Music » CD Reviews

Rilo Kiley

Take Offs and Landings (Barsuk)


Close your eyes, and it's 1994 again. Maybe it's Jenny Lewis's sugary crooning, her sweetly suffering lyricism, those seductive hooks, or the buoyant melodies. Whatever the case, Take Offs and Landings is classic indie pop for the new class. The reason for that? Well, it stays true to the old one. It's difficult to harness nostalgia and keep it fresh, but L.A.'s Rilo Kiley does it well. Lewis (with a little help from collaborator Blake Sennett) takes everything that made her indie-queen forebears so incredibly vulnerable, sexy, and tough -- and makes it her own. She can gracefully blunt the edges of Liz Phair, trading in manifest anger for more subtle jabs at jilted lovers ("Please be kind don't drop the rock on me/How many blows to the belly will this thing take?" she asks on "Pictures of Success"). Winsome? Yes. But that can change in an instant. Like the best of the coed brain trusts before them (Spinanes, Quasi, et al.), Lewis and Sennett's songwriting collaborations fan out infinitely, while never spreading themselves too thin: wavering from the saccharine power pop of Bettie Serveert (see "Plane Crash in C"), to the pleasantly airy jangle of, well, every band out of Athens, Georgia ("August," a contribution from Sennett), to the more minimalist folk stylings of Mary Lou Lord ("Go Ahead"). Point is, there's something familiar about it. As there should be.

Rilo Kiley does what all great pop bands should: It makes us feel fuzzy. And warm. Like we're not alone. Like it's OK to be sad. Even if you're used to being strong. Lewis says it best herself: "I'm a modern girl, but I fall in half so easily." And the voice is sharp, like a honey-dripped paper cut. And actually, it feels pretty good sliding by.

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