Jenny Lewis sounds positively life affirming when she declares "It'll Get You There" on new Rilo Kiley compilation Rkives. The irony is of course that the band is dead and this record is an affectionate post mortem of their lesser-known efforts. But while the body of the band may be in the morgue with a tag on its toe, as Blake Sennett once joked. I'm pleased to report the soul of Rilo Kiley is alive and well on Rkives.
While it's a collection of material that's taken three years to emerge from the archives, there's a surprising thematic unity to many of the tracks. Far from being a mish-mash of b-sides and aborted ideas Rkives presents a band dealing with a mid life crisis that loosely hints at the subsequent break-up. It's more impressive that there's a cohesion to the record when you realise these 17 songs have been cherry picked from a career spanning 13 years.
The centrepiece to the record, 'A Town Called Luckey', crystallises the overarching sentiment. In the midst of its shimmering guitars, Lewis dissects the landmark thirtieth birthday of the protagonist. "You're halfway to 60. You have no land of your own. A job you despise and a lover that's mean." The bittersweet musings are echoed elsewhere with 'Bury Bury Bury Another' pining for simpler times, and 'Patiently' defiantly declaring "I'm not dead yet". Of course all of the kitchen sink dramas of break-ups ('Well You Left') and even a shade of domestic abuse ('All The Drugs') are to be found here. But they're presented in a reflective and knowing way that informs a mood of re-evaluating your place in the world.
Perhaps that's Rkives greatest strength: reminding you that Rilo Kiley were always more than the upbeat guitar licks and quirky indie touches. There was depth and substance to the material that shines through here even when the songs, are for many listeners, brand new discoveries. Musically, the record is a nice summation of the band's ability to galvanise different styles to suit their needs. So there's a little bit of Pop ('The Frug'), a dash of Alt-Country ('Let Me Back In'), and a generous helping of angst driven guitars ('Emotional'). There are, of course, a couple of mis-fires, which should be expected on any collection of this type. A prime example being the Hip Hop of the Zondo remix of 'Dejalo'. While it's a novelty to hear Lewis trading rhymes with Too Short, it's a diversion from the songs that really matter here.
But the warts and all attitude that pervades Rkives adds an even more endearing quality to the overall experience. It's a funeral, a wake, a bookend and a celebration all rolled up into one palatable package. It's an ode to lost youth, but one that falls short of getting too caught up in its own nostalgia. The inclusion of 'Dejalo' or even the very early smurf referencing cut the 'The Frug' just underline that there's a sense of humour hiding amongst the more emotionally weighty material. And for that reason, unlike so many compilations, Rkives is a fitting tribute. It stands shoulder to shoulder with the best moments of Rilo Kiley's back catalogue without feeling like an afterthought.
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