Kings of Leon albums: my least favorite to my most loved.
6. Come Around Sundown
This album had a lot to live up to after the commercial success that was the previous album, “Only By the Night”. Compared to that album this one was always going to be weaker musically save for some truly amazing songs. That task was not impossible just an extremely hard task. This album was recorded in New York, a first for the Followills. It was not received well critically, though neither were some of their other commercially successful albums, most noticeably the album received 5 out of 10 from NME magazine. Not a great start for a new album.
The first single released from the album was “Radioactive”. This was one of the few standout songs that came from this album; this is because it sounded slightly different to all of the other songs on this album. It sounded as if it was the remnants of their previous album and that they had written this song only just after “Only By the Night” was released. “Pyro” and “Mary” are possibly the two other standout songs. Though once you get past “Back Down South”, the whole album seems to take somewhat of a downwards spiral. There are some songs with potential such as “No Money” and “Birthday”, however the rest fail to live up to the rest of the album.
The general theme of the entire album was one that was very much them attempting to get back to their roots. The whole album does show this but not as well as they would have hoped. It would have been best of they had not tried so hard and then let the music flow naturally instead of forcing it. Maybe it was because of the previous success of their previous album that hindered them but this one felt rather mediocre in all departments.
5. Mechanical Bull
This is the latest album to be released by the Kings of Leon. It was highly anticipated upon its release due to the singles that had been released before the album. On July 17th 2013 "Supersoaker" was released. This was the first single to be released. It made its debut at a number of festivals that the band did over the summer of 2013. The first thought upon hearing this new single was that they had gone back to their old ways when it came to writing music. It had the great guitar rifts that were seemingly missing from their two previous albums but this single was something of a statement.
They wanted people to hear how they had changed and gone back to what made them so great. Then two months later the single "Wait for Me" was released. This song was a bit disappointing when it came out because people got so excited that the band had gone past their ways of writing these slower songs. This is not to say that it is a bad song but it is not quite up there with "Supersoaker".
The rest of the album is somewhat similar to "Come Around Sundown" in that it had the vocals and rifts that made them sound more like an average country rock band rather than the alternative rockers that they once were. The standout song for me was "Beautiful War", even though I previously said that the slower songs are unenjoyable, this one is a truly wonderful song that seems out of place on an average album like this. In the future I would much rather hear more songs like "Supersoaker" and "Beautiful War" as these both personify the whole band wonderfully.
4. Only By the Night
This album is to date possibly their most well known amongst the public. It was a huge commercial success. This success came from the singles that were released prior to the album being released. One of those was “Sex on Fire” which was a huge single another successful single was “Use Somebody”. Both of these came very highly in the charts all over the world. The rest of the album has other songs that make an impact such as “Closer” and the bass heavy “Crawl”. These four songs sound very different which is why not until after these songs does the album feel as if it is one album instead of a compilation album. There is no general sound until you reach the song “Manhattan”. Though there is a general theme throughout the entire album which seems to be of a girl whom Caleb is writing about and the physical relationship that they have together.
This album was one that sounded differently to all of their previous albums, as any new album should do as we do not want to be hearing the same stuff all the time for musicians because that is lazy writing. The album seemed to be around for ages. It was one that I was always hearing on the radio or on television. In fact I think that the commercials for the album went on for over a year after the release of the album. There were a lot of singles released from the album, 5 in total. This meant that because of the success of the album all of these singles would then be played on the radio. By the time they reached the radio I was already well aware of them and started to get bored of this constant bombardment of music. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the album but this was getting out of hand. I like listening to music on my own terms and only listen to the radio to hear new songs not ones that have been released on an album months ago.
