Rilo Kiley - Rkives (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Rilo Kiley

Rkives (2013)

Little Record Company

I forgot how versatile Jenny Lewis can be with her voice. Sure, she kept putting out records after Rilo Kiley's polarizing final full-length, Under the Blacklight, but they all felt like genre exercises. Touring through Rilo Kiley's tunes means jumping from indie to folk to classic rock. Lewis could coo and shout, build up and burn, all on a whim. For a couple of years, Rilo Kiley were one of the better rock bands around. After a lengthy silence, fans finally get an obituary in the form of Rkives, a compelling rarities comp.

For a band keen to hop around (Seriously, go tour through More Adventurous again), Rilo Kiley's rarity comp actually feels more whole than it should. Under the Blacklight let down a lot of fans, so it's surprising that some of the best tracks here are from those same sessions. Opener "Let Me Back In (I ♥ LA)" may have been in the band's live show prior to 2007, but it sounds so full here with horns. "It'll Get You There" and "Runnin' Around" have the same hard luck drama. "I Remember You," featuring Benji Hughes, is a hard luck love song with an early '80s Prince vibe (ergo it is the best thing ever).

Also there is a rap song. It's a remix of "Dejalo" featuring Too $hort and Lewis raps and she is good and what the fuck. It might be even better than the Prince worship. Other choice cuts include Adventurous b-sides "Patiently" and "American Wife." "The Frug," from the band's first EP, holds up as a super-catchy twee ditty. I get why the band members try to distance themselves from it (that second verse is awful), but it's a sweet pop confection.

Co-songwriter Black Sennett gets a couple of tracks in, "Well, You Left" and an alternate version of "Rest of My Life," but much like on Rilo Kiley's full-lengths, Lewis outshines him. Additionally, while the quality is generally pretty consistent, it still feels a little incomplete. Why the members saw fit to bury a two-minute hidden track after 10 minutes of silence instead of rotating in more Initial Friend cuts or "Jenny, You're Barely Alive" is beyond me. Still, Rkives is an excellent time capsule. Here's Rilo Kiley, preserved and earnest and hooky as ever.