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Every Rilo Kiley Album Ranked

If you want to see an aging millennial cry, go beyond the traditional “You will never be able to afford a house even though you’re almost 40!” and just remind them that Rilo Kiley no longer exists. Barring a miracle, we won’t ever see the iconic Los Angeles indie band — a fixture of 2000s college radio and beyond — play live again. They broke up more than a decade ago, but it still hurts, huh? Also, they hold a special place in the hearts of ‘90s kids because Ronnie Pinskey from “Salute Your Shorts” was on guitar, the only thing that could make it better is if Donkey Lips played keyboards.

Good thing we’re here to rank every Rilo Kiley album! Let’s make that painful nostalgia either better or much worse, or at least temporarily distract you through violent disagreement.

5. Under the Blacklight (2007)

A lot of longtime fans reflexively hated this album for dumb reasons: It was on a big record label (the horror!), the band’s sound had veered into a more polished pop with danceable moments, and the outfits Jenny Lewis was wearing were “too short.” Guys, the lyrical theme and aesthetic were literally the seedy Las Vegas underworld. Also, women can wear whatever they want. Anyway, embrace the evolution — it’s still a solid album, especially the first half, which includes the very boppy (and sadly prescient) “Breakin’ Up.”


Play it again: “Silver Lining.” One of many Rilo Kiley songs that masterfully capture complex, confusing emotions and relationships. Is it a bitter song? Is it a triumphant song? Happy? Sad? It’s kind of everything!
Skip it: “Smoke Detector.” When the repetitive chorus gets stuck in your head for days on end, you will pray for the sweet deafening blast of an actual smoke detector.

4. Self-Titled (1999)

The famously rare debut album. For decades, the only version that many of us “owned” was cobbled together from low-bitrate mp3s circulated on fan sites. Do you feel old just reading that? Now anyone can just listen to the entire thing on Spotify whenever. Magic! Overall, this album still sounds like a debut. Which isn’t a bad thing. Later on, we’d see the band hone their sound, but the stylistic unevenness and extra-kooky metaphors on here are also fun. And luckily that lyrical rawness stuck around.



Play it again: “Papillon.” The coziest little duet. Stoned stream-of-consciousness with tons of fascinating references in the lyrics. For research purposes only, we confirmed is still a real website. There’s even a pre-“The Office” “that’s what she said.”
Skip it: “The Frug.” A little repetitive and (sorry) overrated.

Honorable Mention: Rkives (2013)

Compilations are usually throwaways in one of two categories: 1) Repackaged nothingness. Or 2) “Whoops, the whole band hates each other now, but we owe one more album in our contract.” This is the exception. We’ve got energetic rockers like “It’ll Get You There” and “Patiently,” the catchy “I Remember You,” and many other gems that deserved to be scooped up from the cutting-room floor. Maybe some band members weren’t on great terms at this point — just listen to those thinly veiled lyrical digs in their non-RK songs — but hey, we got a “new” album and they made more money. Everyone won.

Play it again: “Let Me Back In.” A live favorite finally got a proper recording release, complete with a music video featuring compiled vintage tour footage to mercilessly stab us right in our nostalgic hearts. Doing just fine over here, thanks!
Skip it: “A Town Called Luckey.” It gets dark. Real dark. Go back and listen later once you’ve refilled your SSRIs and resolved your childhood religious trauma, maybe.

3. Takeoffs and Landings (2001)

The era of 2001 to 2004 is known for some pretty bad things (low-rise jeans, 9/11, etc.). But it was a phenomenal time for the Rilo Kiley discography. All three albums from this chapter feature, in differing ratios, the band’s signature sound elements: guitar-driven rock, hushed twangy folk, pop, blip-bloop electronic weirdness, and vintage flourishes. This one tilts slightly more toward the folky and little offbeat instrumental bits, which might be more your thing and that’s valid. You will not convince me low-rise jeans (or 9/11, just for the record) are good, though.


Play it again: “Pictures of Success.” Experts say that if you’ve read this far, there’s a 63% chance you once put “I’m a modern girl/But I fold in half so easily” in your LiveJournal bio. Underrated additional gem of a line: “I’m not scared/but the bills keep changing colors.”
Skip it: “We’ll Never Sleep (God Knows We’ll Try).” Only the last beat. A tiny musical cliff with a missing final note that I’m sure is intentional, but we are sensitive folks over here! Modern girls folding in half, you know?

2. More Adventurous (2004)

Before you freak out because this very popular album, which features Rilo Kiley’s most well-known song “Portions for Foxes,” is not ranked number one, please keep in mind that one time at a show, Jenny Lewis personally handed me flowers from the stage. I’m pretty sure this means that we’re married and also that my all rankings are indisputably correct. Anyway, “More Adventurous” effortlessly covers everything from messy annoying romances to existential crises, with even more lush strings and brass sections chiming in. But not so polished and poppy that it upset the highly upsettable indie kids! Whew. Way to thread that needle!

Play it again: “Does He Love You?” As a pretentious MFA guy would say, the narrative. The character ambiguity. Maybe time to just put all our energy into manifesting a full-length movie someday based on this song. Hi, Netflix!
Skip it: None. Although “It’s a Hit” will probably bring up those weird nauseous “Haha yeah, remember when we thought George W. Bush was the worst president ever?” feelings.

1. The Execution of All Things (2002)

Just like how the closing track “Spectacular Views” says “There are no bad words for the coast today,” there are no bad words to say about this album. The lyrics crash into your soul like those ocean waves, built on restrained slow builds, delicate verses, big shouting choruses, and beautifully layered arrangements. It all hits as hard in adulthood as it did when we were confused teens and college kids. You might even still consider tattooing an entire song etched across your back even though that sounds like it’d hurt a lot. But not as much as the fact that the band no longer … never mind, we’ve done that one enough at this point and we’re all sobbing already.

Play it again: The absolutely anthemic “A Better Son/Daughter.” And then again because you still can’t get out of bed. Go ahead, as many times as you need.
Skip it: None, this is an album album. That means you gotta play the whole thing from start to finish, especially so you don’t miss the hidden waltz subplot stitched together between tracks. No shuffle. You can do it.