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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Rilo Kiley
More Adventurous
Brute/Beaute Records

Rating: 6.5/10 ?


October 1, 2004
Throughout their history as a band, Rilo Kiley has risen to become one of my favorite live acts. The trick is that they know their best material - when you see them on stage, they've cut out all of the filler in their albums and left an array of fan-favorites behind, like some grand, gold-sorting sieve. This is also their biggest dilemma: their albums have always lacked that ability, that knowledge to cut the excess.

More Adventurous, while it is, to this point, the most noted release in their catalog - their move to a major label has spurred more press than ever - it falls into the same trap, perhaps more frequently than its predecessors. More Adventurous, despite the reviews of those just finding them for the first time, is not some spectacular event; it is not the band's finest moment, nor is it the album of endless high points we've been hoping for. It's just... more.

That's not to say it's bad - I am under the impression Rilo Kiley could never put out a bad album, even if they recorded Air Supply covers in Chipmunk speak - it's just a tad overproduced and overhyped, not that the band had much control over the latter. Jenny Lewis's glorious voice is as winning as ever, and the band's brisk, comfortable pop sound still clings to your fondest sensibilities, but the album is more gloss and sugary icing than we've heard from them in the past, and it fails to tackle some of the more personal or ardent subject matters they've found along the way. As The Execution of All Things was a bound of fidelity from Take-Offs and Landings, More Adventurous makes the two of them sound like they were played in a basement, recorded upstairs through the resonation of the floorboards. It's a leap I, for one, am not quite ready to make.

What makes More Adventurous fairly disappointing to this longtime fan is that it leaves their signature acerbic wit and dry perspective behind. The album doesn't feel personal; it is, instead, a litany of clichés, easy metaphors and generic rehashings. It is too easy and too polite - its lyrics don't have the same barbed quality or personal touches as they have in the past. As a result, More Adventurous feels slightly detached, and does not quite work as a Rilo Kiley original - because "original" was what they'd always done best in idiosyncrasy and tone.

While Jenny Lewis's deserving voice has made its way to the clear forefront - this could, in effect, be her solo debut - there is no direct line to her here on an emotional level; as an audience, we have come to rely on both, so the connection is noticeably missing.

"It's a Hit" begins the affair with an anomaly: a somewhat bumbling political digression. It may symbolize discontent with the current administration, but it is hardly biting, and uses easy lines that have been warmed over repeatedly. Like their former label mates, Cursive, Rilo Kiley could always be counted on to verbalize the things you wish you could say so ably. The power behind lines like "Maybe I'm just stupid for laughing at your jokes," were delivered with conviction and believability; the notion of selling your baseball cards to pay the rent was just so personal - the contrast in this album seems like they're dusting off old, generic chestnuts that don't quite work. Using images of throwing one's own feces as a political metaphor? Is that really their statement?

Likewise, as the band's personal specificity always made their tales of heartache that much more relatable, their look at botched love on "Does He Love You?" more closely resembles a menopausal romance novel along the lines of Nicholas Sparks or The Bridges of Madison County. The tale of an affair, where the "other woman" holds out constant hope that her married prince will come back for her, is delivered with sadness, but it is a story so predictable and rote it no longer needs to be told. It isn't as moving as those tiny, introspective details always were, and it proves that their gift of storytelling was, in fact, one of their strongest points as a band all along.

"Portions for Foxes" is on a better roll, at least sonically, blending the modern Superchunk sound with bits of 80s nostalgia. It is more vocally astute, as well, and gives hope to a perhaps flailing effort. "I Never" also benefits from its sound - Jenny Lewis sounds fantastic in this swooning do-wop number - but it falters by being frustratingly repetitive. "Love and War [11/11/46]" completely invigorates the album, two tracks to the end, by incorporating bitter, spunky rock, even if it does so in radio friendly ways. Its overwhelming production layers and contemporary, "acceptable" angst may be a shadow of their former acidic perfection, but the track is one of the closest returns to form on the album.

In comparison, the lightly strummed acoustic numbers, "More Adventurous" and "A Man/Me/Then Jim," feel very heartfelt after having been stripped down so basically. The two are peppered with references to children, pregnancy and family - themes which appear in surprising frequency throughout the album and add to its mature feel - and have a strolling pace and vocal prominence. These cuts, while likely the "filler" they cut out in their live show at this point, are actually sort of refreshing when placed in the context of such large production values. On the other hand, "Ripchord," Blake Sennett's only vocal contribution, takes this lo-fi swing too far, sounding completely broken down compared to the rest of More Adventurous. There is really little balance between the high and low editing trends, nor is there a lot of flow between their past efforts and this one.

More Adventurous, despite any criticism, is not a slap in the face by any means. It still shows them as a band to watch, only to a larger audience - one which may or may not have heard their previous releases. It is just inconsistent with the things we have come to love the band for in the first place. It is not their best record, but it is by far their biggest; if that leaves the door wide open for them to burst through it, then by all means grant them this stepping stone.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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