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Kings of Leon: Walls

 A l b u m   D e t a i l s

Label: RCA Records
Released: 2016.10.14
Category: Alternative Rock, Indie Rock
Producer(s): Markus Dravs
Media type: CD
Web address: www.kingsofleon.com
Appears with:
Purchase date: 2017
Price in €: 1,00

 S o n g s ,   T r a c k s

[1] Waste a Moment (C.Followill/N.Followill/J.Followill/M.Followill) - 3:03
[2] Reverend (C.Followill/N.Followill/J.Followill/M.Followill) - 3:54
[3] Around the World (C.Followill/N.Followill/J.Followill/M.Followill) - 3:34
[4] Find Me (C.Followill/N.Followill/J.Followill/M.Followill) - 4:05
[5] Over (C.Followill/N.Followill/J.Followill/M.Followill) - 6:10
[6] Muchacho (C.Followill/N.Followill/J.Followill/M.Followill) - 3:09
[7] Conversation Piece (C.Followill/N.Followill/J.Followill/M.Followill) - 4:59
[8] Eyes on You (C.Followill/N.Followill/J.Followill/M.Followill) - 4:40
[9] Wild (C.Followill/N.Followill/J.Followill/M.Followill) - 3:39
[10] WALLS (C.Followill/N.Followill/J.Followill/M.Followill) - 5:29

 A r t i s t s ,   P e r s o n n e l

Caleb Followill - Lead & Backing Vocals, Guitar, Percussion
Matthew Followill - Backing Vocals, Guitar, Percussion
Jared Followill - Backing Vocals, Bass, Percussion
Nathan Followill - Backing Vocals, Drums, Percussion

Liam O'Neil - Background Vocals, Clavinet, Jupiter-8, Mellotron, Minimoog, Percussion, Piano, Prophet Synthesizer, Synthesizer, Wurlitzer

Markus Dravs - Producer
Robin Baynton - Engineer
Nicolas Essig - Assistant Engineer
Dylan Nelson - Assistant Engineer
Spike Stent - Mixing
Geoff Swan - Mixing Assistant
Michael Freeman - Mixing Assistant
Ted Jensen - Mastering
Anthony Cairns - Assistant
Christopher Followill - Assistant
Britti Himelfarb - Assistant
Brent Rawlings - Assistant
Mitch Salle - Assistant
Jay Schleusener - Assistant
Jessica Windsor - Assistant
Dan Chertoff - A&R
Ken Levitan - Management
Andy Mendelsohn - Management

 C o m m e n t s ,   N o t e s

It's easy to forget that when Kings of Leon broke through in 2008 with Only by the Night, they were already four albums deep into their career. Buoyed by the popularity of hits "Sex of Fire" and "Use Somebody," the Tennessee four-piece transformed from ragged, post-punk upstarts into arena-bait arbiters of anthemic, mainstream rock uplift, exposing their abiding love for U2 in the process. In some ways, the tonal shift made sense to a band poised to storm the awards stages next to similarly grand-minded acts like Coldplay and the Killers. It's a stance the band has assumed unflinchingly, if somewhat doggedly on subsequent albums like 2010's Come Around Sundown and 2013's Mechanical Bull. Although those albums had their brighter moments (the driving "Supersoaker"), there was a sense that just as KOL ascended to their rightful place in the post-U2 rock royalty, they became codified and predictable. On their seventh studio album, 2016's WALLS, Kings of Leon clearly attempt to crack the surface of that codified shell, hunkering down in Los Angeles with producer Markus Dravs (Florence + the Machine, Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons), purportedly taking a looser, less critical approach to recording. The result is an album that does feel less claustrophobic than previous efforts, with a lean aesthetic that straddles the gaps between classic Tom Petty, '80s Fleetwood Mac, and more contemporary acts like Arcade Fire. It's a brief album, clocking ten songs in just over 40 minutes. There's also a handful of catchy, pulse-pounding cuts here like sanguinely ecstatic "Find Me" and the swaggeringly heavy-browed "Reverend," both of which find lead singer Caleb Followill retaining his position as the band's biggest asset; his emotive southern yawp rife with poetry and lyricism. The looser approach also pays dividends as the band dive into the kinetic Afro-pop jauntiness of "Around the World," and commit with wholehearted sincerity to the melodic '80s new wave-meets-'50s rock of "Eyes on You." And while no one will accuse Kings of Leon of taking huge creative chances here, cuts like the ballad "Muchacho," with its endearingly creaky, analog-sounding drum machine, and the sparkling, sweet-toned "Conversation Piece," have the feel of in-the-moment discovery, as if the band recorded them not too soon after working them out. Many of the tracks on WALLS also benefit from the added texture of keyboardist Liam O'Neill's various Moog synthesizers, pianos, and Mellotrons. For longtime fans, there a few dependable arena belters here in the lead-off "Waste a Moment" and the yearning "Over," but, especially in regards to the latter, they beg you to push repeat. Ultimately, with WALLS, Kings of Leon have struck a nice balance between the garage band passion of their early work, and the large scale bombast that made them stars.

