Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis covered the Traveling Wilburys’ wizened 1988 sing-along “Handle With Care” on her solo debut last year, and she wasn’t kidding. Under the Blacklight lets us know just how not kidding she was. Clearly, “I love the ’80s” means many things to many people, and these Los Angeles indie-rockers gone major are too wily to settle for cheeky synth-pop pastiche. Instead, with producers Jason Lader and Mike Elizondo (the Dr. Dre/Eminem studio hand who helped retool Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine), Rilo Kiley uncover a trove of sounds from the dated production trends that Reagan-era boomers clung to against the new-wave undertow.
Witty, versatile guitarist Blake Sennett lifts a riff from Billy Joel’s “A Matter of Trust” for “Silver Lining,” then rides an icy groove midway between late-disco Stones and early solo Robert Plant on “The Moneymaker.” Lewis’ wordplay smartly unspools over the course of a song — with “Breakin’ Up,” she creates a “Since U Been Gone” for grown-ups, and on “15,” narrates an Internet jailbait vignette without melodrama or moralizing. The former child actress heartily gives herself over to a variety of roles, whether shimmering in the synthetic amber of mid-’80s Fleetwood Mac on “Dreamworld” or breaking off a white-girl sing-rap (shades of Blondie’s “Rapture”) on “Dejalo.” And the pained catch in her throat remains so surefire a heart-grabber that she could probably sing “We Built This City” and make you believe it.
Now Watch This: Rilo Kiley – “Silver Lining” QUICKTIME
More on Rilo Kiley: Rilo Kiley on the Sept. 2007 issue of Spin