I first became aware of Jenny Lewis through the backing vocals she did for The Postal Service (for instance on the great track The District Sleeps Alone Tonight). Soon after I got to see her in action when Rilo Kiley was the opening act for a Bright Eyes concert I attended in Utrecht’s Tivoli in 2005. I was there with friends RW & MB and we were immediately charmed off our socks by catchy (if somewhat melodramatic) songs like Portions for Foxes and Does He Love You from their 2004 album More Adventurous. Last year Lewis released her critically acclaimed solo debut ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’, featuring The Watson Twins.

Under The BlacklightBut apparently Lewis has plenty of creative energy to go around as Rilo Kiley have now put out their fourth album Under The Blacklight [August 2007]. I Sadly just missed their show supporting their new album in Paradiso on the 24th due to severe lack of funds…
I loved their albums The Execution of All Things and More Adventurous, and therefore was a bit puzzled when I first played this one. What’s with all the poppy beats and smooth background vocals? Is it secretly a concept album, a time warp to the Dreams-era of Fleetwood Mac? Once I got past the fact that it’s simply very different from their previous releases, I got to like it. Sure it’s very polished and almost eerily radio friendly, but the album has a very consistent sound and Lewis’ vocals are still great. The only downfall of all this newfound consistency is that there aren’t really any firecracker songs that shoot out from among the so-so ones.

Watch the video for the opening track Silver Lining:

I do have some some songs that get played more often though. Opener Silver Lining still has that laid back country guitar twang, Lewis’ voice easily switching from the lower to the higher registers and her trademark bittersweet lyrics: “I never felt so wicked as when I willed our love to die”. The next song is my personal favourite: Close Call. It’s Lewis in her storytelling mode, like some of the best songs with The Watson Twins (for instance the title track, Rabbit Fur Coat). Add to this some great Kate Bush-esque vocals: it’s a winner. Also the extremely poppy Breakin’ Up, The Moneymaker and Under The Blacklight are noteworthy.

Watch the video for The Moneymaker:

However… Why the Spanish lyrics in Dejalo? Why the extremely repetitive and toot achingly sweet lyrics “give a little love to get a little love” in the closing song? And I like the sound of Smoke Detector, but am I seriously listening to a song about cigarette smoke in a club? And if so, am I missing its tongue in cheek appeal? I hope so.

In short, it’s a bit of a conundrum this one. My worst nightmare is that a track like Breakin’ Up is going to be played on those coma-inducing-radiostations, back to back with Jewel and Dido, and stay at home mom’s the world over will swing their backsides to it while hoovering the room. It’s just so dangerously poppy. On the other hand who needs a replica of their previous work and that tune Close Call is damn good…

You can listen to 30 second snippets through Studio Brussel’s website by clicking here. What do you make of it?