The Execution of All Things
First Appeared at The Music Box, October 2003, Volume 10, #10
Written by Michael Karpinski
Seattle... Austin... Detroit.... It seems only a matter of time before every American city gets its 15 minutes in the indie-rock-hotbed spotlight. So why the hell not Omaha? And why the hell not now?
After all, Omaha has long been a contributor to the collective culture — spawning such Clonaid-impervious originals as Jack Nicholson, Gerald Ford, Fred Astaire, and Malcolm X; serving as home and muse to black-antic, smart-alec auteur Alexander Payne (Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt); and, most relevant to our present purposes, supplying shelter and a post-office box for Saddle Creek Records — home-away-from-home to Conor Oberst’s Bright Eyes, Detroit’s The Faint, and the up-and-coming California quartet Rilo Kiley.
Formed in 1998, Rilo Kiley released its first album (Take Offs and Landings) in 2001, then hit the road as openers for the Breeders, Pedro the Lion, and Superchunk. Take Offs’ tunes were a loosely-strung set of bashful amblers — semi-polished; never precious; and not above building to mini-epiphanies and spontaneous sing-alongs when not indulging in random fits of band-on-a-bender, countrified clatter.
The Execution of All Things, Rilo Kiley’s 2002 follow-up, remains eccentric enough in its instrumentation and arrangements to make room for glockenspiel, "orchestra bells," and "boy choir" (featuring the aforementioned Mr. Oberst), but the overall feel is smarter, sharper, finer, fuller. Newly introduced layers of technical doo-daddery add welcome heft without getting in the way of the songs’ natural sense of momentum — as Spectacular Views, My Slumbering Heart, and the crackling title track well attest. Though Rilo Kiley’s lead-vocal duties are technically split between Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett, it’s Lewis who gets the lion’s-share — her voice is cool, crisp, and Neko Case-esque in the very best sense. Sennett’s pipes almost can’t help but pale by comparison, but he holds his own on the charming So Long, and his consistently supple, understated guitar work positively shimmers, first track to last. Finally, be sure not to miss the genial ether-greeting Hail to Whatever You Found in the Sunlight that Surrounds You — which sounds like nothing so much as a long-lost interlude from Hair — its bittersweet strum and Birkenstock stomp taking a brief, free-love tumble in the ganja-grass. Cue the flower children! Let the sunshine in! Orgify!
At this very moment, some new musical artist or group may be on the verge of breaking out big in a city near you. A Milli-Vanilli cover-band from Atlanta or Dallas? An Arkansas power-pop trio that eschews verse-chorus-verse for hog-calls and xylophone solos? An eco-folk fusion duo from Decatur whose entire canon consists of Have You Ever Seen the Rain?, Who’ll Stop the Rain?, and a goosebump-inducing, call-and-response rendering of the Carpenters’ Rainy Days and Mondays? Well... who can say? Only time will tell.
But, for now: All hail Rilo Kiley! All hail Omaha! ½
The Execution of All Things is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box