Tag Archives: Jack White

Sound ‘Round: Rilo Kiley / The White Stripes

Revisiting their farewell albums a decade later

Rilo Kiley – Under the Blacklight (Warner Bros., 2007)

rilo-kiley-under-the-blacklightAfter three albums in which Jenny Lewis became the indiesphere’s most acidic and articulate breakup artist, her final outing with Rilo Kiley dabbles in the showbiz underground — a subject she mastered as a youngster doing commercials for Jell-O. It’s those experiences that inform a song like “15,” wherein a one-time ingénue turned opportunist is “down for anything.” But L.A. is more than a city of losers, suckers and thieves. For Lewis, it’s a place as vibrant and eclectic as the music found on this, her most adventurous and unpredictable record. Assisting the band in their search for new sounds are producers Jason Lader (Maroon 5) and Mike Elizondo (Eminem, Carrie Underwood). Lader brings the cool in the first half, ditching their trusty guitars while surrounding Lewis’ irresistible contralto with organs, a church choir, and reverb. Elizando takes them to the club the rest of the way, playing up the big beats that sell the humor in songs about smoking in bed and an atheist mother who lets her promiscuous daughter stay out late. This being a Rilo Kiley album, however, there are still breakup songs aplenty — the best one is titled after the deed itself. “Ooh, it feels good to be free,” she sings. The bulk of her solo career says otherwise. GRADE: A

Key Tracks: “Under the Blacklight” / “Breakin’ Up” / “Silver Lining”

The White Stripes – Icky Thump (Warner Bros., 2007)

the-white-stripes-icky-thumpThis never sounded like a goodbye because it mirrored everything that came before: guitars galore, Coca Cola color scheme, songs so catchy and immediate they negate their deliberate flaws. Jack White’s weird, brief reign as America’s last great axe man was a product of showmanship and marketing. He shreds with the best of ‘em and still swears drummer Meg is his sister and not his ex-wife. Whatever the title of their relationship, cherish the excellent “Rag & Bone,” wherein the pair rummage for garbage to pay the bills. The song is a playful, ebullient back-and-forth, and a worthy throwback to the era before “Seven Nation Army” echoed in football stadiums. White’s lyrics range from hopelessly vague to vaguely hopeful, but he’s as forthcoming as ever on the immigration-themed “Icky Thump.” Politics ain’t his aim as much as it’s the senorita that gets him drunk and robs him blind. Be it a conquista or poor Meg, women are often objects of disdain for White — an icky trait picked up from the blues masters of yore. Credit him nonetheless for giving her the mic on the song with the bagpipes. “What do I need to say?” the notoriously shy Meg asks. Nothing, he says it all with his guitar. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Rag & Bone” / “I’m Slowly Turning Into You” / “300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues”

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Sound ‘Round: Lykke Li / Jack White

Black and blueLykke Li – I Never Learn (Atlantic)lykke li - i never learnThis coy songstress is currently Sweden’s leading exporter of melancholy. A young career thus far marked by perpetual brooding, she broke through stateside in 2011 with album of doom-and-gloom love songs more catchy than reflective. Ditto this concise nine-song sequel which swaps the big-beat production of its predecessor for the cavernous ways of dream pop. There’s plenty to roll your eyes at: the mascara-stained pillow talk, the Tim Burton color scheme, lyrics more corny than scornful. That each track concerns a recent breakup only adds to the melodrama. Once again, she’s rescued by her instincts for a good hook. As cliché as her wounded rhymes are, I find myself intermittently humming half of them and latching on to a worthy melodic nugget in the ones I don’t. She’ll always make music like this – heavy on feeling and bad metaphor. She bodes well for herself on the closing number, which sports a hint of optimism. “If you save your heart for mine / we’ll meet again.” Hopefully she means it. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: Gunshot” / “No Rest For The Wicked” / “Sleeping Alone

Jack White – Lazaretto (Third Man)

Jack White - LazarettoThe comments made to Rolling Stone regarding his reticent, and seemingly apathetic, ex-wife, proves Jack White is still spurned by the sudden end of the band that made him famous. “She’s one of those people who won’t high-five me when I get the touchdown,” he said.  And so it is White gets busy living, soldiering on as before – combining the messy crunch of Detroit with the meticulous twang of Nashville. A solidified crew of studio pros at the ready, his second go ‘round as a solo artist is more assured and robust. The riffs are as meaty and dynamic as they’ve been in years, the solos have a frenzied sense of renewal and White’s vocal performance sounds like a man at ease with his second career. An inspection of the lyrics, supposedly reupholstered from a play White penned as a teenager, won’t silence critics weary of his supposed woman-bashing ways. The man in question rebukes the detractors, as would I. But for someone so obsessively cryptic on record and in public, there can be no doubt as to whom he address in the sharpest line on the title track: “When I say nothing / I say everything.” GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: Lazaretto” / “Temporary Ground” / “Black Bat Licorice”