As I’ve grown older, I’ve tired of the chord-verse nature of most music. While I was weaned on the grunge and alternative aspects that the late ’80s and early nineties offered, it seems that sans original, creative bands like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The White Stripes, most musical acts now have a throaty yell, unintelligible lyrics, and nothing to offer but faux rage and lame bass riffs. These bands think these attributes are tantamount to aural brilliance when nothing could be further from the truth.
Los Angeles’s Rilo Kiley have been recording since 1998. The band’s new album More Adventurous is their first on their own brute/beaute records, a Warner Brothers imprint. I have not heard their last album, The Execution Of All Things, but the new one makes me eager to learn more. Singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis conveys a wide swath of emotions over eleven tracks, each one different from the next. The disc starts out with “It’s A Hit”, an anti-Bush tome that shifts into an attack on suburban platitudes. “Does He Love You?” is told as a girl lost in a loveless marriage and her friend on the sidelines, hoping to have the other’s man. Lewis’s voice is all ache, anger and anticipation, resonant and finite towards the end of the track. “Portions For Foxes” sounds like it should be on the radio, a sunny call of admiration and warning (“The talking leads to touching/And the touching leads to sex/And then there is no mystery left”) to a lover. It’s one of the album’s highlights. “I Never” could be a b-side for a ’70s Top 40 soul artist. It marries Lewis’s powerful voice with a classic jazz backing. “Ripchord” is the sole track written and sung by guitarist Blake Sennett and it’s a stirring acoustic piece. “Love and War (11/11/46)” relates a tale of Jenny’s resentment of a past lover and then brings us her grandfather’s final days and the themes combine in front of a buzzy, guitar-laced riff. “A Man/Me/Then Jim” is just what it sounds like, stories of various people and their daily discomforts. The album closes with “It Just Is”, a small number that seems to borrow a bit from an old John Lennon track, complete with what sounds like an electric piano at the very beginning. A bright yet compact burst of energy at the apex of a brilliantly smart album.
Rilo Kiley offers a disconnect from the mindless neanderthals that populate the playlists of every modern rock station in every city across the country. More Adventurous is a sparkling love letter to life, good and bad, and it provides the listener with a taste of all the great things smart songwriting and competent musicianship can offer. It’s an album that’s alive and magical and worth every dime spent on it.