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11 Memoirs Inspired by Rilo Kiley’s More Adventurous

#RealLife

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    #RealLife is a monthly feature where Consequence of Sound staffers join forces with a diverse cadre of writers to share personal stories inspired by one legendary album. This month we’re tackling Rilo Kiley’s swooning More Adventurous. Some of the stories may be inexorably linked to the album itself; others may just share its themes, tone, and atmosphere. Regardless, they’re all real.

    I’m not one for inspirational lyrics. Neither is Jenny Lewis. Perhaps that’s why, when one sneaks into a Rilo Kiley song, it’s a firework rising from scorched earth. “You’ll fight and you’ll make it through,” she sings on “A Better Son/Daughter”. “You’ll fake it if you have to/ And you’ll show up to work with a smile.” I worked at a supermarket the summer I first heard those words, a college graduate in a khaki shirt, swiping Cheetos and cotton balls over a helium-neon scanner. I was discovering insomnia in my parents’ basement, newly single, and questioning the born-again faith that had been so central to that newly ended relationship. And when the sun finally crept through the curtains, a sign that I could stop pretending to sleep, I uttered Jenny’s vague, impractical benediction until I had the courage to somehow show up to work with a smile.

    Jenny Lewis’ worst lyrics saved my life that summer.

    That’s how good she is.

    Her best lyrics saved it countless times after that.

    Many of those can be found on Rilo Kiley’s More Adventurous, a pitch-perfect collision of Lewis’ barbed wordplay and the band’s lush instrumentation. That landmark album turns 10 years old today, serving as both a symbol of Rilo Kiley at the height of its powers and a testament to how much the sound of its iconic frontwoman has evolved, from the dance pop of Under the Blacklight to the Nicks-inspired nostalgia of this year’s The Voyager.

    –Randall Colburn
    Staff Writer

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    It’s a Hit

    By Katie Prout (@katie_prout)

    You want a tattoo of an anatomically correct heart and you don’t care who knows it. There is the look of North Street in the autumn and the smell of the mint factory in the summertime. The girl who crawled out of your bedroom to sit with you on the slant of your roof, looking at the filtered light of the trees as the sun went down. Your mother in her room, folding laundry in her good bra. Your father smoking a pipe the shape of a skull, while sitting in a rocking chair and cardigan. Peter, with his face outlined in the cold March dark, turning towards you as you two fall asleep on the beach anyway. The rum he bought to share with you, with its backside toast and terrible name. It’s Pusser’s, and it comes in a ceramic jar, and the name could sound an awful lot like pussy to your country brother’s ears, but you try to buy it anyway, two years after the beach, because your brother is being deployed. You want to send him off with the appropriate sailor toast. In the end, you cannot find the rum in any store, even though someone must sell it, like you cannot find your brother’s ship on any map, even though it is there. Your brother, who is somewhere in the ocean, floating on a warship; crouching down low to fiddle at some task. Then standing straight to look ahead. He always looks ahead.

    Does He Love You?

    By Tori Szekeres

    Yesterday was a busy day. I mean, you and your friend you met online did everything but! He said he wanted to remain friends, but maybe he’ll change his mind; you’ve known each other for three years, after all. If an 18-year-old guy wants to bang you, it’s out of love, right?

    When you leave the apartment, he wants to show you his college. He studies graphic design at an art school.

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    It turns out to be Career Day, and your friend leads you into a ballroom packed with people who want to hire artists. Who knew people wanted to hire artists? You’ve heard differently for the last 20 years of your life.

    As you look around the crowd, you start to sweat. The dichotomies between you and your friend (and his friends) are galling. ART SCHOOL vs. LAND GRANT UNIVERSITY! VEGETARIAN vs. CARNIVORE! EAST COAST vs. MIDWEST! THRIFT STORE vs. ABERCROMBIE AND FITCH!

    Then you realize that at a size 18, you’re the fattest woman in the room. Sure, you’ve got chemistry with this guy, but you wish you could close your eyes and teleport yourself back to Iowa.

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    “Hey,” you overhear some guy saying to your friend. “Who’s that?” He gestures at you.

    Your friend says nothing at all.

    Portions for Foxes

    By Henry Hauser (@Henry_Jake_H)

    The path from adolescence to maturity is steep, craggy, and rife with obstacles. Mistakes and missteps abound, as carnal temptations cause us to conflate talking, touching, and sex with communication, connectedness, and love. Lacking the broader perspective of experience, doing what’s right often takes a backseat to the pursuit of instant gratification. You feel a little guilty, but it’s easy to shed the shame by convincing yourself that you never had a choice: “Baby I’m bad news/ I’m just bad news, bad news, bad news.”

    “Portions for Foxes” was the soundtrack to my undergraduate sleights. Loneliness, lust, and boredom are a recipe for thoughtlessness (especially during a dreary winter in upstate New York). Granted, I never said or did anything awful, but plenty of my words and actions were juvenile, vain, and shallow. I’m sure I hurt some feelings, and for that I’m truly sorry.

