Rilo Kiley: "Let Me Back In"

from RKives (Little Record Company; 2013)

By Maura McAndrew | 21 February 2013

Ever since Rilo Kiley went on “hiatus” five years ago, it’s been hard to believe they’re actually broken up for good. It wasn’t until last year when guitarist/songwriter Blake Sennett declared the band “officially” done that hardcore fans had to attempt to extinguish our hopes. After three great records and one decent genre experiment (2007’s Under the Blacklight), all seem to have moved on—Sennett and drummer Jason Boesel with the Elected and Lewis with her successful solo career (though she’s currently busy hiding her light under the bushel that is Johnathan Rice). Alas, it’s time to shed a tear as I recall youthful memories of spinning The Execution of All Things (2002) on my college radio show and strumming “Portions for Foxes” alone in my bedroom. Time to look back with fondness on the perfect early-aughts indie band: Jenny Lewis with her whip-smart songs, pre-Deschanel bangs and retro hot pants, the boys behind her with their thrift store t-shirts and wiry sound.

Thankfully, Rilo Kiley has decided to give us a proper goodbye with RKives, a long-gestating collection of b-sides and rarities designed to reward loyal fans. The first single from the collection, “Let Me Back In,” is a previously unreleased track that the band had kicked around tour for years. Most likely written around the time of 2004’s excellent More Adventurous, “Let Me Back In” focuses on one of Lewis & co.’s favorite subjects, their hometown of Los Angeles. Despite a brief sojourn to Omaha with Conor Oberst, the band has always been unabashedly pro-SoCal, from the sunny (“Spectacular Views”) to the seedy (“The Moneymaker”), and “Let Me Back In” is a bittersweet song celebrating a return to the comfort of one’s home city.

“Let Me Back In” is also, however, an appropriate way to say goodbye, with a focus on leaving, loss, and acceptance. There’s not much new or challenging here, just the band doing what they do best: slowly building to an emotional climax and beefing up the sound of the guitar/synth/strings, but not enough to overwhelm Lewis’ voice. The track opens with the band’s characteristic minor key acoustic sound, and Lewis’s strong, instantly recognizable voice: “Let it be printed / Let it be known / I’m leaving you / I’m going home.” The lyrics, though simple, seem to capture the mixed feelings of a beloved band calling it quits—and the fans they’re leaving behind. “I’m sorry for leaving,” Lewis sings, “But when the palm trees bow their heads / No matter how wrong I’ve been / L.A. you always let me back in.” It’s a poignant sentiment, and a damn beautiful way to go out.

► “Let Me Back In”