For some reason, I'm reminded today of early Rilo Kiley; perhaps Pinky's plans to post hard-to-find or out-of-print albums wholesale has been inspirational. I realized that I hadn't seen many (if any) posts of the tracks from the band's work pre-Take-offs and Landings, and I just happen to have a copy of The Inital Friend EP, released in 2001, that I'd love to share with y'all. The EP went through several incarnations -- there were two pressings as a self-titled release with most of the same songs in 1999 and 2000. As you can imagine, these two releases are almost impossible to find -- but really, the songs dropped from the third pressing are no great loss.
In the summer of 2001, I was terribly unhappy and did a lot of shopping -- especially for used books and CDs. You know, happiness via acquisition, that time-honored coping mechanism? It was on one of the many, many trips I made to the old ABCD's on Airport after work one day that I discovered two incredible albums in the used bins on the same day -- The Shins' Oh! Inverted World and the aforementioned Rilo Kiley EP. (That might have also been the day I found Phantom Planet's first record in the $1.99 bin, I can't remember...)
Now, naturally, file sharing and mp3 blogs were not what they are today, obviously, and finding these CDs was a red-letter day -- I'd read about both bands in print publications ('zines, probably) but previously hadn't been able to find any of their stuff in stores. I also remembered Jenny from Foxfire and I'd seen the band's appearance in the utterly awful film Desert Blue, so recognized the name immediately thinking, "Hey, it's that band with the former child stars."
[Here's a weird sidebar: That makes me wonder, were there even any prominent mp3 blogs at that time? I seem to remember getting everything on Audiogalaxy or from Napster in those days, but it was mostly a crapshoot. I had just returned to doing more stuff online after a self-imposed hiatus of 2 years (seriously, I hardly emailed people, even). It was around that time I'd just discovered Livejournal and I'm not even sure if Scott Stereogum had started his journal there yet, but I know I started reading him some time around then.]
Anyway, it wasn't long after this that I went to my first Rilo Kiley show (August 2001 at the Mercury, which is now The Parish) -- the one I always tell people about. There were literally four people there. (Ok, maybe a few more than that, but not many!) I don't need to tell you about how my heart swelled with pride when I saw them sell out Stubbs last spring. Capacity? 2000+. I will never, ever begrudge the band their success; they truly deserve it.
So, getting to my point -- the interesting thing about these songs is that a lot of the tropes still evident in Jenny and Blake's songwriting were already firmly set in place, even in the early days of the band -- there's a call out to Morgan, who appears in later songs on The Execution of All Things and More Adventurous. "Frug" is a jaunty retro number that bookends with "I Never" from More Adventurous; in the former Jenny claims she'll "never fall in love;" in the latter, the lyric echoes back a contrary sentiment lifted straight from a Motown classic,"'cause I never loved somebody the way I loved you." There's also an early version of one of my favorites from Take-Offs and Landings, "Always," and the semi-autobiographical tone of both Blake and Jenny's work with Rilo Kiley and on their side projects figure strongly in "85" and "Troubadours." The only misstep is the forced, tacky-country "Gravity" -- but both Blake and Jenny tone down the twang in later songs whilst still preserving the essence of that influence.
Rilo Kiley -- Frug
Rilo Kiley -- Papillon
Rilo Kiley -- Always
Rilo Kiley -- 85
Rilo Kiley -- Sword
Rilo Kiley -- Asshole
Rilo Kiley -- Gravity
Rilo Kiley -- Troubadours