This week, we spotlight Rilo Kiley’s More Adventurous.
More Adventurous was released in August of 2014. It was the band’s third album and last great album. Although its hard to follow Take-offs & Landings (2001) and The Execution of All Things (2002), More Adventurous was a moderate success. It was their bid for a position in the mainstream.
The album builds up, peaks, and then winds down. There are a lot of different types of songs. Some are accessible verse/chorus/verse and others are more long-form stories. Lyrically, the album focuses on themes like sincerity, heartbreak, independence, and the blues.
The defining characteristic of Rilo Kiley is vocal interplay between Blake Sennett and Jenny Lewis. Like the previous Rilo albums, this album is full of witty love songs with unique verse structures and catchy hooks. But unlike the other albums, Sennett sings lead on only one track, “Ripcord.”
By opening the album with “It’s a Hit,” Rilo Kiley certifies their intentions. The lyrics take on phonies. Sure, a chimp can play a human and anyone can convince a sorority they meant to be a “Greek,” but authenticity is the goal. In the end though, even the best shot at saying authentic may not matter. “But it’s a sin when success complains / And your writer’s block, it don’t mean shit/ Just throw it against the wall and see what sticks/ Got to write a hit/ I think this is it/ It’s a hit,” sings Lewis.
“Portions for Foxes” takes the cake as the album’s most memorable song. It starts with that great guitar melody. Lewis exclaims “And it’s bad news/ Baby, I’m bad news.” Lewis embraces her actions and finds power in shared experiences. At the end, she sings “You’re just damage control / for a walking corpse like me/ like you.” We are all just bad news.
And then the album peaks. Tracks 6 through 10 supply the strongest punch of any Rilo album.
“The Absence of God” and “Accidntel Deth” are two unusual songs because there is not much of a chorus. Each is a throwback to Rilo Kiley’s earlier material when long verses were emphasized over simple choruses. “The Absence of God” has a quiet 1970’s folk inspired melody and sounds like an ode to “Operator (That’s Not How It Feels” by Jim Croce.
“Accidntel Deth” has an new-wave, electronica-infused melody and was produced by Jimmy Tamborello, fellow member of The Postal Service. It is a preview of The Postal Service’s excellent album Give Up.
“More Adventurous” urges the listener to take risks with sweet inflections. Harmonica is peppered through the song and the lyric “I read with every broken heart/ We should become more adventurous” is basically the mantra of the band and the fan base. It is easy to feel hopeful while listening to this song.
“Love and War (11/11/46)” kicks things up a notch. It is a strong display of Lewis’s powerful vocals and the band’s overall strong guitar skills. The claps in the background add a nice touch and at the end, the band imparts advice: “You get what you deserve/ You’d better spend it well.”
“A Man/Me/Then Jim” is a three part story of three different people all dealing with heartbreak and loss in their own way. It is an example of the unique songwriting partnership between Sennett and Lewis. They are able to tell a story from different angles while professing a common theme: “the slow fade of love.”
The closing song, “It Just Is,” has a downturn in tempo. In the lyrics, the band expresses a sort of “so it goes” attitude. After one short introduction verse, the chorus is repeated over and over again. Lewis is a crooner as she sings, “And this loss isn’t good enough/ For sorrow or inspiration/ It’s such a loss for the good guys/ Afraid of this life/ That it just is/ Because everybody dies.”
10 years later, More Adventurous proved to have an everlasting impact. It had one toe in the mainstream ocean and one toe in the indie-pop pool. For Rilo Kiley, heartbreak results in empowerment. They assert progress while emphasizing the importance of the past. Life is a learning experience. It’s about joining with your peers and singing-along.
While the band seemed to be poised for mainstream success, it was not in the cards. Their follow-up, Under the Blacklight (2007), was mostly forgotten. The band disbanded after releasing Rkives (2013), an album of b-sides and rare tracks.
While Jenny Lewis is doing her own thing and will probably find success on her own in whichever scene she penetrates, Blake Sennett’s The Elected has failed to find any exposure. I am a fan of Sennett’s voice, style, and The Elected but I believe he is an underrated member of Rilo Kiley’s history and impact.