Rilo Kiley, ‘Let Me Back In’, Little Record Company
Let’s get the disappointment out of the way first. Rilo Kiley are still on hiatus. They have not reconvened to make more of the shamelessly intelligent, witty but heartfelt indie-pop that allowed them to grow a sizeable audience between 1997 and their acrimonious split in 2011. However, the former band members are at least now on sufficiently good terms to have collaborated on the compilation of Rkives, a forthcoming album of rare and unreleased Rilo Kiley material; and if this first single from the album is typical of its contents, then Rkives is going to be a real treat.
Suitably enough considering the band’s situation, ‘Let Me Back In’ is about breaking up and coming home. It’s a love song to Los Angeles, about finding comfort in familiar surroundings when human beings have let you down. It’s slow, country-tinged and delivered with Jenny Lewis’s customary blend of control and conviction. ‘Let Me Back In’ would fit perfectly into Rabbit Fur Coat¸ the gorgeous alt-country album from 2007 on which Lewis collaborated with The Watson Twins.
Jenny’s alone with a guitar at the beginning, sadly declaring her decision to leave a relationship that isn’t responding to intensive care. She admits that the fault has been on both sides, but she’s made up her mind: “I’ve put you down, talked you up/Defended your honour/And then packed in and picked it up/When all you can do is just watch me go.”
There’s nothing for it but to head for home, and as Lewis anticipates the literal and metaphorical warmth of California, the track becomes a fascinating mix of the smooth and the jagged. A lone cello line grows into an intricate string arrangement, while handclaps add a curious, irregular rhythmic pattern, as if to suggest that there might be surprises even in the place that Jenny believes will always welcome her “…no matter how cruel I’ve been.” Lewis’s lovely voice soars above it all sounding simultaneously weary and joyful.
It beggars belief that something as stunning as this song could have been left languishing in the vaults for years. ‘Let Me Back In’ is more than enough to make you long to hear the rest of Rilo Kiley’s hitherto buried treasures. .