For all the problems the mainstreaming of emo has created--the validation of high school whining as high art, say, or the Get Up Kids' and the Promise Ring's hiring big-name producers to conceal a lack of actual songs, or a dwindling supply of horn-rimmed glasses and thrift-store T-shirts--what's cool about the form's popular explosion is that bands are starting to take the music in unexpected directions, away from the Sunny Day Real Estate/Jawbreaker pastiche that in recent years has supplanted the Rites of Spring/Fugazi recapitulation those three little letters originally signified. The Los Angeles-based outfit Rilo Kiley is one of the best of these new formal explorers; its new album, The Execution of All Things, invests the hooky, melodramatic rock of recent emo with the mellow country inflections L.A. roots-music fakers have been perfecting for decades. On handsome, effortlessly catchy songs like "The Good That Won't Come Out" and "A Better Son/Daughter" singer Jenny Lewis, an actor who somehow survived roles in both Troop Beverly Hills and The Wizard with enough spirit to end up doing this, leads the band through arrangements that reflect her tales of twentysomething confusion with lots of creamy slide guitar and twinkling auxiliary percussion. Next up: Dashboard Confessional in the studio with Ry Cooder!
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