More Adventurous

Band: Rilo Kiley
Album: More Adventurous
Best song: “Portions for Foxes” is wonderful. “It’s a Hit” is nice, but strained.
Worst song: “Ripchord.” Not great.

I sorta (though not harshly enough) lambasted my favorite entertainment Web site for including Rilo Kiley’s Under the Blacklight on its best of 2007 piece. Under the Blacklight didn’t connect with me on any level, which is weird, because I adore Jenny Lewis’ work.

Which brings me to this album. More Adventurous is not a brilliant piece of art and I don’t know that it’s wildly better than Under the Blacklight. I do know one thing. “Portions for Foxes” is the best song on which Lewis has played or sang. Hands down.

The Postal Service’s “Nothing Better” — on which Lewis guests — comes close, as it’s a beautifully aching portrait of a post-breakup couple’s difference in leverage. From Lewis’ solo album, “Rise Up With Fists” and “You Are What You Love” can makes cases, as each has a pretty melody and one great lyrical bit (“I’ve won hundreds at the track, but I’m not betting on the afterlife” and “And I’m in love with illusions, so saw me in half/I’m in love with tricks/So pull another rabbit out of your hat.”).

But, “Portions for Foxes” describes — from what I remember, being that I’m apparently radioactive to women — the kind of relationship we’ve all been in. Running through the timeline of a screwed-up relationship, Lewis begins the song easily with the type of proclamation left for bad Alanis Morrisette and great Elliott Smith songs: “There’s blood in my mouth ’cause I’ve been biting my tongue all week.”

The protagonist in the song hasn’t lost her affinity for the antagonist in the song. She’s lonely and can’t forget the guy, singing the most forceful portion of the song:

When the loneliness leads to bad dreams
and the bad dreams lead me to callin’ you
and I call you and say “C’MERE!”

All the while, the song’s chorus is everpresent, coming between various stanzas. Lewis warns of her own intentions “And it’s bad news/Baby I’m bad news/I’m just bad news, bad news, bad news” early until she changes her tune late into the song.

Over a small harmonic that turns into a soft stomping, the final verse takes an early line and turns it on the antagonist:

There’s a pretty young thing in front of you
and she’s real pretty and she’s real into you
and then she’s sleepin’ inside of you
and the talkin’ leads to touchin’
then touchin’ leads to sex
and then there is no mystery left.

This leads Lewis to change the lyrics to “You’re bad news,” and works around that. Back on the sorta jealous/sorta lonely/sorta understanding track, Lewis’ voice is strong throughout. The band’s greatest strength, Lewis’ sweet womanvoice is fantastic.

The rest of album isn’t bad, per se. Indeed, there are a several good songs. Robert Christgau really enjoyed “It’s a Hit,” but I think Pitchfork was right on in calling it’s lack of good political sublty. Comparing Bush to a monkey is both overdone and misses the point. “Absence of God” is right up my alley and “Love and War (11/11/46)” is wonderful. “I Never” portends Lewis’ foray into solo work by adopting a county tone, though the song gets “Hey Jude”ish by the end. Jimmy Tamborello — with whom Lewis worked on the Postal Service record — produces “Accidntel Death,” providing an odd, but fun outlet for a different sound. “It Just Is” is not the best eulogoy song I’ve ever heard, but in the wake of some things in my life recently, I like it more than I probably should.

More Adventurous falls into the twee far too often, but the results are pretty good. Certainly, it has the best Rilo Kiley song and the best Jenny Lewis performance.

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    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

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