Kings of Leon: Come Around Sundown

RIYL: U2, Lynryd Skynrd, The Allman Brothers

Kings of Leon must be happy that they’re no longer being called the next big thing. Their breakthrough album, Only by the Night, which featured the hits “Sex on Fire” and the Grammy nominated “Use Somebody,” put them front and center on the radio and made them stars. Now, with the release of Come Around Sundown, there are some news outlets calling this record their U2 moment. The thinking is that like The Joshua Tree did for the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famers from Ireland, Come Around Sundown will propel the Kings into another stratosphere.  It’s certainly possible, but I’m not a hundred percent sold on that idea.

The new album will most definitely please anyone who just discovered the band with Only by the Night.  The songs throughout Come Around Sundown have the same power and aching moan that made its predecessor so successful. There’s no doubt that the guys in this band know how to write a great rock hook, as the new single “Radioactive” proves tenfold. Moreover, there are several songs on this album that will make fine additions to radio playlists and will translate just fine on stage, blending seamlessly with the Kings older material. I can certainly hear “The End,” “Mary” and “Pony Up” as hit songs.

However, there are points in the album in which singer Caleb Followill’s voice really starts to wear thin and the chiming guitars start to grow tiresome, primarily in the middle section of songs. However, things return to form as the record winds down, in particular with the lovely song, “Birthday.” Anyone strictly familiar with the bands radio hits will love this song. There is real depth and power on Come Around Sundown that makes it a remarkable record, despite its few flaws.

I’m not sure Kings of Leon will ever become one of the most important rock bands in the world; U2 is still around to hold that title. Until Bono and the Edge decide to hang it up, Kings of Leon will just have to remain one of the best American bands of the 21st Century. (RCA 2010)

Kings of Leon MySpace page


Lissie: Catching a Tiger

RIYL: Patty Griffin, Brandi Carlile, Kings of Leon

51kNc0uvmaL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]The sign of a great song is that you can’t just listen to it once. The melody gets stuck inside your head and you keep going back for repeated  listens — five, 10, sometimes 20 times in a row. The sign of a great album is that it’s full of great songs you can’t stop listening to it no matter how much you tell yourself you should pause and catch your breath. Of course, great albums with great songs take a long time to get through, because you’re continually repeating the first song until you’re finally ready to move on to track two. The process begins all over again until a whole week has passed before you’ve finally gotten through an album that should have only taken an hour. Such is the case with Catching a Tiger, the full-length debut from freckle-faced Midwesterner Lissie, aka Elisabeth Maurus. Words can’t express how wonderful and exciting this album is.

Lissie has a voice that is soulful, aching, and raw; it can do just about anything she commands it to. The opening track is a huge, Tarantino-sized soul song with Italian western overtones called “Record Collector”; here, Lissie brings Duffy to mind, as well as on the splendid ’60s girl group pop-style song “Stranger.” However, as you listen to the album, it becomes obvious very quickly that Lissie is capable of any genre, be it adult alternative (as on the intricately worded, immediately catchy “When I’m Alone”) or blues rock (the heartbreaking “In Sleep,” which features a killer two-minute guitar solo that warps the song up to its bitter end). “Bully” is a slice of ’60s-ish big old pop bombast; “Little Lovin’” a folksy ballad with a strong backbeat that crescendos to a triumphant finish; and “Cuckoo” is just about one of the most perfect reflections of adolescence I’ve heard in ages. When I listen to that particular track I can’t help but think of my young daughter and the formative years ahead of her. I only hope that she can find a song that resonates with her as I’m sure “Cuckoo” will connect with a crop of young girls just becoming young women. By the time the album wraps up with quiet hymn “Oh Mississippi” (co-written with Ed Harcourt), you won’t be thinking of Duffy anymore, but of Patty Griffin, one our generation’s most remarkable and inspiring singers.

Produced by Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Norah Jones, Modest Mouse) and Bill Reynolds of Band of Horses, the songs on Catching a Tiger are arranged like a perfect concert set list. Three powerful uptempo numbers to pull you in, then a slow ballad, followed by a moderately fast song that leads into a couple more high-energy songs before another ballad. You get the picture. Catching a Tiger flows like the classic albums we have etched in our minds, the ones we return to time and time again as the years go by. Perhaps this is the one record your children will claim as their own and recall some 10 to 15 years from now? While each and every song is produced to superlative effect, with beautifully layered harmonies over subtle guitar parts and driving rhythm sections, tying everything together is Lissie’s amazing voice and her heartfelt, truthful lyrics. While there are a slew of female singer-songwriters releasing new albums this year, most of them seem to get stuck in one mode, primarily the type of atmospheric ballads you hear playing in the background on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Lissie, like the aforementioned Griffin and the exceptional Brandi Carlile, challenges herself on each song, using her gifted vocals for greatness. She knows when the song requires her to hold back, and when it requires her to belt it out. And when she does belt it out, my God, it can be chilling. If I don’t hear another record this year, I’ll be fine because Catching a Tiger has so much power, beauty and heart that it’s going to take me a while to fall in love with something else. It is most definitely one of the best albums of this year — and possibly years to come. (2010, Fat Possum)

Visit the Lissie MySpace page

Purchase the album through Amazon (seriously, this is a must buy)


Quintessential Songs of the ’00s: #5 “Use Somebody”

Truth be told, there are about 45 other Kings of Leon songs that I’d like to plug in here — I’ve been a huge fan since Youth and Young Manhood in 2003 — but there’s no doubt that “Use Somebody” is KoL’s signature tune. It hit #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, won three Grammys and is by far the band’s biggest hit.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great track. It has the kind of soaring, arena-filling chorus that the Followills weren’t even trying to write until about four years ago.

