The Tennessee quartet known as Kings of Leon have just released their fourth album, “Only By the Night.” Hailing from Nashville, this band of brothers (and their cousin) has come a long way since their initial EP in 2003. It’s pretty much a given that, as a band, it’s a bad position to be in when people start comparing you to other bands. Kings of Leon has often been compared to The Strokes (and were even once dubbed The Strokes of the south). Well, I think it’s safe to say those days are over. If their last album didn’t prove it, this album does. They’ve finally come into their own and out of the shadows of their predecessors.
Kings of Leon are slowly and steadily becoming more and more known. They performed on the 2nd episode of “Saturday Night Live” last week. Their last album, “Because of the Times,” debuted at #25 on the Billboard charts. Their shows are selling out left and right for their new tour. Their new single, “Sex on Fire,” off the new album, has already reached #1 in the U.K. If this is any indication, “Only By the Night” should debut fairly well. This album, while refreshing and edgy, is a little mellower than their last album. But, with the innovative guitar and haunting melodies, it actually adds to the allure and charisma of the songs.
The album is addicting, plain and simple. I’ve listened to the entire album several times already. I keep it in my car and I’m always disappointed when I reach my destination because that means I have to turn it off. Musical addiction can be a tricky thing. When I first listened to it, I immediately wanted to hear it again. After a third time, I knew I should stop, but I couldn’t. By the sixth time, I knew I had a problem because all my other beloved CD’s were sadly being neglected, as this one was slowly beginning to take over my life. I know I should quit, but why should I if it’s this damn good? The songs on the album contain remnants of their earlier work, but for the most part, it’s an evolutionary effort progressing into a realm of new sounds.
Songs like “Crawl” and “Notion” just make you want to get up and sing. I hear them and I want to be front and center at one of their concerts, rocking out. And the lead singer, Caleb Followill, has one of the most unparalleled, ethereal voices I’ve ever heard, which helps give the band such a distinctive sound.
“Sex on Fire” hits you instantly with its catchy verses and heated lyrics. It’s not a love song by any means; rather it focuses on pure, raw passion, and quite possibly a one-night stand. Through Caleb Followill’s incomparable voice, the lyrics are so focused on what’s about to transpire, we hear nothing about the subject of this song apart from her white knuckles and soft open lips. It captures a moment and feeling with subtle imagery and an all-consuming intensity.
In contrast, the very next song on the album, “Use Somebody,” captures a completely opposite emotion — loneliness. What could be sadder than “While you live it up, I’m off to sleep”? Pairing that with the affecting lyrics of the song “Be Somebody”: “I’m gonna be somebody… it’s gonna make you love me,” makes me wonder if this whole album is really just a lonely man’s quest for love and self-discovery.
After a myriad of transcendent musical and lyrical emotions, the album closes with the chilling and brooding “The Cold Desert.” A song about misplaced hope and learning to accept life’s disappointments. In my opinion, it’s the best song on the album.