Your Next Favorite Artist: Kings of Leon

BY ABBY ROSE NOTARNICOLA // 

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I have been feeling very nostalgic recently. I don’t know if it has to do with the spring weather bringing up warm memories of family gatherings and bustling outings, but I do know that my ears have turned to the music of one band in particular– The Kings of Leon. I grew up listening to this pop rock alternative mix while in the car with my mom, turning up “Use Somebody” whenever it came on the radio because it’s her favorite song by her favorite band. Though my mothers enthusiasm may have primed me to like their music, I developed a relationship with their sound all on my own. Not many artists can change my entire disposition, and connect me to a mental space that isn’t entirely my own. For me, Kings of Leon is synonymous with the feeling of looking out a car window, seeing images of your life flash over a changing landscape, filling you with indescribable emotion that boils and boils, and just when you want to explode, the song ends and it’s over. This is because the emotions I’m feeling aren’t mine, they are the bands. In whatever mood I’m in, whenever I hear their wallowing vocals and silky somber notes, I am transported to this place. It’s meditative, because I’m present in the song and its emotion, and not ruminating in my own thoughts. They’re brooding, and I’m brooding with them, but not over anything of my own. It’s refreshing, and a rush. 

Kings of Leon was formed in Nashville in 1999, and consists of the three Fowell brothers, Caleb, Nathan, and Jared, and their cousin Matthew. Though this family band experienced some rough patches, they still produced a total of 7 hit records and have reconciled their differences with the production of their newest album, When You See Yourself. This collection of songs pays tribute to their shift from angsty, aggressive themes to more wise and reflective content. This maturity is evident when comparing songs like “Sex on Fire”, a song with meaning as literal as the title, to “100,00 people”, an ode to Caleb’s wifes’ father, who passed away from dementia. Though the content of the songs has changed, their music’s possessive quality remains the same. With some albums leaning more towards soft rock, while others pop or alternative, what’s consistent is how each song grabs a hold of you. Even before Caleb’s raspy vocals send shivers down your spine, a mellow drum beat and fleeting electric guitar works together to create their up-tempo or down-tempo melancholy sound. Similarly to the car window, these accompanying sounds act like a changing landscape, cutting out to place emphasis on the vocals or revving up towards a chorus. Despite various levels of thrashing symbols, soothing vocals, dramatic electric guitar or steady bass riffs, each song retains the same wistful tone. 

When You See Yourself came out in March of 2021, and has been proven to pair perfectly with cherry blossom season, I have found. Unlike their earlier albums, these songs are less head thrashing and more mystical. I can’t stop listening to the song “Claire & Eddie”, which is about the relationship between man and the earth– a nod to the fires in California and destruction brought on by climate change. Not only is this their first dip into somewhat political topics, but the way themes of fragility and disappointment are expressed make a montage appear in my head, and I get lost in images of cherry blossoms, riding a bike around the tidal basin and a blur of mesmerized faces looking across the water. These images are taken from my life, but charged with the song’s emotion. Each of their songs puts me in a similar trance, and I emerge in a more calm, present state. My other favorites from this album are “Stormy Weather”, “Supermarket”, “When You See Yourself, Are you Far Away,” and “Time in Disguise”. 

The albums I grew up on listening to are Only By The Night and Mechanical Bull, which contain some of my all time favorite songs, and the titles most people would be familiar with. I’m also a huge fan of WALLS which came out in 2016, and several songs off of Come Around Sundown. In a playlist I made called Your Next Favorite Artist: Kings of Leon, you can listen to all my favorites on Spotify. 

As for current news, the band recently appeared in an NME article that talks about When You See Yourself, their evolution as a band and growth as individuals and artists. The article hits on the power they have to be transgenerational, which is something I can attest to with mom mom, and expands on how they have matured in content. Also, they recently appeared in an Apple Music Interview with Zane Lowe and here is their latest live performance posted on their youtube channel. 

As for what to expect in the future, there is no word of another album coming, but hopes that touring can resume in the post covid era. While we wait for more content, I encourage anyone who reads this to check out my Spotify playlist, and see if their sound affects you the same way it affects me. Their music’s entrancing quality has held true from their first album to their most recent, and I am certain that Kings of Leon will leave a mark on you that is incomparable to any artist.

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