Sunday, September 06, 2009

Top 25 of the 2000s - #23

#23 - Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley

The first hint to what Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis is all about comes in the first track, “Silver Lining.” On first listen, it sounds like any other sappy pop song that you might hear on your average adult-contemporary radio station. I wasn’t that impressed, and for a while, I would listen to a bit of it, and then fast forward to the second song (one the album’s best), “Close Call.” But there was something about the opener that kept drawing me back, little snippets of the lyrics that – as I was running and listening on my MP3 player – made me wonder if this song was really like what I thought it sounded like. So I checked out the lyrics, and this is what I found:

And the grass it was a ticking
and the sun was on the rise
I never felt so wicked
as when I willed our love to die

and I was your silver lining as the story goes
I was your silver lining but now I’m gold
hooray hooray I’m your silver lining
hooray hooray but now I’m gold
hooray hooray I’m your silver lining
hooray hooray but now I’m gold

Aha…a breakup song, and a pretty damn joyous one at that, disguised as a love song.

Rilo Kiley is a band, but there’s no question that Jenny Lewis is the star. A former child actress with a fondness for micro-mini skirts, Lewis is one of the most interesting female stars of the decade, right up there with PJ Harvey and Liz Phair. And as with Harvey and Phair, sex plays an important role in many of Lewis’s songs. By Robert Christgau’s count, no less than five of the songs on Under the Blacklight are about sex, and not necessarily the safe variety. As Lewis sings in “Close Call:”

Funny thing about money for sex
You might get rich
But you die by it

It’s gonna be a close call

In “The Moneymaker” there’s little doubt what the protagonist of the song is doing to make money, and in “15” you meet the girl who is “down for anything,” wondering whether she’s going to grow up to be the moneymaker having the close calls.

Notwithstanding the subject matter, one of it feels cheap – the music is hard-edged, and if the desire hits you, you can even dance to it. And the one sing that Lewis doesn’t sing, “Dreamworld,” is a Fleetwood Mac homage so sharp that it sounds like it came straight off of Fleetwood Mac or Rumours.

Add it all up, and you have the #23 album of the decade.

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