Sun, Sun, Sun
Record Review by Adam McKibbin
Even in their solo careers, Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett are inseparable, releasing their respective albums—Rabbit Fur Coat for Lewis & The Watson Twins and Sun, Sun, Sun for Sennett and his band The Elected—on the very same day. Lewis has already graduated into semi-iconic indie-rock status, and while the diminutive but hugely energetic Sennett has ardent admirers in any Rilo Kiley audience, there’s never been any question as to who slays the most hearts.
Thus, Sennett was perhaps the most obvious candidate in music history for a solo career. Confined to a couple songs per Rilo Kiley album, even Sennett has admitted that he feels guilty about taking mic time away from Lewis. He’s long proven himself as a guitarist with a knack for big, evocative hooks. With The Elected, now on their second album together, he puts those skills to use and doesn’t worry about sharing the mic. As some local observers have long suspected, he holds up pretty well in the lead role.
Sennett is a California boy through and through, and Sun, Sun, Sun—from title to instrumentation—is a California album: bright and dreamy, dramatic and brokenhearted. The ghosts obey the geography; listeners hear echoes of Neil Young holed up in canyon country, of Gram Parsons laying the framework for alt-country, and of Elliott Smith singing his demons away in a little studio in Silverlake.
Yes, The Elected lay it on a little thick at times; according to the lyrics, Sennett is like a bird with a broken wing, a firefly in a steel mill, a newly trimmed tree, and a spider—and his lover is a rainbow and her smile is an ocean. But the nature talk is generally redeemed by the conviction within—and, more importantly, a sense of songwriting adventure that provides for bigger crescendos, deeper layers, and a reliable blast of volume whenever you think things might fizzle out. This is best emphasized on “Biggest Star,” which goes along humbly and pleasantly and soulfully for five minutes before building—and building and building—into the sort of raw-nerve finale that is usually specific to live shows.