Saying Goodbye To Rilo Kiley

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. TC mark

image – Wikipedia

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • Uhnonnymus

    Couldn’t you have just worshiped Morrissey in high school like everybody else?

    • Asdf

      Not at my school. At my school everyone worshiped me. Except we called it whoreshiped and it resulted in some overbearing drama. But I’m sure you don’t want to hear the deets.

    • zoe

      trust me, he did.

  • Brandon Silverman

    Ryan, i don’t even have to read this because I know I feel the same way. Let’s get together and do The Frug, ok?

    • Brandon Silverman

      and then cry like insecure teenagers do.

  • Caroline Evertz

    Oh man, I totally drank the Jenny wine (was about to write “Jenny juice”… but that’s taking it too far).  I spent many a night lying on my bedroom floor listening to “A Better Son/Daughter” and just melting in my own teenage melodramaz.

    Thanks Ryan for once again tapping into my mind.

  • Jordan

    WHAT?!  I didn’t know about this.  Lots of bands go through that phase where they’re not putting out albums, but they haven’t officially broken up, so all is sort of well.  Guess that phase is over.  Sucks to see them hang it up, I too found them in late high school/college and associate them fondly with very particular times.

    I still like ’em, but I guess I’ll have to close that chapter!

  • Megan Kelly

    This is excellent news. 

    • Asdf

      I didn’t realise Mary Timony disliked Rilo Kiley.

  • NoSexCity

    Wait… what? Ryan, you’re my Bad News Bear for the weekend. (Though I don’t think you’re actually a bear we’re going to pretend for the sake of internet commenting. Seriously though, why’d Rilo have to ruin my weekend?)

    • Briana


  • richard chiem

    sweet. good warm article.

    seems like rilo kiley inspired a lot of writers, myself included.

    • Guest


  • Carman F

    I feel just the same, although I was much younger as a fan (I just started attending college this year), but still, this feels like an official farewell to high school for me.

  • Anonymous

    I totally was the same way yesterday. I’ve been such a big fan since middle school, I’ve been to to every tour date in CA except when they did that tour with coldplay (hate coldplay), I have a box full of signed shit, One time at the glass house in pomona I had a beer with the band and offered to smoke them all out, Jenny made me question my sexuality at times & I always looked to them for a song to match my current life situation. Hard to believe they are no more. I’m wearing my oldest Rilo Shirt in memory. Bummer. 

  • Guest

    Rilo Kiley kind of sucks, I don’t see what’s so great about them.

  • Ben

    i only just recently realized that i’d outgrown Rilo Kiley. i listened to them religiously for a few years, but Under The Blacklight was a little… not so good. i realized that some of Jenny’s lyrics are a little… not so good. Jenny’s 2nd solo album was awful, and i never downloaded the Jenny & Johnny thing. i’ll always love Rilo Kiley/Jenny for nostalgic purposes though. they were my adolescent go-to guide as well.

  • Guest

    Preach it, Ryan. Right on the ball with this one.

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