Love Letter To A Record: The Beths On Rilo Kiley’s ‘The Execution of All Things’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.

Liz Stokes, The Beths – Rilo Kiley’s The Execution of All Things

My relationship with Jenny Lewis is a special one that I’m sure will last a lifetime. She was there at the beginning, when I was 15 and my best friend Chelsea made me a mix CD featuring ‘With Arms Outstretched’. Who was this person? I jumped to Rabbit Fur Coat, from Jenny’s solo project Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins. This album formed the basis of my very first band, as Chelsea and I worked our way through learning and subsequently recording the album in full using a headset microphone and Audacity. And when we ran out there were B-sides, and then it just made sense to write some songs too. To fill our busking set at the local shopping centre.

I was on a geography school trip in Waihi when we the bus stopped for a lunch break in the township and I wandered over the small record store I spotted on the way in. There was a bargain copy of More Adventurous which I grabbed and shuffled over to the counter to purchase. “Have you checked out her solo project?” the person at the counter said. I said “thanksyeahitsgoodiloveit”, paid, and left with my prize.

This record contains ‘Portions for Foxes’ the banger that broke through. I remember seeing it on the pilot episode of Grey’s Anatomy and feeling very proprietary. It was beautiful writing, feminine and polished and indie and jangly and great. As I got older, in Auckland NZ, I realised that Rilo Kiley was not a formative band in everyone’s life, just mine. 

Fast forward to 2014, I’m toying with the idea of starting a band with my friends. I don’t know what sort of band, I think it will be a rock band, but I don’t know how to sing rock music; I don’t know what it means. On YouTube, I stumble upon an old video of Rilo Kiley, circa 2002, before I had heard of them, playing ‘The Execution of All Things’ live. The video is dark and hard to make out, and the audio is distorted and crackly, and through it all Jenny is playing bass and singing and it’s the best thing I have ever heard. She is doesn’t force her voice out, try to yell over the noise of the band, she’s measured and calm, and she’s confident and so goddamn COOL. Until she’s not, she goes for it and it’s emotional and her face contorts with the weight of the lyrics she has written. But she still sounds like Jenny. And I realise I want to sound like me. 

I listened to The Execution of All Things a lot that year. The Voyager came out the same year and I listened to that a lot too, marvelling at this woman with this new amazing polished album, and reconciling that she was the girl with the floppy fringe in the video from 2002. I wanted to be both.

Three years ago, I flew to Melbourne to see Jenny open for Ryan Adams. I was short of breath and failed to conceal the tears streaming down my face.  Two years ago, I flew to San Francisco to go to a Rabbit Fur Coat 10-year anniversary show with Chelsea and we sobbed into each other’s shoulders. 

I should have just written about the album, and how the production sounds and how the song writing is very good, and been a bit more vague about how much this record means to me. But it’s not really just about the album with me and Jenny. I can’t be cool about this. Jenny reminds me I’m still just a kid on a geography field trip, still absolutely uncool and insecure, and she makes me feel okay with it.

The Beths’ new album ‘Future Me Hates Me’ is out now. The band will head out on an Australian tour in September. Dates and details below.

The Beths Australian Tour Dates

Sunday, September 2nd

The King St Crawl (Marlborough Hotel), Sydney

Tickets: FREE

Tuesday, September 4th – Thursday September 6

BIGSOUND, Brisbane

Tickets: Bigsound

Friday, September 7th

New Slang, Melbourne

Tickets: Arts Centre Melbourne

Saturday, September 8th

Yah Yahs, Melbourne

Tickets: Yah Yahs

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