It’s hard to believe it has been two years already since Kings of Leon’s highly successful breakout album, “Only By the Night,” was released. Songs from that album are still reverberating all over radio. Now brothers Caleb, Nathan, and Jared, along with cousin Matthew, are releasing “Come Around Sundown” — their fifth studio album. I think one question on everyone’s mind is: Can it compare to 2008’s commercial juggernaut? Well, I am lucky enough to have heard the new album already… and I have the answer: Who cares?
The album is a strong and unyielding endeavor. If you’re looking for the “Use Somebody” Kings that shot to uber-stardom with their last album, you might be a bit disappointed. Parts of it are there, but it’s very understated and I don’t want to make comparisons because they sound different with each progressing album. This is one of those bands that I love to see explore new sounds because they can do so much experimentation and still sound incredible.
The album kicks off with “The End.” With a transcendent bass line, the brooding song has almost a Killers(-ish) sound to it. The first single off the album, “Radioactive,” is a thrashy, riotous number with a fuzzy guitar sound, complete with falsetto backup vocals.The backing falsetto continues on “Mary,” a song that holds a steady beat as Caleb pledges, “No I won’t, never once, make you cry / Just to kiss, how I’ll miss your goodbye.”
Several songs pay homage to the band’s home state of Tennessee. “The Face” suggests, “If you give up New York, I’ll give you Tennessee, the only place to be.” The tribute to their roots continues with the southern anthem, “Back Down South.” With a country tinge and a hint of steel guitar, it’s a mesmerizing song, highlighted by Caleb’s lackadaisical singing. The juxtaposition works great. While on the surface, they are singing about the south, upon closer examination of the lyrics, the song could also simply be construed as another “Sex On Fire,” as the descriptive imagery suggests. I love the double meaning behind their words!
“Birthday” is a good-time drinking song all about taking someone home and “Fallin’ and laughin’ at the drinks we spilled / Just one of those nights that I had to share.” As for “Mi Amigo,” I have a hard time trying to figure out if he’s being literal or if what he’s singing about is symbolic of something else. It’s hard to tell, but it’s a fun song, nonetheless. The album closes with “Pickup Truck,” an intensely passionate track that alludes to getting caught having an affair.
Lead singer Caleb Followill’s soulful, raspy voice echoes through the entire album and if you’re a longtime Kings fan, you’ll notice “Come Around Sundown” evokes some elements of their earlier albums, “Aha Shake Heartbreak” and “Because of the Times.” Still, this album also propels them forward into a new realm. It’s a little more subdued than strident, focusing more on the laid-back, meandering musicianship and thought-provoking words. It’s a solid effort and a great album to listen to whether you’re at the gym, on a road trip or if you just want to unwind.