It’s been over five years since Rilo Kiley’s last album, Under The Blacklight, was released. In the years following Jenny Lewis has put out two solo records and one with her boyfriend Johnathan Rice. Blake Sennett and Jason Boesel have continued their work in The Elected, releasing a very good album in 2011 called Bury Me In My Rings. 2011 was also the year that Sennett declared Rilo Kiley dead.
Pierre DeReeder, the band’s bass player, has been working on publishing a collection of rarities from the band since 2010, and it’s finally coming out on April 2nd on his Little Record Company label. There are 17 songs on the album-if you get the deluxe version you also get a cassette tape with two more songs that will only be available in that format. A video for the song “Let Me Back In” was just released to create some buzz around the collection-as if that were necessary.
The well-known songs that are presented in alternate versions are all great. Re-worked versions of “Rest Of My Life,” and “The Frug” are interesting, but not too huge a departure from the originals. The one that stands out the most in my mind is the remixed version of “Dejalo” that features a rap verse by Too Short. Maybe it appeared somewhere before, but I’d never heard it. Totally changed the vibe of the song, but remained true to the main ideas behind the version we all know.
That leaves a bunch of new tracks to be heard. For the most part they sound like you would expect. The opener (video above) shares a lot of common elements with “Jenny, You’re Barely Alive,” almost like an acoustic version mixed with Cat Power’s cover of “Sea Of Love.” I would suspect that it was written pretty early on in the life of the band. A lot of the songs have elements that help you place them in time based on different sonic themes the band used on their various albums.
One of the least Rilo Kiley-like tunes is “Runnin’ Around,” which certainly deals with some of Lewis’s favorite lyrical subjects. It’s got some great licks played by Sennett, but it feels more like a song from Acid Tongue than a Rilo Kiley b-side.
I really like the country-tinged acoustic song “Bury, Bury, Bury Another.” It’s a one-take version with Lewis on guitar and vocals. There’s some lap steel playing that really makes the song feel much bigger than it is. Bookended by Lewis asking if they’re ready to go and then messing up at the end, it’s a nice intimate moment with the band.
Another really good one is “Well, You Left,” sing by Bennett. Again, this one feels like a leftover from The Elected’s 2006 album Sun, Sun, Sun-which Lewis lent a hand with, co-writing two songs. The thing that sets this one apart, and a noticeable trend on these outtakes, is the heavy lean toward guitar work. Rilo Kiley was never known as a band that featured prominent guitar solos, but there are quite a few to be heard on Rkives, including a great one on “It’ll Get You There.”
There are at least six songs on the disc that have been released as b-sides over the years: “About The Moon,” “Patiently,” “Emotional,” “Draggin’ Around,” “American Wife,” and “A Town Called Luckey.” The only one familiar to me is “Emotional,” which backed up “The Execution Of All Things” single in 2003. My favorite of these songs is “A Town Called Luckey,” in which both Lewis and Sennett deliver some very angry vocals.
There is a full album’s worth of new songs collected here, which means material wasn’t the reason the band split. Part of me hates them for going their separate ways, while the rest of me respects their decision to leave as friends and not let the petty stuff destroy their lives. They had a 13-year run that produced some really great music, which is more than 99 percent of bands can say. I’m glad Pierre put in the work to get this record together. It documents a band that, at least musically, had a lot of good days ahead of them.
I won’t divulge everything else on the disc. Needless to say this is a must-have for any Rilo Kiley fan. More than anything, Rkives made me wish that there was more new material to come. Sadly, I know that’s not the case. I’m hoping that someday Sennett and Lewis are both tired of doing their other projects and decide to get together and just see what happens. This comment from Sennett, in an interview with Consequence Of Sound, makes that seem horribly unlikely: “I would say that if Rilo Kiley were a human being, he’s probably laying on his back in a morgue with a tag on his toe. Now, I see movies where the dead get up and walk. And when they do that, rarely do good things happen.”
I got really nostalgic for some of my favorite Rilo Kiley songs, so here are my top ten. Feel free to post your favorites below.
10. The Good That Won’t Come Out
9. Silver Lining
8. It Just Is
6. A Better Son/Daughter
5. I Never
4. Don’t Deconstruct
3. Teenage Love Song
2. Pull Me In Tighter
1. With Arms Outstretched
Honorable Mention: Bulletproof