Rock & Roll Report Card

Kings of Leon
Kings of Leon
Credit: 
Supplied
The Kills
The Kills
Credit: 
Supplied

A (84%)
Kings of Leon
Only by the Night
RCA Records

Tennessee-bred Kings of Leon released their fourth album, Only by the Night in September 2008 to much anticipation and anxiety over the direction of their music. The constant changing of the band’s style and genre has been evident in their music since their debut release, Youth and Young Manhood in 2003. I’m happy to report that the guys have topped themselves again, delivering an album bursting with stunning melodies and razor-sharp grooves.

This time around, the table of brotherly Kings Caleb, Jared, Matthew and Nathan Followill have offered up an intoxicating blend of rock, soul, new wave and country that officially wipes away their previous label as horny teenage garage rockers and paints a new and mature image of the band—an obvious and fortunate progression from their previous records.

The seductive first single “Sex on Fire,” a new-wave and animalistic track, pulsates with raw torrid passion, as the newly mature Kings combine hard rocking, ringing guitars with soaring, fluid vocals. It electrifies the listener with its first command: “Lay where you’re laying/Don’t make a sound.”

The band’s deep-felt melodies are consistent throughout the album, from the atmospheric, dark and gloomy record opener “Closer” to the stomp-worthy “Crawl.” The Kings’ southern influences can still be heard on Only by the Night, notably in the pleasantly narrative “17,” and the southern-soaked “Cold Desert,” a track which, in comparison to the others, falls below the bar with its pairing of droning guitar and somewhat bland and repetitive chorus and lyrics.

The gut-wrenching and stadium-worthy “Use Somebody” showcases lead singer Caleb’s Allman Brothers-esque throaty passion while still upholding strong and boundary-free guitar and bass lines, enforcing the group’s ability to convey both power and emotion in their songs.

With yet another successful studio release under their belts, I can’t help but look forward to seeing just how good Kings of Leon can get.

—Ally Hall

A (87%)
The Kills
Midnight Boom
Domino Records

On their third studio LP, Jamie “Hotel” Hince and Alison “VV” Mosshart strike up an often tenuous compromise between obnoxiously odd and radio-friendly. This disc could just as easily be spun on the top 40 as in your friendly neighbourhood vintage clothing store. The Kills work seamlessly in dichotomies, bleeding together Mosshart’s cigarettes-and-alcohol, bluesy, aggressive rasp with Hince’s often mumbled, but present baritone delivery. It’s a combination that—somewhat miraculously—creates a running parallel which works with the momentum of the record rather than against it.

Hince and Mosshart certainly make impressive use of household appliances and knick-knacks in this musical effort. Imagine, if you will, an experimental blend of telephone dial tones, hacking coughs, ass-kicking distortion, record scratching and the always enjoyable dynamic duo of twinkling piano and a solid percussion section.

Some partially-nonsensical but nonetheless enjoyable highlights of the album include “Cheap and Cheerful,” a cynical rocker despite its sunny name, “Black Balloon,” an unusually ethereal grunge effort with moments reminiscent of early Nirvana and “Sour Cheery,” a seductive staccato delivery. Not everything’s so fast though. “Goodnight Bad Morning,” an earnest back and forth number closes out the album with an unexpected dose of lucidity and heartbreak.

Midnight Boom is much like that crazy uncle on your mom’s side; you don’t necessarily have to understand him to love him. On their most recent album, The Kills leave the rest of the indie rock crowd dead in their tracks.

—Kate Underwood

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