3. Youth & Young Manhood
This was the Kings of Leon’s debut album. Being released in 2003 it was at a time where new bands were not overhyped even before they had released a few singles. If this album had been released in the year 2013 it may have been a different tale for the Followills. They may have been launched into the eye of the public and would have been an instant hit rather than having to work very hard for their musical careers. Though the album was received well critically and in the UK it peaked at number 3 in the album charts. So it wasn’t as if the album went unnoticed. It was recorded in the same studio that Nirvana recorded their album “Nevermind” and where Fleetwood Mac recorded “Rumours”. So you could say that this album was always destined for great things or that there was a large amount of pressure on them when they recorded it.
Throughout the album you can sense the aspect that the south has had on them. At the time of recording they all had long flowing locks of hair which they had to rebel from where they had come from and their strict upbringing.
The standout song form the album was clearly “Molly’s Chambers”. This is probably the most popular song that came from the album however this is not to forget the other hit songs that were “California Waiting” and “Red Morning Light”. All of these were songs that give the sense of them leaving and moving up in the world and finally reaching California. This album does still have the sound of Southern rock and roll. The whole album leaves the listener wanting more yet seems to give just enough. It was the perfect debut album; it is not overly good because it still leaves room for improvement with the second album. It was a success but does not allow the Kings of Leon to fall into the trap of second album syndrome.
2. Because of the Times
This was their third studio album. It was another album that was received well critically and commercially. It received numerous top ratings from some of the top music critics. It peaked at number 1 in album charts in Ireland, New Zealand and the UK. Being their third album they had the experience of having written two other albums. This gave them knowledge and maturity of being in the music industry.
This album does feature my personal favourite song by the Kings of Leon and that is “McFearless”. I saw this live in Hyde Park two years ago shortly after Ryan Dunn had passed away. They dedicated this song to him and played a montage of his best bits form Jackass in the background. It was a fitting tribute to a man whom at the time I knew little about but I could sense he was a great friend of theirs.
The rest of the album features a variety of great songs. “Fans” is one song by the Kings of Leon that can be considered to be acoustic. Also it features the song “Charmer” which is a song that requires many listens at first but once you get past those first few listens it becomes a great song and the vocals of Caleb that at first seems very harsh to the ears become a lot clearer and does not penetrate the eardrums as much. “On Call” is another song that is a much slower tempo but like many other KOL songs builds up into a small crescendo. The standout song for the members of the band is the song “Black Thumbnail”. This song is their personal favourite song and they always play it on their encores because it means so much to them as a band.
1. Aha Shake Heartbreak
This is my favourite KOL album for a variety of reasons, one being that this was their second album and they wrote it after a relatively successful debut album. Therefore the pressure could have been seen to be very high. Their naivety to the music industry was what made this album so great. Many bands have written great debut albums but then suffer from second album syndrome. The Followills did not suffer from this. The second album is one that can further launch careers or stop them dead.
Another reason why I like this album is because all the songs sound similar but not in a bad way. It was in a way that made it sound as if all the songs were written with a similar theme and during the same time period when all ideas were still fresh and still floating around in their minds. The album still has the sound of the southern rock but now has a newer sound that comes from recording elsewhere, mainly in New York. This was a huge impact on their music writing as they now had different influences and could change their style of music. The vocals from Caleb are something that hasn’t changed much and he still does his thing where he really emphasizes the syllables on certain words at the end of each chorus on some songs.
Also the album was brilliant because they were not massively popular at the time it was released. This was important because they could not just write an average album and sell a large number of copies like some famous artists do these days, they really had to work to sell albums and they did this by writing good music to attract new fans.
Some of the standout songs are “Taper Jean Girl”, “The Bucket”, “Soft” and “Four Kicks”. All make for a great album. The theme is one that appears to be much more mature than their first album. It is as if they have reached a new place that they were aiming fro and they are writing about the experience of this new place. For example there is a large part in a few songs about meeting new girls and the events that take place afterwards.
The album on a whole is possibly the most perfect KOL album that has ever been written. This is because of all the little reasons that just make it great. You can only write a second album once and it can make or break and artist and with this album they made it. From this platform they were propelled into the world’s eye and now they are arguably one of the best rock bands in the world and this can all be tracked back to this album.