Thursday, October 1, 2020

Certain Songs #1926: Rilo Kiley – “It’s A Hit” | Medialoper

Album: More Adventurous
Year: 2004

. . .

Just after the turn of the century, Rilo Kiley put out a pair of well-regarded indie albums — 2001’s Take Off and Landings and 2002’s The Execution of All Things — that are no doubt remembered as classics by Millennial indie kids. I think that they’re both fine, but except for the massed chorus over acoustic guitar, glockenspiel (and handclaps!) at the end of “With Arms Outstretched” , none of the songs fully hit me.

That wasn’t the case with their major-label debut, 2004’s More Adventurous, a pop-rock album with songs that were on the level of Squeeze or Aimee Mann. It was a record filled with tunes which somehow combined sophisticated song structures, incredibly lovely vocals and hook after hook all while fully signifying as rock and roll.

Any chimp can play human for a day
Use his opposable thumbs to iron his uniform
And run for office on election day
Fancy himself a real decision maker
And deploy more troops than salt in a shaker

And this was evident from the very first song, the wordy angry “It’s a Hit,” which somehow juxtaposes Jenny Lewis’ nervousness at the expectations for their major label debut with her frustration over the George W. Bush administration’s useless war.

“It’s a Hit” starts with Lewis singing that opening verse over Blake Sennett’s jittery guitar, but “It’s a Hit” almost instantly blossoms into a full-blown production, never staying in any single place for longer than a verse, strings plus a really cool horn riff floating in and out of the mix at will.

Any asshole can open up a museum
Put all the things he loves on display
So everyone could see ’em
The house, the car, a thoughtful wife
Ordinary moments in his ordinary life

And so it goes, verse after verse, up and down, in and around, never settling down anywhere, even when she finally switches to herself.

But it’s a sin when success complains
And your writer’s block, it don’t mean shit
Just throw it against the wall and see what sticks
Gotta write a hit, I think this is it
It’s a hit

And there’s a pregnant pause as the horns come in as Jenny Lewis quietly sings, “and if it’s not” before they slide into the biggest hook of the song, maybe their career.

Then it’s a holiday for a hanging, yeah
It’s a holiday for a hanging, yeah
It’s a holiday for a hanging, yeah
It’s a holiday for a hanging, yeah
Shoo-bop, shoo-bop, my baby

And somehow Jenny Lewis wrings both joy and sadness out of every single syllable of that chorus — which is more than halfway into the song, and worth every single second of the wait — and of course lasts way short, because she still has two verses left, the first one quiet and accompanied by cute guitar curlicues and the second ending with a massive build, leading to the final now inevitable chant of “it’s a holiday for hanging” over and over and over world without end amen.

“It’s A Hit” of course was way too weird and angry to become an actual hit, of course, but as an opening track for More Adventurous, all it did was make me want to listen to the whole album.

“It’s A Hit”

“It’s A Hit” (Official Music Video)

Did you miss a Certain Song? Follow me on Twitter: @barefootjim

The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page


No comments: