REVIEW: Rilo Kiley: The Execution of All Things
Rilo Kiley: The Execution of All Things [Saddle Creek, 2002] (mp3s)
Three words? Execution of Mediocrity
The Execution of All Things is Rilo Kiley's newest album and their first released on Saddle Creek. While it is an improvement on the Barsuk-released Take Offs and Landings, it is far from a great album. The songs desperately strive to be catchy, but few of the melodies are memorable or ingenious. The quick-paced, acoustic "Hail to Whatever You Found in the Sunlight That Surrounds You" is all build-up and no pay-off, "Capturing Moods" is crippled by an annoying guitar lead and "With Arms Outstretched", with lyrics like "some days are longer than others/ but this day by the lake went too fast", is entirely too sappy.
However, the songs aren't totally responsible for all of Execution's disappointing moments. Mike Mogis should accept some of the blame. Mogis, a Saddle Creek house-producer (think of him as an emo Mannie Fresh), obviously recorded Execution in a state-of-the-art studio, so the fake lo-fi vocal-recording technique used to death throughout the entire album is quick to lose its charm. Jenny Lewis's voice is the main appeal of Rilo Kiley, so adding static to her singing is ridiculous. Maybe it is meant to distract us from the fact that the folks at Saddle Creek are richer than Christ off the allowance money of Tormented Teen America®. Or maybe they assume that sounding shitty on purpose is ironic. Either way, it all feels like the artificial ruggedness of Gap factory-faded jeans.
But Execution has a few highlights. The fourth track, "So Long", has Blake Sennett stepping up to lead vocals and pushing things in a more Beatles-esque direction. His voice is not as strong as Lewis' but it is pleasant enough, reminiscent of Sloan's Jay Ferguson. "Paint's Peeling" and the title track are also good, complete with strong composition and inventive narrative, capitalizing on Lewis' talents. And drummer Jason Boesel's kicks things up a few much-needed notches on many of the more acoustic-guitar-based songs.
The Execution of All Things is the sound of Rilo Kiley exactly hitting their stride sometimes and completely stalling the rest of the time. But they have shown us once how they can improve with time, so their next offering could be their Hotel California. Maybe they'll be signed to Jade Tree by then.