This article is about sex, because these days, so is Rilo Kiley. If the ex-Saddle Creek band did, as they claimed on 2002's The Execution Of All Things, go to Omaha to "exploit the booming music scene," their new album, Under The Blacklight, is a homecoming of sorts. Jenny Lewis and company return to Los Angeles with an insatiable appetite for seediness so grand that it's like, well, it's like they've been in Nebraska far too long. Lewis' songs have always flirted with the sordid, but her band's shimmering indie-country arrangements—heart-stopping as they often were—were once delicate and wistful. These were not songs about getting some action. If anything, they seemed unsure if they should be getting laid at all.
As swoon-worthy a record as Execution was—and as unexpected the direction of Rilo Kiley's growth on their uneven follow up More Adventurous—the band suffered from a squandering of personality, with Lewis' strange, sweet, and knowing voice often seeming tamped down, afraid of assuming its rightful place. On More Adventurous' "I Never," while singing the title phrase more times than most critics could bear to stand, she made one of her initial forays into a space big enough to hold her, confidently bestriding Jason Boesel's loping drumbeat and an eventually ecstatic string section. On Under The Blacklight, regardless of what you think of genre exercises like the Latin-pop of "Dejalo," or the roller derby soundtrack of "Breakin' Up," Lewis' chemistry with the music has only increased.
It isn't just the lyrical obsessions with pornography, prostitution, and double entendres that make Under The Blacklight a lovemaker's record. It's that Jenny Lewis has finally mastered the conducting of her own personality. She now knows when to shine, when to recede, when to go in, and when to go out. The mopes who got through a year of school with the help of "A Better Son/Daughter" (present company included), will discover in Rilo Kiley's new repertoire what all late bloomers eventually do—that sex is easier, more graceful, and even better than they imagined.