A small part of my youth died yesterday upon hearing the news that Rilo Kiley had broken up. Although it comes as little shock—the band hadn’t released a record since 2007 and had since moved on to other projects—knowing that Jenny Lewis and co. will never play again still bummed me out. In a way, Rilo Kiley disbanding has put the final nail in the coffin of my teenage years.
I know I’ve talked crap on the band in the past. I’ve especially been critical of Jenny Lewis’ transformation into a faux-spirtual Laurel Canyon princess and made some jabs at her cheesy lyrics. But here’s the thing: I loved Rilo Kiley with an adolescent fervor from the ages of 15 to 20. I saw the band perform three times (and witnessed Jenny Lewis’ solo act twice), I imitated their songwriting in my composition notebooks during class, and posted pictures of Jenny on my Livejournal with the caption “my queen” underneath. I was in deep with them. If their music was a religion, I was putting all of my money in the donation box every Sunday.
You must show respect to the things you once loved as a teenager. Even though they might not make sense now, they practically saved your life then. You needed guidance; you needed someone to articulate the feelings you were experiencing and Rilo Kiley happened to be that someone for me. Their music explored heartbreak and loneliness with an accessibility that made you feel less alone in your sadness. And let’s be honest, Jenny Lewis was the best personal Jesus a queer indie boy could ever ask for. With her adorable vintage style and honey-soaked vocals, she was someone the girls and gays could look up to for advice and inspiration. I mean, she was just so cute and so talented and, oh my god, why weren’t we best friends?!
When Jenny Lewis decided to branch out on her own with Rabbit Fur Coat, I gladly took the leap with her. I was a freshman in college when the record was released and was in the midst of experiencing a mild depression. College sucked, I missed home, my friends, and having a boyfriend, and even though Lewis’ lyrics about Jesus and being in debt didn’t exactly mirror my feelings, it was good enough. I even went to go see her perform in a small church in San Francisco with The Watson Twins right before the album dropped. When we arrived, we were instructed to sit in pews that contained hymns of the music and everyone in the audience was just like, “OMG, this is so kitschy and fun!” You could tell Jenny Lewis really wanted to capture a feeling of spirituality with her agnostic/atheist hipster fan base. Of course, we ate it up with a spoon and responded with, “Whatever you say, Jenny! Love “Born Secular” so much!”
Unfortunately, by the time their last (and final?) record, Under The Backlight, was released, I had already moved on from their music. All of the things I once loved about the band (the lyrics about love, the way Jenny cursed), now came off as embarrassing and affected. I was just being a wannabe grown up brat though. Any relic from my adolescence was bound to mortify me as I attempted to become more mature. When I thought of Rilo, I was merely reminded of my severe cystic acne and repressed homosexuality. My associations with their songs were usually painful and pathetic so I had to stop listening to them altogether.
Now that I’ve entered my “second maturity”, I can appreciate what Rilo Kiley’s music meant to me. Their break up doesn’t devastate me entirely because I probably wouldn’t have listened to their new record anyway, but it does remind me of the passage of time, of growth and changing tastes. I’m glad I no longer relate to Rilo Kiley but I’m proud to have had my moment with them.