Matt Collar - All Music Guide

"Like in a mainstream melody/Oh, I want to take you in!" sings Caleb Followill on "Wild," a pop-rock rhinestone delivering said melody with bell-toned guitars and a sing-along chorus. Sure enough, after a sleeves-up recommitment to their Southern garage-ish roots on Mechanical Bull in 2013, the band's seventh LP tries to parse what "mainstream" means right now for a bunch of true-to-their-school guitar-slingers. The result is radio-buff rock & roll that could spoon between One Republic's genre-splicing power moves and the Head and the Heart's folk-pop uplift.

Producer Markus Dravs (Coldplay, Mumford & Sons) does an admirable job of translating Followill's signature slurred delivery and the band's muscular jangle into thicker arrangements, though the result can feel generic: "Reverend" resembles the pro-forma rock Nashville now markets as "country," while the anthemic "whoa-ooo"s in "Waste a Moment" – mirroring the Kings' mega-hit "Use Somebody" – have a whiff of old stadium hot-dogs. Encouragingly, the best bits are less predictable. The homeboy requiem "Muchacho" echoes the drum-machine cha-cha revival seeded by D.R.A.M. and Drake's "Hotline Bling" with a Roy Orbison delivery (remix!). And the title track is a slow-build power ballad suggesting the Kings can be more potent and distinctive when they dial it back.

Rating: 3/5

Will Hermes - October 14, 2016
© Rolling Stone 2017

Kings of Leon are one of those groups that haven’t quite grasped what makes them great. They are lightning in a bottle, an accidental collision of character, sensibility, history and happenstance.

A quartet of American brothers and cousins from a family of Christian preachers, they rebelliously stumbled and swaggered into a brand of hedonistically reckless southern garage rock of dangerous appeal. By their fourth album, 2008’s Only By the Night, the band had honed their mix of guitar drama, soul spirit and pop sleekness to a point where they had the world at their feet; they were widely heralded (certainly within the music business) as saviours of rock.

But since then the Kings have vacillated, as if uncertain how to reconcile the band’s untutored wild charm with the anthemic dynamics of stadium rock.

Walls is their seventh album and it suggests they are no closer to resolving their contradictions. The first four tracks roar straight out of the box. The energy is tough and lean, driven by Matthew Followill’s overactive bass and Nathan Followill’s direct drumming, framed by Jared and Caleb Followill’s rippling, echoing guitars.

Caleb’s hurting voice may be mired in the mix to the point of unintelligibility, yet it still lends everything they do emotional urgency, even when the songs themselves seem little more than pop confections. But it is impossible to escape a sense of diminishing returns. We have heard it all before, done better, by them.

