Rilo Kiley had a Hollywood sort of beginning: Two ex-child actors somehow found each other in the smog and smarm of Los Angeles. Jenny Lewis, the charmingly idiosyncratic songwriter with a country-strong voice, and Blake Sennett, the blue-collar guitarist who cuts his pop hooks with noise and swagger, started a rock band. And the music they made together was pretty, and pretty weird, for a rock band.
But after a decade of musical bliss, they robbed us of the happily ever after by breaking up in 2010. In one interview, Sennett cited disloyalty and greed as the causes. In another he compared Rilo Kiley to a corpse in a morgue. “Now, I see movies where the dead get up and walk. And when they do that, rarely do good things happen.”
rkives — the Rilo Kiley estate’s new odds ‘n’ sods collection — is hardly a full on Walking Dead situation, but it is proof that this zombie will still hunt. Mostly unreleased or barely released, these tracks span the band’s career to create a lovely and peculiar listening experience. The antsy, lo-fi demo of the Sennett-sung “Rest of My Life” from 2001′s Take Offs and Landings can’t be from the same planet as this clubby remix of the Lewis-sung “Dejalo” from 2007′s Under the Blacklight — and, hey, Too $hort just popped up for a verse about tapping asses, just in case you weren’t confused. Good old “Frug,” meanwhile, a favorite from Rilo Kiley’s earliest self-releases, returns sweet and untouched, a marvel of meet-cute pop from the pre-ass-tapping era. “Emotional” roars with thick, blunt bravado.
rkives‘ most stunning standout is a road-tested favorite finally getting the studio treatment. Once known as “I Love L.A.” (suck it, Randy Newman), “Let Me Back In” is Lewis’ sweet and sour torch song for her hometown. Basically, she’s Jenny and Los Angeles is Forrest Gump: “When the palm trees bow their heads/ no matter how cruel I’ve been/ L.A., you always let me back in.” Kinda-sorta hopeful. Maybe we’ll get our happily ever after, after all.