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Under the Blacklight



Rilo Kiley
Under the Blacklight
Warner Brothers
(Out August 21)

On their fourth album Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley have given up on convincing the world that they are the quintessential indie darlings. The Los Angeles outfit are not only making the transition from an independent label to become major label players, but on Under the Blacklight they are also moving away from their tried-and-true indie-pop comfort zone and into the pleasant-yet-paradoxical realm of a darker and dangerous ‘70s rock aesthetic. Under the Blacklight is filled with the often hard-to-achieve dichotomy of irresistible pop music with confessional yet saucy lyrics and deeper, darker themes; a combination that, when done right, encompasses the allure of dark and light or good and evil. Rilo Kiley have cleverly borrowed this type of musical contradiction from groups like Fleetwood Mac, whose honey-dipped harmonies collided with their notorious post-stage romantic romps and hedonistic antics or Heart whose heavy rock sound was antithetical to their frothy and ethereal goddess looks–think tough-as-nails track “Barracuda” performed in flowing, floor-length Gunne Sax dresses.

In Rilo Kiley’s case, these sonic juxtapositions come in the form of songs like “The Moneymaker” that describes Sunset Strip sleaze with writhing guitars, a thumping bassline and coquettish vocals that recall a “Magic Man”-era Nancy Wilson or the moody country-tinged power ballad “Close Call,” on which frontwoman Jenny Lewis recounts tales of prostitution and hustling in a songbird falsetto. Not all tracks on Blacklight conjure the harsh realities of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Take the “La Isla Bonita”-esque “Dejalo” with its upbeat Latin-inspired rhythms and Spanish chorus or the playful classic ‘60s pop of “Smoke Detector” where Lewis boasts: “I took a man back to my room/I was smoking him in bed.” Under the Blacklight is bold, sexy and keeps getting better with every listen. Wilson sisters: Sing your heart out! Check out Rilo Kiley when they play the Warfield on September 6.