With “Under the Blacklight,” L.A.’s Rilo Kiley has seemingly become a de facto solo project for singer Jenny Lewis, who is coming off of her successful 2006 solo outing “Rabbit Fur Coat.” Steering clear of most current trends in indie rock, “Blacklight” is a strange and severely flawed Frankenstein of an album. The group’s fourth release — their first for a major — boldly treads into dance pop, contemporary R&B, and vintage disco while all but ignoring the band’s established indie pop/country-rock sound.
At times it’s a too-obvious attempt to attract a mainstream aud as the group searches for a cohesive sound that is never quite attained. Sleazy single “Moneymaker” finds Lewis squealing over some trashy disco beats; opener “Silver Lining,” more in-line with the band’s traditional sound, borrows its beats, synths and gospel-inflected backing vocals from ’90s R&B. “15” adds a Stax-style horn section and a Theremin to a soulful tale of a Lolita-esque romance. There’s even a bilingual Latin-pop song, “Dejalo,” that emulates Gloria Estefan.
Stepping back to act as more of a sideman than co-collaborator, guitarist Blake Sennett smothers every song with riffs and solo tinkering. His vocal presence, however, livens up “Dreamworld,” one of the better tracks on the album.