CD Reviews: Rilo Kiley successfully digs into 'Rkives'
Rilo Kiley (Little Record Co.)
As far I'm concerned, Jenny Lewis can do no wrong. It doesn't matter if she's performing solo or as one-half of the creative brain trust (with Blake Sennett) of indie pop outfit Rilo Kiley, I can listen to her sing all day long. Sadly, there have been no Rilo Kiley records since 2007's “Under the Blacklight” and Lewis' last solo foray was 2008's “Acid Tongue,” which means I've been in withdrawal for half a decade. While “Rkives” isn't new material from Rilo Kiley, it's the next best thing. This 17-track dip into the archives (get it?) features B-sides, demos, a remix and a half dozen never-before-heard rarities. By their very nature, these aren't Rilo Kiley's best songs, but they still knock it out of the park on “Let Me Back In,” “I'll Get You There,” personal fave “All the Drugs,” “I Remember You,” “Emotional” and “About the Moon” (with the Watson Twins). The Too $hort remix “Dejalo” doesn't click, but the rest is pure bliss.
‘True Love and Water'
Erica Buettner (Peppermoon)
Expatriate Erica Buettner calls France home these days, but the 27-year-old's “True Love and Water” debut has all the touchstones of classic American folk music. With a voice that reminds of Judy Collins and Joan Baez, Buettner recorded the 10-track release in her Paris home studio. The songs are lovely, showcasing Buettner's vocals to optimum effect, but the languid pace of the record makes it feel even longer than its 45-minute running time. Highlights include “Time Travelling,” the title track, “Our Most Fragile Things” and “A Tale of Norstein.”
‘She Paints Words in Red'
The House of Love (Cherry Red)
Timing is everything. And in the case of the House of Love, unfortunate timing likely kept them from being superstars. The British alt-rockers emerged in the late 1980s with a string of remarkable albums, but their rise to prominence coincided with the grunge explosion and the House of Love are virtual unknowns to casual music fans. The band split up after 1993's disappointing “Audience With the Mind” and other than a 2005 reunion album, it's been a quiet couple of decades. With original members Guy Chadwick, Terry Bickers and Pete Evans still in the fold, the House of Love are back with “She Paints Words in Red,” a 12-track slab they hope will renew interest in the band. Songs like “A Baby Got Back on Its Feet,” the title track, “Low Black Clouds,” “Trouble in My Mind” and “Holy River” are impressive. The chance at stardom has passed, but the House of Love still have songs left to sing.
Keaton Henson (Anti-)
With a gentle, world-weary voice that makes him sound older than his 24 years, British singer/songwriter Keaton Henson developed an almost cult-like following in the wake of his 2010 debut “Dear ...” Having battled shyness and stage fright his entire life, Henson's early performances consisted of playing songs one-on-one to a select few listeners. He's since moved on to more conventional approaches, but those early quirks only endeared him even more to his fans. Sophomore effort “Birthdays” has the kind of reflective indie folk tunes that helped make Bon Iver a Grammy winner. Among the many keepers here are “Teach Me,” “10 AM, Gare Du Nord,” “Lying to You,” “Don't Swim,” “Beekeeper” and “Sweetheart, What Have You Done With Us.” It's not a feel-good album by any stretch, but “Birthdays” is cause enough to celebrate life.
‘Ministry of Love'
Io Echo (IAMSOUND)
I wonder what the throngs at Coachella thought of indie electronic duo Io Echo when they performed at the renowned festival earlier this month. Because after several spins of the “Ministry of Love” full-length debut from Ioanna Gika and Leopold Ross, I'm still not sold on the twosome. Gika is an accomplished vocalist, but I found my attention wandering over the course of 55 minutes. At their best — “Shanghai Girls,” the title track, “Outsiders,” “Drag Love” and “Forget Me Not” — Io Echo are an intriguing band. Unfortunately, the album is weighed down by too many clunkers (“When the Lillies Die,” “Stalemate,” “Addicted”) to be an unqualified success.
‘Black Out the Sun'
It's been a case of diminishing returns in recent years for Atlanta-based rockers Sevendust, as their last two albums — 2008's “Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow” and 2010's “Cold Day Memory” — missed the mark. Ninth studio effort “Black Out the Sun” represents a (minor) bounce back for the veteran band. Frontman Lajon Witherspoon's voice is predictably strong, and Sevendust deliver the fiery goods on “Faithless,” “Till Death,” “Cold as War,” “Decay,” “Picture Perfect” and dynamite set closer “Murder Bar,” their best song in years. There's nothing terribly original about these 13 tracks, but at least the guys stick to doing what they do best.
The Band Perry (Universal Republic)
I've got a feeling that the Band Perry is one of those wildly popular outfits that never will be embraced by the critics. There's a meticulously crafted sheen to the country trio and though they'll likely churn out hit after hit, naysayers will dismiss them as products of the system rather than first-rate musicians. And that's a shame because “Pioneer,” like 2010's self-titled debut, is a wagon load of fun. There's no song as enduring as “If I Die Young” on this 12-track release, but the Kimberly Perry-fronted threesome score with “Better Dig Two,” “Don't Let Me Be Lonely,” the title track, “Night Gone Wasted,” “Chainsaw” and “I'm a Keeper.”
Andrew Leahey & the Homestead (self-released)
Andrew Leahey & the Homestead's self-titled debut blew me away last summer, so I had high hopes for “Summer Sleeves.” Much more than a placeholder EP, this four-track release builds on the strengths of the full-length and further establishes Leahey as one of the up-and-coming players on the country-rock scene. Opener “Little in Love” sucked me right in, and Leahey kept me enthralled with standouts “Don't Make Me Sad,” “Waiting on a Plane” and “Who Wants an Easy Love.” At just 20 minutes, I was left wanting more ... but that's about the only complaint I have with “Summer Sleeves.”