Words by Josh Terzino
Every time I bring up “Pull Me In Tighter” in conversation, I’m shocked to hear the person I’m talking to say they’ve never heard it. I didn’t think this was a hard-to-find track given that the internet is full of pretty much every song ever recorded. True it doesn’t appear on any of Rilo Kiley’s albums (not even on the newly released RKives rarities compilation), but it’s still out there. And it’s waiting for you to hear it and fall in love, just like I did a little over eight years ago.
Throughout the band’s tour following More Adventurous, this song became ubiquitous at almost every show. After the tour they went back into the studio to work on Under The Black Light, but “Pull Me In Tighter” was never recorded. Instead, it was handed off from person to person through bootlegs and poorly shot videos. It wasn’t until Rilo Kiley’s appearance on the show Austin City Limits in May of 2005 that a wide audience got to hear this hidden gem.
Tuning in that night was yours truly, and I was floored. The song sounds like Rilo Kiley, but it doesn’t. There’s something sunny, optimistic almost, about the song. When Jenny Lewis opens up with the keyboard part that lays the foundation for the song, it’s clear that we’re in for something different. It’s almost reminiscent of their tune “Teenage Love Song,” minus the heartache. There are some tonal shifts in the lyrics after the first verse, but for the most part it’s a song about overcoming your faults to be with the person you love.
There’s a lot of little things that make this tune stand out over others I could have chosen. All the guys in the band joining together for fingersnaps as Lewis sings the opening verse, and then later all singing into one microphone on the last harmony is a nice throwback to the doo-wop days. Blake Sennett, who doesn’t get nearly enough credit as a guitar player, lays down some absolutely nasty stuff. Jason Boesel on drums does an amazing job leading the band through multiply dynamic shifts that go from a quiet whisper to a deafening thunder with less than a beats notice.
I’m not positive if it was the song itself or the performance that night at Austin City Limits, but “Pull Me In Tighter” instantly became one of my favorite pieces of music from Rilo Kiley. At that point in 2005 they were coming off their most successful tour to date. Watching them play for the small crowd, you could almost hear them collectively thinking “This is the best show we’ve ever played!” It was such a great show that I’ve watched it from start to finish probably fifteen times.
I have a really terrible copy of the song on my iPod, but that doesn’t stop me from listening. There’s a much better version up on Grooveshark with a Blake Sennett guitar solo that differs just slightly from the ACL version. Still, I prefer the video because you get to see a great band finally getting everything right. I’ve heard so many people tell me how horrible Rilo Kiley could be live (and after seeing a Jenny Lewis solo show, I have no problem believing they could be REALLY bad), it was so satisfying to watch them do perfect versions of a few favorites.
If you are one of the apparently many people who haven’t heard “Pull Me In Tighter” yet, please check it out. Stop denying yourself the pleasure of hearing great music. Once you’ve heard it you can then join me in lamenting the fact that Rilo Kiley will never get back together, so we will never have a proper recorded version of what is probably their best song.
(‘Pull Me In Tighter’ is the first song they play, though the whole thing is more than worth your time.)