. It tells the story of a pair who slowly self-destruct, an intriguing story that weaves in ideas about the inevitability of self-destruction. Probably one of the big draws for me in this song is how unconventional it is in many ways. For example, one part goes:

You have eleven siblings
who've had ten broken limbs,
nine divorces and
eight broken hearts and
seven grandkids and
six bypass surgeries,
five college degrees,
four are sick,
three are well,
two are dead
one's in jail.
No-one here moves away
no-one here moves away...

What at first seems like a neat writing scheme leads into a message of their reality, and the cracks that show when you begin to really look at things.

Rilo Kiley - The Good That Won't Come Out (The Execution of All Things) (Sendspace link)
This is a song about the feeling we all know and few don't succumb to. Have you never felt sympathy for the poor and the hungry, or thought, 'It's a shame about the environment', but not really done anything to change things beyond a quarter in the charity box at Mac's? This song explores this, hinting at the concept of global warning but really speaking about the good in everyone that just doesn't come out, which leaves us standing, feeling sorry, as our Earth melts away.

Rilo Kiley - A Better Son/Daughter (The Execution of All Things) (Sendspace link)
A song that's really about social obligation, to always have a series of qualities (strength, kindness, grown up, smart) and forcing ourselves to seem 'happy' for everyone else even when we're really not in a place where that's who we are. This song always reminds me of Kara, weirdly enough. Might be the bit about sleep paralysis at the beginning. It's weird.

Rilo Kiley - A Man/Me/Then Jim (More Adventurous) (Sendspace link)
This is a song about the 'slow fade of love', and how despite our strongest attempts to reverse it, it will often overtake even the strongest passion and leave its prisoners trapped in a relationship that's gone stale or lead to at least one broken heart. The band returns to their interesting lyric-writing when they have this song tell three mini-stories - those of 'A Man' (who encounters a former lover at a funeral and discusses why they ended things), 'Me' (the story of the narrator, who hears the sad story a telemarketer has to tell), and 'Jim' (whose relationship is in the process of exploding in his face).

Rilo Kiley - The Frug (The Initial Friend) (Sendspace link)
This song, charmingly written song that, at first, seems like a collection of random 'I can' or 'I can't' statements that slowly adds up to a song about refusing to let oneself to be vulnerable, culminating in the protagonist's desperate declarations that 'I'll never fall in love, I cannot fall in love'. A nice example of subtlety, and one of my favourite RK songs despite my lack of analysis here.

Rilo Kiley - Christmas Cake (M3 Holiday Edition) (Sendspace link)
Despite its name, this song is not a happy-go-lucky Christmas song, instead an unflinching look at the realities of being poor and unhappy as the famous holiday approaches. The protagonist, crippled under credit card debt, can't get a decent foothold, warning future parents that 'you'll be paying them off 'til your kids grow up and do the same'. Things slowly get worse and worse as the bills pile higher and higher, eventually landing her permanently in her car and waiting, hopelessly, for the fresh start the New Year promises.

BUY: Amazon Canada, Amazon, InSound

Hope you give this excellent band a shot, as they're one of my favourites of all time. Jenny Lewis' voice and their lyrics combine to make Rilo Kiley, according to LastFM, my #3 overall artist (tied with Andrew Bird). Enjoy!

1 comment:

XandMatt said...

Hey Alden, just checking out Rilo Kiley on MySpace - I like them. I was expecting something quite heavy but it's very easy to listen to.

Very sedate - will be checking them out.