I'M SICK TO DEATH of people talkin' shit on Rilo Kiley. I hear this all the time: some silly looking shaggy-dog hipster at a party whining, "Welllll, Rilo Kiley has some good songs buuut...." But what, shitbird?! But you're afraid of being made fun of for admitting you like a band? Rilo Kiley's a great pop band; they make better (and way less dumbed-down) music than most all their major label peers. And the same goes for Rilo Kiley guitarist Blake Sennett's side band, the Elected, which suffers SO MANY HATERS, so many fools writing 'em off because (a) Rilo Kiley is on a major label and sells a lot of records. (b) Rilo Kiley gets a lot of press. (c) Sennett, like Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis, was a child actor. (d) Rilo Kiley is... on a major label... and sells... a lot... of records.
No, stop. Don't wrinkle your nose up like that—it makes you look like an ugly animal. Are we all so jealous of famous people and their money that we can't own up to liking something once it reaches a certain level? (And who determines or decides or sets that level, anyway?) I dunno about you, but I'm not swinging like that.
On Rilo Kiley records, Blake Sennett is the guy that sings ridiculously like Elliott Smith. But he doesn't sound like Elliott here... what he sounds like is a guy from Los Angeles making music about being a guy from Los Angeles. If good art retains a sense of place, the Elected's new Sub Pop album, Sun, Sun, Sun, smacks the ball right outta PGE Park.
Songs like "Would You Come with Me" roll out twangs of lap steel that soar along with a click-clack of pop country drums while Sennett sings, "I didn't get what I wanted/so I took what wanted me." It's the kinda stuff that gets compared to countrified mainstream '70s rock like the Eagles or the Byrds. Which is fair, but the good bulk of it—especially "Would You," "Sun, Sun, Sun," and "Fireflies in a Steel Mill"—are more Tapestry-era Carole King than anything—intimate, well-produced, quiet songs that rock when they need to, but mostly sit square at the old upright parlor piano in the dusty light beams of Any Living Room, USA.
In the band's promotional photos they're on a yacht, surrounded on all sides by the languid blue corduroy of endless ocean. They're dressed all Steely Dan-ish in red velvet vests and ascots, and there are two pretty girls in short '70s flower sundresses and floppy hats with long dark hair blowing in the breeze. It's a photo that speaks of luxury, and of noblesse oblige vis-à-vis decadent Mulholland Drive coke parties, which might exist only in LA mythos—or movies. The record—mostly—rides the same range. This is not the music of a struggling artist writing Springsteenian prose poems of dead-end dreams and burnt-out lives. Like Gatsby, this is a portrait of privileged life, a life maybe miles away from our own, but a solid, detailed, crowded, living, breathing documentation anyway. The Elected is a good band.