If Rilo Kiley were a person, it would be a prom queen at two a.m.—gorgeous, world-weary, lipstick-smeared, desperately trying to convince you that she’s a little bit bad. Their latest release, More Adventurous, also fits this fictitious persona. It’s got attitude for miles and a grace and confidence that help make up for the tiny flaws that humanize it.
The album starts out with “It’s A Hit,” which contains some fairly facile comparisons of the current White House to a chimp that throws its own “shit at the enemy,” but the anger and tone of the song, along with the tight instrumentations and melodies, help the listener forgive its flaws. “Portions For Foxes” deserves to be on every radio station everywhere. It’s an absolutely flawless, gleeful New Wave shout of a song that at the same time admits, “I know I’m alone whether I’m with or without you.”
The two highlights of the album come back-to-back: “I Never” and “The Absence Of God.” It’s been widely reported that singer Jenny Lewis stripped naked in the recording booth in order to create a feeling of being more exposed. The result is absolutely stunning—a modern doo-wop girl group song that finds the narrator admitting “I’m afraid habits rule my waking life / I’m scared and I’m running in my sleep for you.” “The Absence Of God” is reminiscent of Kate Bush’s “Moments Of Pleasure,” another sad, gorgeous wisp of a song that muses over God, love, and death while (presumably) namechecking people in the songwriter’s life (“And Mike, I’ll teach you how to swim / if you turn the bad in me into good again”).
Jenny Lewis’s voice, by turns warm, bouncy, growling and resigned, carries the album through its wild experimental fits and is so gorgeous that by every song’s end you believe that Rilo Kiley could pull off speed metal. There are people who feel that the inclusion of guitarist Blake Sennett’s songs, something that Rilo Kiley has done on each album, is a misstep. The example found here (“Ripchord”) is a bit jarring in its placement, but it’s a lovely, shy song that deserves to be heard as much as anything else on the album.
This album is enough to keep both first-time listeners and seasoned fans happy—a feat that is so difficult to do these days, Rilo Kiley really must be able to do anything.