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Confessions on a Dance Floor: Under the Blacklight

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From the first beat of “Silver Lining”, Rilo Kiley announces a truly more adventurous sound – one that departs from country-tinged acoustics and embraces slick beats with a retro flair. Under the Blacklight, the first effort from the band since 2004, is Rilo Kiley’s unapologetic brush with the dance floor. On the first track, the deliriously catchy “Silver Lining”, Rilo Kiley boasts a sound somewhere between techno and soul. Over handclaps and an R&B chorus, Jenny Lewis croons like a blue-eyed soul songstress. Following it is the ambient rock anthem “Close Call”, and “The Moneymaker”, the album’s first single and, quite possibly, Rilo Kiley’s sexiest track ever. “Breakin’ Up”, a swaggering disco tune about a cell phone breakup, contains classic Rilo Kiley qualities: majestic musical styling and biting lyrics.

The album’s title track is a haunting song that recalls the melancholy sound of the band’s earlier work. “Dreamworld” is an ethereal dream-pop confection that sounds like Broken Social Scene stuck in the 70s. Next is “Dejalo”, a bold song that walks the line between Latin pop and Talking Heads new wave. Following it is the cautionary tale about internet dating, “15”, a Dusty Springfield-inspired showcase for Jenny Lewis’s stunning vocals; “Smoke Detector”, Rilo Kiley’s ode to Californian summer (complete with surf-board sensibility); and “The Angels Hung Around”, a breezy retreat to the alternative-country/folk sound of More Adventurous. The closing track, “Give a Little Love” is a beautiful, spare sounding track with an insistent chorus that doesn’t let go ever after the album is over. Like a true party, Under the Blacklight lures you subtly, pulls you in tightly, throws you for a loop, and sends you on out with only the glorious memories of a wild night.

Under the Blacklight is easily Rilo Kiley’s most sonically ambitious album. Jenny Lewis previously stated that it was the band’s “sexiest album ever” and this new sound is sure to alienate some longtime fans but it takes a certain bravery to take such a bold step as a band. With the aid of producers Mike Elizondo and Jason Leder, who have worked with everyone from Jay-Z to Fiona Apple, Rilo Kiley has produced an album with a new sound that they immediately own. It would be easy for some to proclaim it a sellout, but if listened to closely (under the black light, if you will), its complexities are revealed: lyrical subtlety, musical genius, and a newfound sexiness. Rilo Kiley’s fourth album is a huge step forward in creative development and an ode to the glamour and darkness of Los Angeles. If nothing else, Under the Blacklight proves that, as a band, Rilo Kiley has their heart in the right place, the brains to pen compelling songs, and the courage to get their groove on.

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Rating:
Four Stars (out of Four)