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Under The Blacklight

Ahead of their Electric Picnic date, the LA rockers ditch their mainstream sheen on their fourth album.

Rating: 7 / 10

Adrienne Murphy, 23 Aug 2007

Under The Blacklight is the fourth album from the LA-based foursome Rilo Kiley. The slightly garish, end-of-the-nightclub, mascara-streaked, eye-contact-avoiding portrait photos on the CD artwork evoke the darker side of love and the seedier aspects of lust – appropriately enough, in that this is the milieu the record explores. One picture, depicting an elderly woman in black lace placing what appears to be a brain in a jar of formaldehyde on the bar, adds a touch of the surreal and resonates well with the music, which sheds its mainstream gloss, once a few listens have let the spikes of weirdness through.

Penned mainly by chief vocalist Jenny Lewis – whose gorgeously bittersweet voice has drawn Fleetwood Mac comparisons – the songs on Under The Blacklight are unusually diverse. The first half of the album is particularly strong, with a lovely country feel coming through Lewis’s rich, sure vocals.

The chorus of the title track is hypnotically beautiful, its imagery magical: “Under the black light/Like a black widow I’ll be crawling/Out in the garden/Into the pale moon/Under the black light/Down in the valley/Up in the dark blue...”. ‘Breaking Up’, meanwhile, is unusually upbeat and joyous, its sunny Motown sound the perfect vehicle for a track which actually celebrates break-ups, its chorus repeatedly exclaiming, ‘Ooh, yeah, feels good to be free!’ . Meanwhile, the Cocteau Twins-ish sound of ‘Dreamworld’ also suits its subject matter.

A dip in the quality of the songs in the second half is disappointing, but the momentum is restored by ‘Give A Little Love’, the final track. I’ll be checking Rilo Kiley out, live at The Electric Picnic on September 2nd.

Rating: 7 / 10
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