I bought Rilo Kiley's More Adventurous ten years ago this week because every attractive person on Myspace was suddenly listing it in their favorite music, and I needed to know what was going on. I worked in a record store at the time, but we didn't have it in stock, so I made the sacrilege move of driving to a neighboring town and buying it at a Tower records. This was before YouTube or Google or anything that would've really enabled my vetting the band before buying their record, so I didn't know they were female-fronted, and I didn't know what they were gonna sound like.
This was also at a time when I was very firmly in a high school zone of only listening to music written and performed by dudes. Often they were dudes I was also weaving elaborate, tragic crushes on (Elliott Smith! Let me heal u!), but across the board they were white dudes with guitars from America or England or Australia singing about boning and drugs and the towns they lived in. I remember realizing this was the case and thinking to myself, "I just relate to guys more. I'm a guys' girl."
So when I peeled the cellophane and stickers off More Adventurous in the Tower parking lot and popped the CD into the player of my '93 Camry, I immediately regretted the purchase. Those opening chords of "It's A Hit" kicked in and it was Jenny (a woman!) singing about a monkey (okay?!) and using the word pair "opposable thumbs" (some Dane Cook-level comedian used those words first in a joke I stole from Limewire because he's a genius and this is probably plagiarism!) — so about ten seconds in I hit "next." The song must've been an exception to the rule. The people on Myspace know what they're talking about. But track after track I hit next. Next. Next.
The CD didn’t get any play after that. I chalked it up to $9.99 experimentally-spent and didn’t think of the band again until an iPod entered my life and I started moving all of my CDs into iTunes. Trying to up that gig-count and diversify my library, everything I owned went onto the iPod whether I actually liked it or not — More Adventurous included. It made using the “Shuffle” feature a living hell, but it also made me feel very worldly and chic when someone would casually scroll through my shit and be like, “omg Flaming Lips AND Wu-Tang?”
It should go without saying that I spent my teen years locked in that adolescent rigor mortis of trying to appear cool at all times while secretly working out what I actually liked behind closed doors in a basement lab in my brain. Mentally noting, “Oh, I don’t understand what the fuck would ever compel someone to live their life to this song,” and then downloading the band’s entire discography and hoarding it anyway.
It went for everything — the bearded grad-student-cum-SAT-tutor who told me to read "Hills Like White Elephants" because my college application essay "had pathos" lead to the purchase of most of Ernest Hemingway’s greater works, none of which I could stomach. And the high school English teacher who, for months, called me Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands when he'd call on me in class because he wanted me to abandon Bright Eyes and "get into Dylan" lead to me asking for like, every Dylan album for Christmas one year and then liking the same 10 songs that everyone else in America likes.
More Adventurous laid dormant through high school graduation, through the start of college, until one summer I was living in New York City in an apartment I shared with four boys while I interned at NBC. My nights were spent playing flip cup on our sticky kitchen table or heating up single-serving Beefaronis or giving my roommates haircuts in the bathroom with my dull kitchen scissors, which was fun-ish, but didn’t offset the soul-crushing reality of my Sad Corporate Commute and the Sad Corporate Cubicle I was reporting into every day at 20.
I was an artist. A real sad, young, literary man. I was still too young to go to bars, and too prude to get a fake ID, so I’d sit in the apartment with a can of Natty Ice we’d finagled from some overpriced Columbia University grocery store and watch "Dawson’s Creek" on DVD on my laptop or read a chapter of Keith Gessen and call my friend from college to talk about it.
Then, one morning on my Sad Corporate Commute, “Does He Love You?” came on shuffle and I either decided to give it another shot or didn’t realize it was from an album I’d decided not to like, and those opening lines. Hoo, baby.
“Get a real job / keep the wind at your back and the sun on your face / All the immediate unknowns are better than knowing this tired and lonely fate”
It felt like someone had just activated an until-then-unused PA system in my head and tapped the mic like, “This thing on?”
Her voice was suddenly louder and clearer than the voices of these dudes I’d been idolizing all these years. Because it was mine. It was for me.
I let the song play through and then I listened to as much of the rest of the album as I could with the rest of my train ride.
I Never! More Adventurous!
Song after song about feeling strong and weak at the same time, about being mortal, about loving these dudes but not letting it kill you. You have your own shit going on. Your own dusty highway to drive down with your guitar.
For the next few weeks it was a ritual. I’d ride the slow-as-hell 1 train down to Midtown and play More Adventurous on repeat. After work I’d walk to the deli where I had a little punch-card and get my ham sandwich and Swedish Fish with More Adventurous on repeat. Mid-summer, when I went home to Connecticut for a weekend, I played it in the car as I whipped by lakes and trees and the houses of boys I used to be so in love with.
This was not sifting through Hemingway with a sieve for something I could relate to. This was not combing through Dylan trying to contort myself into thinking I was enjoying myself. This was my older sister telling me that our story was already fucking riveting. This was my best friend sitting down next to me after not seeing each other for a while and telling me what she's been up to.
I started reading Joan Didion. I started watching "30 Rock."
That Fourth of July I saw her perform in Battery Park with an American flag tied around her neck like a cape while the Statue of Liberty loomed behind us and I shout-sang the lyrics from my spot in the hot-as-hell sun til I had no voice left.
On the walk back to the train, I remember my fratty roommate Chris told me he thought the show was, "Just fine.” That it probably wasn’t his scene, but that he’d had fun.
And even though he never asked what I thought, I remember saying, "I fucking loved it."
Christine Friar lives and writes in New York.