Kings of Leon is an American rock band that formed in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2000. The band’s early music was a blend of Southern rock and blues influences, but it has gradually expanded throughout the years to include a variety of genres and a more alternative, arena rock sound.
After touring in support of Only by the Night for two years, the guys are acutely aware that loud, booming anthems are the best way to fill a stadium, and Come Around Sundown is engineered to sound as immense as possible. Nowhere is this more evident than in Caleb Followill’s choruses, most of which seem to revolve around sustained high notes, and Matthew Followill’s guitar lines, which split their time between moody textures and cyclic, reverb-heavy riffs. The few diversions from that template are some of the album’s best moments — “Mary” sweetens the band’s sound with a little doo wop, and “Beach Side” focuses on casting a mood rather than creating a spectacle — but they’re too scattered to change the “go big or go home” mentality, and the twangy “Back Down South” (which soared during the band’s mid-summer 2010 tour) never quite leaves the ground in its recorded version. All detours aside, this is super-sized, guitar-driven, modern rock pomp, a sort of Only by the Night: The Sequel aimed at those who prefer their KOL songs big and bombastic. Kings of Leon haven’t gotten to the point where “Use Somebody” is their default setting, but it has become their benchmark, and Come Around Sundown attempts to replicate that song’s success while still giving the middle finger to Top 40 radio. Sometimes, it works. Other times, Kings of Leon sound like they’ve flatlined their sound while trying to streamline their appeal.
Big production, big vocals, big hooks, big choruses: big. Kings of Leon simply do big well, putting to rest the common misconception that magnitude and discipline have an inverse relationship in songwriting. The band fires on all cylinders here, meticulously polishing every aspect of their music, from Jared Followill’s consistently excellent basslines to brother Caleb’s pained, gruff vocals to the often innovative percussion–though overproduced this is not.
In fact, the band’s attention to detail is precisely what allows them to surprise us, and often. “Back Down South,” with its twang-y guitars and fiddles and lyrics about, you know, Going Back Down South, should probably be just an annoying retread of yee-haw Kid Rock-esque Southern fetishism (no offense to any who may live down there), but instead it’s wistful yet celebratory in that very universal way; the way that makes us all hold hands and sing even if we have no idea what that “good ol’ life” is like. “Beach Side” is uncharacteristically lush and almost tropical, one-upping some of the more jammy bands this side of the decade. Though Kings of Leon still have their distinctively rough-edged style, they’ve subtly and masterfully included more variety from a wide range of influences; certainly more than enough to convince any levelheaded listener who may have previously approached the band with a little skepticism.
1. “The End” – 4:24
2. “Radioactive” – 3:26
3. “Pyro” – 4:10
4. “Mary” – 3:25
5. “The Face” – 3:28
6. “The Immortals” – 3:28
7. “Back Down South” – 4:01
8. “Beach Side” – 2:50
9. “No Money” – 3:05
10. “Pony Up” – 3:04
11. “Birthday” – 3:15
12. “Mi Amigo” – 4:06
13. “Pickup Truck” – 4:44
Deluxe and Japanese editions
14. “Celebration” – 5:03
15. “Closer” (The Presets Remix) – 4:51
16. “Radioactive” (Remix) (feat. the West Angeles Mass Choir) – 3:29
All tracks written by Kings of Leon.
Kings of Leon
- Caleb Followill – lead and backing vocals, rhythm and acoustic guitar
- Matthew Followill – lead guitar, synthesiser, piano, Wurlitzer, lap steel, backing vocals
- Jared Followill – bass, synthesiser, piano, percussion, xylophone, Omnichord, backing vocals
- Nathan Followill – drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Jacquire King – production, percussion, backing vocals
- Angelo Petraglia – production, B3 organ, wurlitzer
- Liam O’Neil – B3 organ, baritone and tenor sax, synthesiser, piano
- Robert Mallory – fiddle
- Krish Lingala – saxophone, synthesiser, theremin
- Chris Coleman – trumpet, backing vocals
- Mike Kezner – sitar, maracas
- Ken Levitan & Andy Mendelsohn for Vector – management
- Scott Clayton, CAA (USA) & Peter Nash (Rest of World) – booking
Released: October 15, 2010
Recorded: February–June 2010 at Avatar in New York; Blackbird in Nashville, Tennessee
Genre: Alternative rock
Style: Southern rock, surf rock
Label – RCA Records