Monday, November 26, 2007I was your silver lining, but now I'm gold
I've been to see Rilo Kiley on two occasions this year, once in August and once last week. The show in August was at Islington Academy, a relatively intimate venue. Having only heard Moneymaker from their latest album, Under the Blacklight, I was blown away by their new material. The moment the beat of Breakin' Up started was a definitive moment in my relationship with Rilo Kiley. Their progression from country pop to country-disco-pop was clear. Actually, I'd say their transition was rather to 'the best pop band in the whole world'. I bought the album the next day and was swept away by Jenny Lewis' even dreamier warm vocals, their glistening lyrics (really...), perfectly timed chord changes and west coast horizontalness.
When tickets for their gig at Shepherd's Bush Empire came on sale, I hesitated, wary that too many gigs mixeth not with a full time job. Puting the album on again I quickly changed my mind and bought a ticket. The leaves fell, the wind picked up, it rained, my roof leaked and soon enough it was 19th November.
Three months down the line, Under the Blacklight has failed to sell a huge amount of albums or gain much airplay since the initial critical acclaim it attracted. The gig was nice and full and Shepherd's Bush is a beautiful big venue, with four levels, ornate decor and a big stage. With a glittering gold backdrop, everything was in place for Rilo Kiley to play their landmark UK date. And it was just that. The whole band was astounded by the screams and cheers as they took to the stage, climaxing when the opening guitar of 'It's a Hit' were played. It makes a nice change seeing American bands, the smaller ones tend to be very happy to be playing here and not totally sick of playing the same cities five times a year. Rilo Kiley have never done a vast amount of promo or shows here and I imagine an enthusiastic 2,000 strong crowd must be something of a surprise.
It's so reassuring to watch bands who clearly love playing live, and being in a band together, as much as Rilo Kiley do. Their smiles, interactions, playing guitars body2body make their already convincing pop music all the more convincing. Too often are bands insencere, tired, jaded, uninspired and delivering dull and directionless second albums. On album number four Rilo Kiley keep diversifying, developing and getting it right. If you haven't listened to anything yet, hope over to their myspace and listen to Silver Lining. It's perfect.
Sunday, November 04, 2007Sons and Daughters still love you
Halloween has always been a big celebration in Scotland. My mum always threw amazing parties when I was small - we 'dooked' for apples, ate doughnuts off string, dressed up in intricate home-made costumes. In the last couple of years it's become a big celebration in England too. As I walked through Jack the Ripper's old stomping ground on the way to Rough Trade East a few witches darted out of taxis and into bars, but it was business as usual in E1. Inside the cavernous shop the punters were dressed as normal and gathered eagerly around the stage. Sons and Daughters, Glasgow's (and Scotland's and the World's) finest exports, were in town to promote their new single, Gilt Complex, which is the lead single to their forthcoming third album This Gift. Compared to the poky little basement of Rough Trade in Neals Yard, East affords more than 10 people into an instore gig - which is handy as quite a few people were there to check out S&Ds.
They were not to be disappointed. Ailidh, Adele, Scott and David walked on stage in Halloween costumes which would put even my mum's to shame. They did not seem at all sheepish that they were the only ones who'd taken this pagan celebration seriously. I had donned a pair of patent black shoes, but I don't think this sufficed. They opened with Gilt Complex, which sounded more menacing live. After a round or two of applause the audience would fall into deathly silence between songs - it reminded me of the few times I had seen Sons and Daughters supporting other bands and the audience were totally taken aback by their banshee-like stage presence. Dance Me In got the crowd swaying, while the new songs encouraged some serious foot-stomping. The only other 'old' song they played was Johnny Cash, which inspired an intense and energetic reaction.
The bulk of the set was new material and it was all brilliant. It seemed a little less celtic, a bit more classic rock'n'roll - and I don't mean as in Classic Rock magazine. The sound was bigger and bolder. Adele did some interesting things with her vocals. There was less mandolin. The second last song they played was called Chains and is their 'pop song'. It was amazing. It had a bittersweet, bouncy, punky feel to it. I was grinning all over - it was as though I saw the band transform in front of me. With a tour blog for NME, Bernard Butler twiddling the nobs on the new album and this big, more developed sound I have a quiet confidence that Sons and Daughters are going to be skipping up a league in the not too distant future. I'm seeing them again on 21st November (come! come!) so I'll have some more concrete views then.