When I promised to review one album a week for 2011, I started getting suggestions right away. The first was from my friend Andy K., who suggested the Kings of Leon album. While I've sort of envisioned this exercise as a way to introduce people to really obscure stuff, I like this suggestion.
Clearly, Kings of Leon doesn't qualify as obscure. In fact, they're probably on of the biggest rock bands in the world now. Recently, I was talking with CD-101 DJ Brian Phillips and the Lonely Bones keys/guitars/vocals Rick Kinsinger about the demise of good old rock and roll in the face of competition from pop, hip-hop, country and so many other genre's of music. Don't believe me, check out the Billboard Hot 100. For this week, the highest ranking rock song comes in at #24. The amazing thing is that while sales for music in general and rock in particular have been falling steadily, the quality of rock music is still quite high.
The Kings of Leon Come Around Sundown is a case in point. It was released in North America on October 19 and did make it to #2 on the Billboard 200 (albums list) and #1 on the "Rock Albums" and "Alternative Albums" charts. However, the great single from the this album, Radioactive, peaked out at #37 on the Hot 100 (list of top songs). By the way, this illustrates another point that rock fans still buy albums disproportionately to the rest of the industry.
Anyway, enough of the diatribe about the state of rock music and on to this album. Bottom line is that it's an excellent album. The only negative things that I've read to which I ascribe any validity are that it's maybe not as good as some of their truly exceptional earlier works like Youth and Young Manhood and my favorite Only by the Night. To point out the changes in the Kings of Leon's style is more of an observation to me than a criticism. I think evolution is healthy and I salute them for the highly refined, beautifully produced music that their making now.
Of the 16 songs on Come Around Sundown, three make me sit up and pay attention when I hear them. The biggest single is a song called Radioactive. Here's the video:
I love the sense of place and belonging that this song engenders. Here are the first couple lines:
When the role is called up yonder
I hope you see me there
It's in the water
It's where you came from
This is sort of sentimental, but it works for me.
Back Down South is another song with a great sense of place. For those who don't know, the Kings of Leon is composed of three brothers and their cousin. They are from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. This song is about going home. I couldn't find an official video for it, but here is a performance they did of it on BBC:
This other thing this video does for me is to affirm one of my key tests for a band which is do they sound as good (or better) live than they do on their studio produced albums. This is a great example of a band that wins me over with a live performance.
The last song I'll point out is Mary. It's a fairly standard song about a guy standing on a street corner hitting on a girl, but I love the tone and promise that the songs offers.
That's all for now. Let me know if you have suggestions for next week's post.