September 25, 2008

Test Spin: Kings of Leon

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Caleb Followill begins Only by the Night, Kings of Leon’s haunting and expansive new record, by singing, “Stranded in this spooky town. / Stoplights are swaying and the phone lines are down. / Snow is crackling cold.” More confident and relaxed than ever, Kings evoke the shadows of this ghost town with a drum pattern that can only be described as a slow, southern drawl. This, matched with Caleb’s crackling voice and thick atmospheric guitars, makes “Closer” a dynamic, contrasty song and also a perfect pick to summarize the record. In total, the band manages to slice craggy chunks of noise from a moody and generally subdued palette. For Kings, this is a good thing. The grooves are comfortable but never sleepy, and Caleb’s howling feels authentic. In “Use Somebody,” he laments, “Off in the night, while you live it up, I’m off to sleep. / Waging wars to shape the poet and the beat. / I hope it’s gonna make you notice.” Sounds genuine and, frankly, moving. I for one have definitely taken notice.