With all of the luxuries afforded them for their first album on a major, Rilo Kiley’s Under the Blacklight reveals a new turbo-charged, super-produced sound. All of the sudden, Rilo Kiley wears the many masks of pop music, using Jenny Lewis’ vocals to push the momentum of their big studio sound through a variety of Top 40-style tunes.
Under the Blacklight has an attention-seeking aura, starting from the top, and diving in and out of national radio-sized beats and sugary serenades. The opening track, “Silver Lining” features Lewis’ vocals like they were recorded on a stoop, while a finger-snapping beat and neon melody coast effortlessly. “Close Call” has a modern Nashville sound: punctuated beats, a soaring chorus, and snappy vocals. “The Moneymaker” is more cynical than the others, with a funk-pop beat and Lewis’ dire strain, but then the disco ball spinning “Breakin’ Up” is truly a highlight of the album.
The band covers pretty much every modern pop sound out there on Under the Blacklight. They channel Gloria Estefan & The Miami Sound Machine on “Dejalo”. “15” features a flickering riff and fanfare, giving Lewis the opportunity for some soulful twang. “Smoke Detector” is a 60’s girl-pop throwback. And though Lewis dominates most of the album, Blake Sennett’s vocals show up on “Dreamworld”, which wouldn’t be tough to mistake a Fleetwood Mac studio reunion.
Under the Blacklight is essentially a pop anthology, cruising through a wide array of the radio-friendly sounds of the last fifty years. The band’s skilled enough, and Lewis’ vocals are versatile enough to pull it off, but it lacks any true hits and has a librarian quality. They’ve got the chops, but deep down inside, aren’t a pop machine capable of pulling off the variety with definitive depth.
MP3 Stream: “Breakin’ Up”