Rhythm & Views

The Elected

The second non-Omaha band to join the Saddle Creek family was Los Angeles' Rilo Kiley; oddly enough, their sun-soaked country-pop fit in perfectly with the Midwestern dark dramatics of the Saddle Creek denizens. Thousands of miles make no difference at all for The Elected, either, the side project of Blake Sennett, one half of Rilo Kiley's songwriting team.

The Elected's songs are framed similarly to Bright Eyes': journalistic lyrics, with unconventional structures and constantly changing instrumentation. But Sennett has a smoother voice, and even though the subject matter tends to be love and loss, the lyrics are more optimistic. The musicianship is markedly better, making Me First a complex and beautiful record. Sennett could easily live right across the way from Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, on the sunnier side of the street.

Slide guitars and harmonicas accent the first few songs of disillusionment, and then "My Baby's a Dick" rolls in on synthesized drums and banjo. The section of the liner notes acknowledging guest musicians takes up the better part of the page, where you'll find everything from clapping to backing vocals to bassoon to glockenspiel. "Don't Get Your Hopes Up" is a waltz with whistling and saxophone, and "Waves Roll on By" is a folk song straight out of the backcountry. The songs fade into each other, and halfway through the record, a song begins and cuts out and the record makes a small turn toward acoustic guitars, but Me First is consistently a testament to what the right combination of production and songwriting can create. Brian Wilson would be proud.

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