Watch MTV lately? Good, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Have you ever seen those commercials? You know the ones “I listen to what other people tell me, now I’m a midget." Then at the end it says some catchy little thing like “Crack is Whack". Isn’t that hypocritical? Those commercials seem to say “Don’t listen to them, they don’t know anything. Listen to us, we’re smart, we graduated college". Those commercials piss the crap out of me.
While listening to Indie darlings Rilo Kiley’s sophomore release, The Execution of All Things I’ve come to realize something. Rilo Kiley’s attitude towards childhood is the exact opposite of this one. Children don’t get where they get with out getting into trouble. Experimenting with sex, drugs and violence is a huge part of being a teenager and living your life. But hey, if you’re a virgin till your 34 and never touch a dimebag of weed more power to you, but the fact is as a teenager life is all about having fun and learning from your mistakes. You can hear this is Jenny Lewis’s soft spoken vocals that she agrees with this. Heck, she grew up in Las Vegas! From the second the first song is over you know you’ve heard something special.
Before recording The Execution, Rilo left their home base of Los Angeles, often known as a musicians place to make it, for the guys’ home state of Nebraska. Jenny claims they wanted the record to reflect what they grew up with and have a cozy feel to it. In doing so they left well known indie Barsuk (Previous home to Death Cab, Nada Surf and They Might be Giants) for Nebraska’s pride and joy, Saddle Creek. The change proved to be a good thing because Rilo’s albums kept improving in sales up to their hit major label album “More Adventurous". During their time spent in Nebraska bassist Pierre de Reeder also became a father. Though he is not one of the band’s main songwriters, the essence of a confused, but happy parent seems to be intertwined into all the melodies.
The record could be the perfect soundtrack to a heart breaking movie about parents losing control of their children or a coming of age film like no other. It gives me the same feeling as I get from watching a movie like Garden State. It makes me think “I can’t wait to be like that". Sure, Rilo Kiley is built upon being an individual, but hey, I’m being honest. Maybe it’s not exactly like that, but I want to feel fun and freedom like these people do, I want that feeling. Being a teenager is about transformation. Girls who wanted to be like Ariel from the Little Mermaid now look to beautiful frontgirl, Jenny Lewis for guidance. And good hell if she doesn’t give it to them.
Songs like album opener, “The Good Things That Won’t Come Out" and the album’s unofficial centerpiece, “A Better Son/Daughter" should have become instant coming of age classics. The latter echoes fairy tale music before blasting into a sorta rocking country tune. “The lows are so extreme that the good seems f**king cheap and it teases you for weeks in its absence" Jenny sings with a sense of self-doubt. The whole song is about “self assurance" as the New York Times so rightfully put it. When listening, this album’s music, it’s not so surprising that Jenny would later go on the form a country/folk group with two Asian(?) girls. Beneath the tasteful guitars and quiet basslines lies the sound of a few kids reared on country classics (though Jenny herself was raised on the lounge music of her parents). The whole album’s sound is pure genius.
Surprisingly enough the songwriting team of Rilo Kiley met at high school before becoming actors/actress’. They acted together in a few television series, namely Once and Again, before recording their first full length. Guitarist and songwriter Blake Sennett’s warbly voice appears on track #9, Three Hopeful Thoughts, a more alternative rock focused indie track. It’s one of the heavier tracks on the album and features the most prominent guitar work. Toned with hints of treble and alot of distortion they essentially hold up the track, backed by Blake’s conservative falsetto. His voice also appears accompanying Jenny’s on the next track; A tinkling acoustic number entitled With Arms Outstretched. The raw vocal duet gives the song the feel of a bar sing-along.
The Execution of All Things ends on the back of the epic rocker, Spectacular Views and fades off after an outro reminiscent of a carnival ride’s soundtrack. All of a sudden the same voice that was shouting profanities is a timid song girl singing about love on an ice rink. All is calm as the outro plays through without a sound.
The Execution of All Things is one of the most refreshing records of the new millennium; mixing one part innocence, one part ferociousness and another part someone who just wants to relax at home, the record really captures the thoughts of a fledgling parent, an emotionally broken teenager, a confused middle aged adult or a curious child. It has a little bit of everything, but still manages to sound tight and beautiful, instead of genre confused mishmash. Truly beautiful pop music was truly difficult to find in 2001. Rap-Rock and Trashy Pop music for the most part, had the radio and television in a choke-hold. Beauty found.
The Good That Won’t Come Out
A Better Son/Daughter
Three Hopeful Thoughts
With Arms Outstretched
Overall rating: 4.7/5