When they formed Rilo Kiley in Los Angeles in 1998, Jenny Lewis, Blake Sennett, Pierre De Reeder and Dave Rock probably had no idea how far they would go both with the band and through their various solo careers. Lewis, who insisted on a position in the band as a lead vocalist, even though she was initially offered a background singer slot, paved a path for women in the indie music circuit. Rilo Kiley gained traction alongside their peers Death Cab For Cutie (who were also signed to Barsuk at the time) and eventual Saddle Creek labelmates Bright Eyes. From there, these bands frequently collaborated, whether through production credits or forming new groups — as Lewis and DCFC’s Ben Gibbard did with The Postal Service in the early aughts (and recently in this hilarious voting campaign).
Rilo Kiley have released several records since their formation, but they haven’t released a full-length album in over a decade. Recently, however, the beloved indie rock band has seen a resurgence in popularity. Between the re-release of their 1999 self-titled EP and current artists like Sad13 and Mannequin Pussy covering songs from RK’s 2002 LP The Execution Of All Things for a Bandcamp tribute compilation, Rilo Kiley have managed to live on and influence the state of indie music to this day. Here is Paste’s look back at the group’s beloved discography.
A compilation album of unreleased b-sides, 2013’s Rkives blended songs from earlier eras for a technical sixth (and currently last) Rilo Kiley release. Rkives satisfies longtime fans with deep cuts from the vault, but the meshing of b-sides with remixes draws away from the cohesiveness of a regular full-length release. “Every record that I’ve ever been a part of, there are always leftovers — things that don’t work as a part of the whole thing,” Lewis told Buzzfeed that year. “Some songs, which may actually be better in the long run, get kind of kicked to the side in the process. We scoured our digital hard drives and old 8-track cassette tapes and made this record.” —Lexi Lane
Take Offs And Landings opens with a calming guitar melody on “Go Ahead.” While they do still flow like poetry, the lyrics on this album are outshined by others in Rilo Kiley’s discography. Lewis and Sennett take turns sharing vocal duties on this album more than any other, throughout instrumental breaks with both versions of “Variations On A Theme.” —Lexi Lane
While this album, the last Rilo Kiley would release before the rkives compilation, is often associated with their “selling out” and eventual split, it’s actually a dynamic slice of indie pop in hindsight. Sure, they signed to a major label (Warner Bros.) and were flirting heavily with pop music, but that doesn’t mean they abandoned their original Rilo Kiley values. The searing rock of their preceding four albums is still present on songs like hit “Silver Lining,” breakup ballad “Breakin’ Up” and slick jam “Dreamworld”—it’s just coated in an extra layer of sparkly slime and neon sheen. —Ellen Johnson
The band’s self-titled album was initially released in 1999 as The Initial Friend EP but has since been re-released on streaming platforms. In 2020, tracks like “Glendora” and “85” feel just like new — spinning both hyper and sad tales of life, dining at a Denny’s (“I’m in a booth, it’s almost twelve, your favorite Denny’s / Another year, I need a sundae”) and unrequited love. The lyrics, sung by any other band, might feel random or out of place, but that’s what makes them work here. Although Rilo Kiley hasn’t fully reunited, finally hearing Rilo Kiley in 2020 as a complete album is the next best thing. —Lexi Lane
As Lewis sings on “Spectacular Views,” there are “no bad words for the coast,” nor are there any for this album. The Execution Of All Things is a standout RK album. Between the band’s soft vocals, drum lines, fuzzy guitars on “Paint’s Peeling” and tales of traveling across America’s booming music scenes and death (“Then we’ll murder what matters to you and move on to your neighbors and kids”), this album feels like a see-saw between happiness and darker underlying themes. The darkness is just less noticeable under the lighter instrumentals and shifting lead vocalists. —Lexi Lane
Rilo Kiley’s 2004 album More Adventurous found the band exploring different and broader avenues of their career. Between enlisting Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis to produce it, releasing the LP through a major label and even landing a Grey’s Anatomy sync appearance, More Adventurous brought the band to the mainstream side of indie music. Lewis tackles politics on opener “It’s a Hit” and addresses religion on “The Absence of God.” More Adventurous marked an explorative era for the band that helped them grow in popularity outside of their Saddle Creek homebase. Rilo Kiley shifted instrumentally towards slightly heavier guitars compared to their previous album, most notably on the breakdown of “Does He Love You?” Oh, and “Portions for Foxes” is still a jam. —Lexi Lane