“Let it be printed, let it be known, I’m leaving you, I’m going home, and all you can do is watch me go” — those are the appropriate opening lyrics from “Let Me Back In,” the first song — and one of the strongest tracks — on the late band Rilo Kiley’s cleverly titled rarities collection RKives. (The song was previously circulated among die-hard fans under the title “I Love L.A.”) The sixteen song collection features nine never-before-released tracks, various demos, B-sides and otherwise previously difficult to find tracks. (A deluxe bundle also includes a cassette tape of otherwise unreleased demos.) The collection has been lovingly released on bassist Pierre de Reeder’s own label, Little Record Company, though the entire band collaborated on choosing the tracks for the release, as well as the album’s art, which consists of many rare and personal photos of the band from throughout their career, which began fourteen years ago with their first self-released EP.
Maybe I’m biased, being a longtime fan of the band, but I honestly don’t think there’s a single bad song in this collection and it’s one of the very best releases I’ve heard all year. Which shouldn’t be surprising — Rilo Kiley were one of the best bands of the last two decades and many of us are still hoping for a proper reunion and new album. But this collection serves as a nice new-ish album in the meantime, even if we’ve heard several of these cuts before.
One of the highlights here is “Draggin’ Around,” which was previously released as a B-side to the single “The Moneymaker,” from the band’s brilliant final album Under The Blacklight. A slow burner of a ballad, it’s got a bit of a country, or even folk, vibe to it and especially reminds me of First Aid Kit and Angus & Julia Stone. If there’s one track that I wish the group had included here that didn’t make the cut it would be the other B-side of “The Moneymaker,” the somewhat melancholic “Big Break.” (Although, honestly, it probably should have appeared on Under The Blacklight, being that the album was something of a concept album about porn stars in L.A. and the song chronicled one person’s so-called big break.) Then again, I mostly wish that this collection included even more previously unreleased songs, which is why I plan to shell out the money for the deluxe bundle so I can get that cassette of otherwise unreleased material when I get my next deposit.
Back onto the subject of Under The Blacklight, there is a sole remix on RKives and it’s of one of the album’s best songs, “Dejalo.” Dubbed the “Zondo Remix Featuring Too $hort,” the remix gives the song a nice punchy beat and also uses a clapper with marvelous results. The rap part by the relatively unknown Too $hort is the only hip-hop on this collection and feels slightly out of place for that reason, but it does work quite well in the context of the remix itself.
Anybody who owns a Rilo Kiley album can tell you that Jenny Lewis does not sing lead vocals on every single one of their tracks. Typically, each of their albums features one or two tracks where guitarist Blake Sennett sings lead, his voice ever-mellow and laid back, somewhat in the vein of Elliott Smith or Joshua Radin. On RKives, he sings lead on a mid-tempo song called “Well, You Left.” It’s an interesting track because it gives Blake the opportunity to be especially emotive, even putting forth a bit of anger, meanwhile he lays down a long and groovy guitar solo that elevates the song from being great to being something truly awesome. In fact, the solo takes up roughly the final third of the 6+ minute track and it grows in intensity as the song progresses, ultimately turning it into something rather epic.
Other tracks that make this collection a must-have are the upbeat “All The Drugs,” the biting “I’ll Get You There,” and the subtle “I Never” B-side “American Wife,” arguably one of the group’s trippiest songs ever. Even if you’ve only ever owned one or two Rilo Kiley albums, chances are you would find this collection a very worthwhile and rewarding investment.