Things tend to get a little long-winded over here at T-Sides, I know. Sometimes I just get so excited I can hardly contain myself. But sometimes I can. As proof, I’m launching a new feature – “Quick Impressions,” in which I will review albums by jotting down a few words on each song as I listen to it for the first time, then make a few summarizing statements on the album as a whole after another listen or two. Let’s begin! First up, Rilo Kiley’s latest, Under The Blacklight.
1. “Silver Lining”: Cute, but not particularly fantastic. I’m a sucker for those handclaps, though, and the “ooh”s and “ahh”s behind the chorus.
2. “Close Call”: Okay, but the world only needs one Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
3. “The Moneymaker”: I like this song, but again… Dear Jenny Lewis, you are not Karen O. Please do not try to be. You’re better as Jenny Lewis.
4. “Breakin’ Up”: Fun, electro-dance track. Sounds like the BeeGees.
5. “Under the Blacklight”: Here’s what I expected. Majestic, glossy, shiny, folky, rocky. Reminds me a bit of Jenny Lewis’ solo project, but this song isn’t as good as any of those.
6. “Dreamworld”: Stereogum compared this song to Fleetwood Mac, and I kind of understand the comparison, though it’s definitely the chick-penned Fleetwood Mac sound and not Buckingham’s. Also, not quite as good, which is why making such comparisons is dangerous.
7. “Dejalo”: What the hell is she saying? More electro-dance pop, a la “Breakin’ Up,” and more handclaps (!!!). Pretty catchy. Probably my favorite track.
8. “15”: More glossy, folky, rock. Clear reversion back to Jenny Lewis’ awful lyrics days. “Deep like a graveyard”? “Ripe as a peach”? PUKE. And did the world really need another tribute to the wiles of young girls?
9. “Smoke Detector”: Another song more along the lines of what I would’ve expected. Poppy folk rock, but a little more upbeat. Again, the lyrics… it feels like she’s trying too hard to be sexy and edgy, and she doesn’t need to. That’s not what people are listening to Rilo Kiley for.
10. “The Angels Hung Around”: Aaaand we’re still sticking with the folky rock… what happened to the dance?
11. “Give A Little Love”: Here it is! Switching tracks again, with more electro pop, this time with the endearment of the folkier stuff. This feels like one of those songs they play at the end of a movie when everyone’s learned their lesson and are supposedly going to live happy lives together.
It seems near impossible to review Under The Blacklight without mentioning “change” – yes, the tides have very obviously changed here, but Rilo Kiley only stuck their toes in. Under the Blacklight feels too uneven to be a complete makeover, with only half of the album transitioned into ’70s and ’80s inspired dance pop, like “Breakin’ Up,” “Dreamworld” and “Dejalo” (download). As much as I hate to quibble with “the Dean,” he’s a bit off when he says, “…almost nowhere much guitar-band alt-rock.” Oh really? Then what’s “Close Call” (download)? What’s “The Angels Hung Around” (download)? Or even “Smoke Detector” and “Moneymaker”? What would be really great for the next Rilo Kiley effort is a concrete decision to go all out with an idea, not just tiptoeing around it.