Rilo Kiley: Sellouts or Sly Foxes?

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Rilo Kiley“Ambition,” said Oscar Wilde, “is the last refuge of failure,” although the Wilde I remember from the “Monty Python” sketch also said “your majesty is a big jam donut with cream on top,” so who knows what he was talking about. But in the world of indie rock, even a whiff of ambition can cause fainting spells, so Rilo Kiley must have known they were taking a risk on Under the Blacklight, out today on Warner Bros. It’s a fascinating album, but in a raunchy, funky, and yes, poppy (or populist) way, and judging by the “listeners also bought” section on their iTunes page (Camera Obscura, Tegan & Sara, Belle & Sebastian!), their fans may not follow along.

The LA foursome’s last album spawned an unlikely hit, the charming, countrified “Portions for Foxes,” in which lead singer Jenny Lewis insists she’s “bad news.” But even in that traditional-sounding song, there were hints of bawdiness: “The talking leads to touching/And the touching leads to sex/And then there is no mystery left.” The first single from Blacklight, “The Moneymaker,” takes that “sex” thing and runs with it, with a naughty soft-core video, but really, the lyrics are all about Rilo Kiley signing to a major label and working with Maroon 5’s producer: “You’ve got the moneymaker/This is your chance to make it.”

Musically, Blacklight is both more polished and more adventurous than their previous work, using all the conventions of pop—beats, synths, and sex—but challenging your notions of what they can do. “Breakin’ Up” is almost a disco number, with call-and-response background singers and a doodly keyboard solo, and “Dreamworld” is reminiscent enough of Fleetwood Mac to make magazines say that on their covers. Not all the tracks are this successful—”Give A Little Love” may be a parody of cheesy 80s ballads, or it may actually be one.

Blur gained critical adulation by inhabiting different genres on each album; can Rilo Kiley get away with it? Reviews are mixed: some are crying “sellout,” and some are appreciative of the band “prioritizing the booty.” How odd, by the way, that in the world of rock bands with angelic female singers, it was the one with “porn” in their name that put out the limp, sexless album. Here, Rilo Kiley get down and dirty, and whether you pay attention to the sneaky, self-referential meta-narrative or not, the payoff is sweaty and satisfying.

Listen to two tracks at their MySpace page.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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