"So, which one of you guys is Rilo?"
Yup, Rilo Kiley, appearing Thursday, July 17, at the Climax Lounge, with M Ward and the Golden Age, is another one of those bands with a name that sounds like a person. Pretty fucking annoying. Just as annoying as most of the crap on Saddle Creek, the Omaha imprint that Rilo Kiley calls home. But unlike Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, its criminally overrated labelmate, Rilo Kiley's members aren't from Nebraska. They also don't blow. On The Execution of All Things, the second album by this Los Angeles-based quartet, the tired formula of folky indie rock is cut with just the right blend of burnished pedal steel and prickly synthesizer; sharp arrangements and even sharper lyrics neatly manicure ragged pop hooks. Veering between the smart-ass and the sincere, lead singer Jenny Lewis has a voice like a piece of razor-laced Halloween candy, and she exhales bitter testimonies on love and wars and dreams and regret as a wino does halitosis. The sound lapses a bit too often into rigid, downstroke-heavy power pop, but when the group strikes a rootsier vein -- as it does on "Capturing Moods" and "Hail to Whatever You Found in the Sunlight That Surrounds You" -- the result is breathtaking. Just as sumptuous is "So Long," one of two songs featuring lead vocals by guitarist Blake Sennet, who comes across like a breathier, better-complexioned Elliott Smith. And the album's best song, the mournful, glockenspiel-propelled country ballad "With Arms Outstretched," is so good you can forgive the usually overbearing Oberst appearing as part of the backup "boy choir." On Execution's title track, Lewis, a former child actress best known for having her bosom tattooed by Angelina Jolie in the movie Foxfire, flutters her eyelashes and sweetly tweets the line, "Then we'll go to Omaha to work and exploit the booming music scene." But surely that's just a little joke between her and the hot Midwest label that put her band on the map...right?