After singer Jenny Lewis’ 2006 solo album Rabbit Fur Coat (this writer’s favourite record of last year), the fate of Rilo Kiley seemed to be uncertain. But Lewis’ solo exploits weren’t permanent, and three years after More Adventurous, Rilo Kiley returns. For their fourth album and major label debut, the band ups the ante in terms of pop accessibility. On first listen, some of these songs are a drastic change for the band, it’s almost shocking, but the new sound suits the band. No longer the twangy indie pop darlings, Rilo Kiley is now an indie new wave machine.
Tracks like “Silver Lining” and the title track are reminiscent of the band’s earlier sound, specific to their previous outing, albeit here they’re glossier and more polished. Taking their last album’s title into consideration, the band travels down new, albeit well-worn, roads. First single “The Moneymaker” is a slinky, sexy, funk workout that’s an odd cross between Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out”, the Cars’ “Moving in Stereo” and a Zeppelin-esque chorus. But the real head-turner is “Breakin’ Up”, a deliriously giddy kiss-off set to a killer disco hook that should have been blaring out of every car stereo this summer (well, there’s always next year).
While those two tracks are the most drastic, the rest of Under the Blacklight sees the band in familiar territory, and fans will appreciate the return of Blake Sennett on lead vocals with “Dreamworld”, a dreamy slice of college rock that would have sat perfectly in rotation between Morrissey and R.E.M. circa 1989. “15” recalls Lewis’ solo record, a Dusty Springfield revival of statutory proportions (“She was bruised like a cherry, ripe as a peach / How could he have known that she was only 15”).
Under the Blacklight is clearly Rilo Kiley’s bid for big time success, fortunately the band retains most of what made them great in the first place, and Lewis’ lyrics certainly haven’t lost any bite. Here’s hoping that they find the success they deserve.