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"Happy birthday, you're halfway to 60
You have no land of your own
A job you despise
And a lover that's mean."
With the release of 1999’s The Initial Friend E.P. and 2001’s debut album Take Offs And Landings, L.A.-based Alternative Pop/Country-Rock group Rilo Kiley were turned into highly beloved Indie darlings, a status they maintained with 2002’s The Execution Of All Things and 2004’s More Adventurous. These albums were all distributed by Indie record labels, but then, in 2007, Rilo Kiley released their first major-label LP (on Warner Bros.), the shimmering Under The Blacklight, which – as is often the case with Indie bands turned high-profile artists – was a much more slick and polished album than the group’s previous releases. Under The Blacklight generally received very positive reviews, but, as could be expected, some of Rilo Kiley’s older fans eschewed the band’s new, more commercial sound. The very same fans might very well be pleasantly surprised, if they listened to Rkives, a career-spanning compilation rounding up Rarities, B-sides and previously unreleased songs. Seven of these tracks are “leftovers” from the sessions for Under The Blacklight (tracks 1-4, 7-9), but you wouldn’t know it from listening to them, as they sound much more organic and rugged. What’s more, they’re damn fine songs. And so are the majority of the other selections on Rkives.
Let Me Back In, a wistful folk song, reads like a love letter to Los Angeles, graced by frontwoman Jenny Lewis’ sweetly sung lead vocal and lyrics replete with evocative images (“But when the palm trees bow their heads / No matter how wrong I've been / L.A., you always let me back in”). It’ll Get You There starts off quietly, then picks up the tempo and surrounds Jenny Lewis with a wall of intense electric guitars and energetic drums, as she depicts someone who’s always looking for his or hers next high (“All the trips that you take, they will get you there / All the little white pills you take, they will get you there / All the compliments that you take, they will get you there / All the hearts that you break, they will get you there”). The straight-out poppiest track here, the lively I Remember You, features an insanely catchy electric guitar motif that gets stuck in your head. Runnin’ Around is equally infectious, with its thick bass and addicting hooks.
Draggin’ Around, originally the B-side of the single The Moneymaker (from Under The Blacklight), is a soulful, Gospel-inflected ballad whose chorus recalls the Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan. A Town Called Luckey was previously available on the single Portions For Foxes (off the album More Adventurous) and is a personal favorite. This atmospheric and dramatic song deals with the touchy subject of having a midlife crisis and not having achieved the goals one set for oneself (“Happy birthday, you're halfway to 60 / You have no land of your own / A job you despise / And a lover that's mean”). Rkives ends with a track from Rilo Kiley’s very first release, The Initial Friend E.P., a charming song titled The Frug, which showcases the band’s knack for deftly blending dark lyrics with light-hearted melodies. Rkives is as accomplished as any of Rilo Kiley's official albums, a surprisingly cohesive and satisfying collection despite the fact that these songs originate from various different sources.