Fri Sept 24
1800 E Burnside
After so many static shows by indie rock bands, it was surprising to see how electric Los Angeles foursome Rilo Kiley are on stage. Exchanging instruments and sassy comments while playing their smart songs, they seemed driven to connect, not only in their stage presence, but also in their engagement with the crowd. The music eschewed indie's penchant for obscurantism in favor of getting the songs across. Singer Jenny Lewis delivered her plainspoken yet complex lyrics--the moody phrasing turning suddenly tough or thin with remorse and belying the words--with a straightforwardness that perfectly conveyed their emotional reality, and drew the audience in.
On More Adventurous, the fourth album on as many labels (from Rilo to Barsuk to Saddle Creek to Brute/Beaute, distributed by Warner Bros., but owned by the band), Rilo Kiley's music has caught up with that memorable performance. The 11 songs are indeed more adventurous, or at least more eclectic than on their two previous albums, moving through country-tinged rock, indie pop, a near torch song, and a new wave tantrum.
"I read that with every broken heart we should become more adventurous," Lewis sings on the title song over a strummed guitar and occasional pedal steel. Broken hearts, longing, madness, and lust all mingle in the songs, which find Lewis approaching her singing with more confidence and a wily intelligence playing between character and persona--she's a seductress, a victim, and flips through multiple points of view from song to song and even verse to chorus. She also phrases unwieldy, rhymeless thoughts perfectly across the guitar parts. This is especially true of "Love and War (11/11/46)," a lyrical split-screen between love and death over a bouncy new wave sheen in which Lewis sings, "Now that everybody's dead we can finally talk."
It's one of many hard-bitten lines that Lewis delivers with just enough desperation to allow the tough-girl mask to slip. Rilo Kiley seem to know how to dramatize their hooks and let their audience in on the masquerade simultaneously; it's not a knowing ironic wink, but the honesty of grappling with shifting emotions and taking chances.