It always puzzled me why the band didn’t hit it big earlier in their career, especially with the way the UK adores them. But hey, better late than never.

From the song’s wiki page:

On U.S. radio, the song was a multi-format smash, becoming just the fourth song in history to top the Mainstream Top 40, Adult Top 40, Alternative Songs, and Triple A charts.[9] The three prior being “Slide” by the Goo Goo Dolls, “Every Morning” by Sugar Ray, and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day.

From SongFacts:

Caleb told Uncut magazine October 2008 the story of the song: “The meat of song was written on tour. When I came up with ‘I could use somebody,’ I didn’t know if I was talking about a person or home or God. I felt immediately that it was a big song, and it scared me away. Then, when we were writing the record, Matthew kept sayin’, ‘What’s that song, man?’, and I acted like I didn’t know what he was talking about. Then, finally, I went, ‘All right, we’ll do it,’ and as soon as we started playin’ it, the producers looked up and said, ‘Whoa, that’s a good song.’ I was like, ‘OK.'”

More Quintessential Songs of the ’00s.


I’m Gonna Make You Love Me: 15 Great Bands We Used to Hate

They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression…unless you’re a musician, of course. In what other world can you hate something with the white-hot fire of a thousand suns, only to discover one day that a switch involuntarily flipped in your head that makes you think, “You know what, I really like these guys!”? Truth be told, it happens to us nearly every day, and most of the time it’s with a band or artist that we as music reviewers are supposed to love unconditionally but, for whatever reason, we just don’t. Or at least didn’t up until recently.

Call this the companion piece to our list earlier this year of bands that we just don’t get – which was almost universally misinterpreted as a staff-wide condemnation, rather than each writer speaking for himself – only with a much more positive vibe. The Bullz-Eye writers bare their souls and confess to previous biases that have since turned to heartfelt crushes (or at the very least, tolerance of a band’s existence). The list of acquired tastes is a who’s who of Hall of Famers, critical darlings, and…Cobra Starship? Who let that guy in here?

Flaming Lips
My first exposure to the Flaming Lips was seeing the video for “She Don’t Use Jelly” on MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead” show, which immediately pegged the Lips as a novelty in my mind (and not one that I even enjoyed all that much). How could one not see novelty in a song with a character who spreads Vaseline on her toast? This was kid stuff, and yes, I could be a silly kid, but where I drew my lines of tolerance for silliness were admittedly very arbitrary (example: I unironically enjoyed Mister Ed). As such, I completely shut out the Lips.

Fast forward five years later: I was just about finished with college, working at a record store, yet still very skeptical when a respected friend and coworker slipped me an advance copy of The Soft Bulletin in 1999 (10 years ago already?). His taste was generally pretty spot on, so I gave it a shot. From the first song, I heard a completely different band, one that was drawing inspiration from one of my all-time favorites – Brian Wilson. I came around almost instantaneously upon hearing “Race for the Prize,” and even grew to dig “She Don’t Use Jelly” too. How stupid could I have been all that time? Blame it on my youth. – Michael Fortes

Guided by Voices
The buzz was loud and clear on Bee Thousand, the lo-fi masterpiece by Dayton alt-rockers Guided by Voices. This was the record that everyone positively had to own, so I borrowed it from a friend of mine…and totally didn’t get it. The songs aren’t finished! Are these demos? When lead singer Robert Pollard – whose last name should be a synonym for ‘prolific’ – saw a song to its completion, as he did on “Tractor Rape Chain,” I was definitely into it, but too many of the songs felt like piss takes to me, so I politely stayed off the bandwagon. Five years later, he made “Teenage FBI” with Ric Ocasek, which I loved, but still didn’t buy any of their records. Then they dropped Human Amusements at Hourly Rates, a compilation of Pollard’s more, ahem, finished songs, and I finally bit, and the disc scarcely left my CD player for months afterward. And then, of course, the band broke up just when I was beginning to appreciate them. Luckily, they recorded 16 albums in 17 years before calling it quits. The only question now is: which one do I start with? – David Medsker

To read the rest of “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me: 15 Great Bands We Used to Hate,” click here.


Kings of Leon – new video for “Use Somebody”

Kings of Leon received some mixed reviews for their new album – Only by the Nightbut James Eldred of Bullz-Eye loved it. Here’s the new video for “Use Somebody” – a very solid effort that makes me want to go out and get the new record.