After a year-plus hiatus during which Rilo Kiley’s two principal members pursued solo careers, the Los Angeles-based indie pop quartet is returning to business August 21 with its major-label debut, “Under the Blacklight.”
Well, sort of.
“People keep calling it our ‘major-label debut,’ but I think (2004’s) ‘More Adventurous’ was that,” frontwoman Jenny Lewis says. And in some respects, she’s right. “Blacklight” marks Rilo Kiley’s first effort on Warner Bros. proper, whereas “More Adventurous” was released on the band’s own Brute/Beaute imprint before the major “upstreamed” it.
However you tag it, “More Adventurous,” the band’s third full-length release, is its biggest to date, moving 177,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and cracked the Billboard 200 at No. 161. Just as noteworthy was the success Lewis met with her solo debut, the country-and soul-flavored “Rabbit Fur Coat.” Recorded with the Watson Twins and released on pal Conor Oberst’s indie label, Team Love, in January 2006, the album has shifted 112,000 and peaked at No. 88 on the Billboard 200.
Guitarist Blake Sennett’s work with his side project, the Elected, has also stoked awareness of Rilo Kiley, even while the band was not working together.
On its recordings, Rilo Kiley, has remained chiefly within its lo-fi, hook-driven pop confines, occasionally dipping into fuzzed-out guitar numbers or acoustic-based folk tunes.
On “Blacklight,” there are hints of what Rilo Kiley excelled at in the past, but fans will find a few surprises as well. The album touches on everything from glistening disco (“Breakin’ Up”) to Spanish-sung choruses (“Dejalo”) and ’60s-inspired surf vibes (“Smoke Detector”). Lyrically, much of the material is devoted to Hollywood’s dark underworld, with Lewis referencing topics like the porn industry and cyber dating.
Sennett says, “We’d done a lot of crying for a long time, and it was time to dance.”
One of the most notable departures is first single “Moneymaker,” which bounces along like a sleazier, funkier version of Heart and has an accompanying 12-minute video featuring risque footage of Hollywood sex workers auditioning for jobs. The clip hit the Internet July 1 as the first piece of the promotional campaign to represent the upcoming album. The second single, “Silver Lining,” is the band at its most accessible.
A supporting European tour will commence in August, with a U.S. trek lined up for September and October.
But even with Rilo Kiley back on the front burner, Lewis and Sennett are continuing to work on solo material.
“Right now we just want to put this record out and then see where those next songs fit in,” Sennett says. “There’s probably even (future) projects there that we don’t even know about. We just write a lot of songs. We’re restless individuals.” Reuters/Billboard