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    Without validating our immature and selfish transgressions, Rilo Kiley shows us that we’re not alone. Atop Blake Sennett’s soaring guitar riffs, a sympathetic Jenny insists that everyone makes mistakes: “I don’t blame you/ I do the same thing/ I get lonely too.” No one emerges from the womb with a fully-formed personality; it takes time to develop a sense of compassion. And emotional growth is seldom linear. “One step forward, two steps back” is the norm. “Portions for Foxes” is an empowering and hopeful song about moving forward once you realize you’ve taken a couple steps back. It’s okay to make mistakes, so long as you remember that you had a hand in the matter.

    Ripchord

    By Gerrit Feenstra

    A microphone makes for a frightening best friend. Fifteen with rudimentary guitar technique and an identity crisis backed generously by a lack of reciprocated friendship, a laptop mic was one of a priceless few constants. One track at a time into whatever freeware Garageband rip-off I could find, I channeled some opaque version of honesty in the lowest-fi possible. There it disappeared into the ether for a moment and then emerged a choppy wave on the screen where it was captured and incarnated in 1’s and 0’s, all for no one but the microphone. I didn’t even listen back to half of them.

    Perhaps the only best friend more disconcerting at that age would be More Adventurous. Drenched in anomalous sex and unremorseful suicide, the CD-R skipping on my Walkman told me I didn’t have much to look forward to in life. All the good that wouldn’t come out before was empty idealism, meant for idiots and the incorrigibly hopeless. The best thing a 15-year-old can hear is that steady footing is a facade. No life context yet to realize that life is what you make of it, expectation is all you’ve got. And when the man on the tape mourns the loss of a friend, relatively unloved in his dramatic effect on the world around him, there is nothing else. And so aye aye aye and oh oh oh and aye aye aye aye aye oh oh oh … ba da da dah. Another one recorded down for later.

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    I Never

    By Katherine Flynn (@kateallthetime)

    I prefer walking home down U Street by myself to being walked. U Street holds the answers: drunks spilling out onto the sidewalk, Jumbo Slice perfuming the air. There’s nothing like the roar of U Street on a Friday night to remind me that I chose this city, chose to live in a former crack house in a swiftly gentrifying neighborhood to be close to crowded bars and the good music venues. This corridor is the fault line, the division between a 23-year-old’s dreams and a newly single 24-year-old’s necessary pragmatism.

    I don’t dream about clean houses anymore or Subarus parked in two-car garages. I used to spend entire metro and escalator rides imagining the heavy weight and sparkle of the third finger of my left hand, touching my abdomen as the moving stairway carried me up, up into the sunlight and cupping the hollow, empty space of my stomach, the space waiting to be filled. Those were my fantasies, then, the things I held onto even when the man that I loved shut the door to our bedroom with me on the other side.

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    When I close my eyes now, I see U Street and the sodium yellow glare of the streetlights, the scattered 7-Eleven cups on the ground and fluorescent-lit drugstores, the intersection where the street becomes Florida Avenue. I see Florida Avenue, and no further.

    The Absence of God

    By Leah Pickett (@leahkpickett)

    As a pigtailed, plaid-skirted Catholic schoolgirl in the most nonsexual embodiment of those words – nine, freckled, morose – I would hide in the chapel during recess and pray for a deferment on womanhood. I begged God to keep me a forever child, my fingernails digging little half-moons into my palms. I prayed to be absolved of sins I had not yet committed but feared I would: the ones that strip a child’s innocence like a Band-Aid so quick they can do nothing but feel the afterburn and gape at the boils where their birthmarks used to be. I imagined Jesus, my Peter Pan, turning away from my window in disgust — woman! — as hot tears spilled down my cheeks, no, no, no. I willed myself to take root as a Virgin statue, liquescing into the same stuff that fortified this church, stone and brick and mortar and hardwood pounding into my knobby knees, castigating me for my detestable budding form.

    The prayer was self-flagellation.

    Rip! I’m 19. I grew up fast because I grew with you. I became part of you, like Adam’s rib. In your hands I was absolved, skin on fire, begging for more. You owned me; I adored you. You were perfect in the reflection of my gaze, the wanting of a Lost Child. And then you turned. From an angel into a thing that turned my stomach: green vomit into a commode, teenage body splayed on a bathroom floor. The tile is cold beneath my cheek, like a slap, or a kiss.

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    I want to close my eyes and just like that, disappear. I want to fly away on angel wings. I want to pretend you were never real, like god never was, because you and god are one and the same — wishful thinking — and the epiphany hits me like a thunderbolt, like a prophecy.

    There is comfort in the absence of god.

    Accidntel Deth

    By Scott Whitehair (@scott_whitehair)

    There is an empty bar stool in Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, tonight. The seat is on the far side of the windowless basement tavern on Leechburg Road, and it wobbles due to uneven legs. It sits just to the left of Kevin Starr, who is blowing through a pack of Carlton’s he stole from his grandmother as he motherfucks his manager Tim and picks dried marina sauce from under his fingernails. It’s a few hours before he will be thrown out for having a loud argument with Stush over which breed of dog makes for the best hunting dog. On the other side of the stool is Lisa, who has been on disability for her neck but can still bob her head pretty fiercely to a Nugent tune. By last call, 172 cigarettes, 84 bottles of Bud Light, and 4 smoked snacks sticks will have been consumed. No one gets a DUI. Everyone goes home alone. These are all just guesses, by the way, as I am no longer there to confirm.

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