Apparently a lot of Rilo Kiley fans are having a hard time with Under The Blacklight, fans who loved 2004’s More Adventurous. Having never listened to Rilo Kiley before, I am not one of those people.
Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis, who hit the big time with her solo effort, Rabbit Fur Coat, one of the top recordings of 2006, leads Rilo Kiley on a musical adventure in Under The Blacklight. With musical styles ranging from the 50s to the 70s and beyond, this album samples a lot but ties it all together with the nice big bow that is Lewis’s superb vocal talents. In short, the album is a mix of alt country, folk, 80s and 90s, but somehow Rilo Kiley make it work.
The first cut, "Silver Lining," sets the twangy tone with a taste of Cowboy Junkies and a little Sarah McLachlan thrown in for good measure. Then "Close Call" takes the twang further into alt-country territory. As for the rest of the album, "Breakin' Up" delivers more twangy pop county sounds, as well as plenty of synth and 70s-style vocals. And "The Angels Hung Around" is more alt country twang, harkening back to Emmylou Harris or the more recent Lucinda Williams.
Straddling the fence between rock and country is "Smoke Detector," which blends sounds reminiscent of Liz Phair with 50s female country greats, creating a hybrid that’s part Hollywood and part hillbilly. Folk songs also get a nod with “15” — I couldn’t help but think of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billy Joe” when I listened to "15" for the first time, as it shares a similar sound and haunting message.
The album turns into funky 80s rock a la Sheena Easton in "The Moneymaker," then takes on Gloria Estefan, steel drums and dance betas in "Dejalo."
Rounding out the album are my three favorite tunes, the alternative Liz Phair-y "Under the Blacklight”; "Dreamworld," which puts to good use the vocal talents of bandmate Blake Sennett and reminds me of the Eurythamics; and "Give a Little Love," which, with the 80s drum machine and keyboards, reminds me of Freur’s “Doot Doot.”
Under The Blacklight may be too much of a departure for hardcore Rilo Kiley fans, but for me, it’s the perfect CD to throw on during a dinner party. Not too twangy and not too party all the time, Under The Blacklight is just right.