Much like Colin Farell in Daredevil and those baseball catapults, these guys never miss. Rilo Kiley’s much-awaited third album, More Adventurous, further proves their musical brilliance. Yes, their sound changed through their last album, Execution of All Things, from their Take-offs and Landing days, but this one is the fully evolved version of an indie gem. The fast and edgy songs are somewhat softened by trumpets, hailing from their early album, and the addition of an orchestra enriches every flowing riff and refrain.
What makes Rilo Kiley unique is their ability to tell stories. While songs about heartbreak and love and all that are the most prevalent, Rilo Kiley takes the overlooked miseries and triumphs of everyday life and sings it out loud, narrating the stories of a woman in love with a married man, looking back on past lovers after a funeral, societies ridiculous monotonies, the dangerous obsession of sex, general loneliness, the war of love, and so forth. While addressing the specific details of such events, there’s still that ambiguous mystery that all musicians have that distinguishes their work from others.
Rilo Kiley, comprised of Jenny Lewis, Blake Sennett, Pierre de Reeder, and Jason Boesel, have been doing their thing since 2001 (originally since 1998, but not with all the band members today). Gathering rising numbers of fans across the States, a recent show at the Knitting Factory in New York was a total smash. Despite the surprisingly tiny venue, they still managed to be the rock gods they are with hordes of people inches from their faces. They played old classics and plenty of new material while their openers joined them in on the fun. I’m sorry to say that I cannot recall the names of these two openers because, I guess due to the intimate environment, they mumbled an informal “Hi, I’m so-and-so andnowI’mgoingtoplayasong-” (but I can tell you that they were both one-man shows and very good in a mellow fashion). Their gradual climb to mainstream is well deserved (and about time!), yet they still retain their indie street cred- a feat accomplished by few.
Their newest album, More Adventurous, is quite what it means. While branching away from their previous album’s slightly melancholy undertones, this one is a keen, more upbeat version of the last. Now with Lewis’ trademark tarty voice, their ventures into folk and country have a truly authentic twang. That same voice can scream and holler with the best of them in the edgy rock tracks as well. Sennett also lends his forlorn vocals on certain tracks. There isn’t an album where he hasn’t. What sets apart More Adventurous from their previous ventures is that their subject matter grows more intense as their music changes to compliment it. The addition of some killer violins in “Does He Love You” totally proves this point.
If there are any newbies to the indie music scene, Rilo Kiley will definitely be on the pop quiz. Any scenester worth their street cred knows that these guys are the ones to spin in their Discmans or iPods. And any appreciator of musical genius will most definitely have to add Rilo Kiley to his or her collection- no question about it.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.