Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Rilo Kiley

  • Take Offs and Landings [Barsuk, 2001]  
  • The Execution of All Things [Saddle Creek, 2002] A
  • More Adventurous [Brute/Beaute, 2004]  
  • Under the Blacklight [Warner Bros., 2007] A
  • RKives [Little Record Company, 2013] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Take Offs and Landings [Barsuk, 2001]
The virtues and pitfalls of precision in love ("Go Ahead," "Bulletproof")  

The Execution of All Things [Saddle Creek, 2002]
Beloved of her cult, in part simply because it's early but also because it's mild, this is where Jenny Lewis begins her run as one of the '00s' hardest-hitting songwriters. Really, mild she's not. Her great subject is triumph over depression, exemplified by the magnificent "A Better Son/Daughter," where she's on the march long before she's made forthright her m.o. Even "My Slumbering Heart," which describes dreams any man worth sleeping with would be proud to lie there and listen to, hints at the nightmares of everyday life. Insofar as that man is partner Blake Sennett, however, he is admittedly kind of mild. A

More Adventurous [Brute/Beaute, 2004]
See: With Arms Outstretched.  

Under the Blacklight [Warner Bros., 2007]
Terse and beaty, with Dr. Dre referral Mike Elizondo going half on the baby, this isn't a pop record, but it does avoid guitar-band shapes, sonics and truisms. Blake Sennett's pretty Fleetwood Mac homage proves densely political, and though Jenny Lewis isn't writing fluff, she might consider some porn in the right venue for the right advance. Makes you wonder just what teenager was "down for almost anything," what adult is getting "money for sex." Leaves little doubt that it's Jenny's tail you can chase and tongue you can taste in the Spanish one, Jenny who removes her bra and smokes in bed in the sexy(est) one. The tender title tune casts her as a "black widow," and the tender-sounding opener is a breakup song as triumphant as "Breakin' Up" itself. "Ooh, it feels good to be free," she exults, with girl backup. It's possible she means it. A

RKives [Little Record Company, 2013]
Seven of these 16 outtakes etc. were recorded along with Rilo Kiley's reflexively underrated 2007 swan song Under the Blacklight--the one where Jenny Lewis & Co. consorted with chart-proven beatmaker-producer Mike Elizondo. Another three accompanied their underachieving 2004 succ?s d'estime More Adventurous--the one where they were so vulgar as to risk Warner Bros. distribution. And near as I can hear, all that marks these terrific songs as outtakes etc. is that they're slightly less produced and dramatic. Lewis's melodic facility, vocal ductility, psychological acuity, and verbal dexterity never peak as high as on UTB or MA while maintaining an altitude that few song bands ever reach. May I recommend "Let Me Back In," about wanderlust; "A Town Called Luckey," about 30 as middle age; "Bury, Bury, Bury Another," about work, love, and death. May I recommend the greasy Too Short cameo on the "Dejalo" remix. May I recommend the handclapped closer "The Frug": "And I can do the frug/I can do the robocop/I can do the Freddy/I cannot do the smurf/And I can hate your girl/I can tell you she's real pretty/I can take my clothes off/I cannot fall in love." A

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