Then comes track five and something threatening and real suddenly breaks to the surface. Over is a suicidal song about the pressures of fame, sung from the point of view of a hanged man. It offers a tantalising glimpse of the demons that really drive the band’s leader.

Caleb has always been the most interesting of the Followills, their principle songwriter, a self-torturing drunk and secret poet destined to follow his father into a pastoral career before being seduced by rock’n’roll.

A handful of songs display his more introspective side, highlighting that sweet, raw voice. The gently moving Muchacho is an adios to a deceased amigo, delivered with such understated sentimentality. Conversation Piece is an offbeat paean to domestic harmony, where Caleb’s falsetto pierces the band’s macho impulses. The title track is a thing of beauty, a long, slow rumination on what it takes for a private man to reveal his deepest feelings, in which Caleb’s brethren conjure a sensitively atmospheric flow beneath his ringing acoustic guitar and bleeding vocal.

For Kings of Leon to remain interesting and relevant, they need to stop trying to be the band the music business seems to want them to be and start following Caleb Followill’s muse wherever it leads.

Rating: 3/5

Neil McCormick, 18 OCT 2016
© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2017

Kings of Leon’s career follows a familiar trajectory from music press-championed guitar-slinging upstarts to success towards gradual disillusion. However, the southern states boys’ seventh album finds them successfully relocating their old vim and enthusiasm, and is packed with the sort of zippy verses and arena-sized choruses which resulted in Only By the Night’s global domination in 2008. Opener Waste a Moment is a sibling of shoutalong signature anthem Sex on Fire, but no worse for that. Other tracks have a more Springsteenesque, storytelling feel, with occasional lyrical cliches: people are caught in traps, and told “Don’t say it’s over.”

No wheels are being reinvented here, but while much of Walls marks a return to the Kings sound of eight years ago, there is some experimentation. Reverend features an untypically pretty guitar line, and they are unusually wistful on Conversation Piece and the really lovely Muchacho, which includes the unexpected but mellifluous sound of a Kings of Leon whistling solo.

Rating: 3/5

Dave Simpson, 13 October 2016
© 2017 Guardian News and Media

Since their 2003 debut, Youth & Young Manhood, Kings of Leon have veered between two styles. There’s the Lynyrd Skynyrd-biting good ol’ boys who love hot rock & roll, cold beer, and fast girls. Then there are the Grammy-winning artists with stadium-size ambitions to be the South’s answer to Radiohead or U2. They split the difference on their seventh album, and the result is their richest, most textured effort yet. With Arcade Fire and Björk producer Markus Dravs behind the boards, frontman Caleb, drummer Nathan, guitarist Matthew, and bassist Jared Followill craft songs with a tossed-off breeziness that only Southern gents can muster. That casualness is in stark contrast to Caleb’s dark lyrics. At 34—and married to model Lily Aldridge—he dives into his anxieties of staring down middle age, which is a boon to his storytelling: Even the machoest of bros will tear up over the gorgeous title track, where Caleb curiously confesses, “A man ain’t a man unless he has desire.” The Kings’ youth and young manhood may be fading; their music sounds all the better for it.

Rating: B+

Kevin O'Donnell - OCT 13, 2016
Copyright © 2017 Time Inc.

The Followills have remembered how much they like giant choruses and on ‘Walls’ have written 10 of them

“That woman in mom jeans who’d never let me date her daughter? She likes my music. That’s f**king not cool.” So said Caleb Followill in 2009. Back then, a mere year on from ‘Sex On Fire’ and his band being catapulted out of hipsterdom and into the super-mainstream, you could understand his shell shock.

But it feels like Kings Of Leon have also spent much of the seven years that followed trying to reconnect with their original audience, while not quite being brave enough to shed the stadium histrionics entirely. ‘Come Around Sundown’ and ‘Mechanical Bull’ had their moments, but the neither-here-nor-there approach left both in a no man’s land that was still too commercial for old fans, and now too difficult for the new ones.

The good news is that, on their seventh album, Kings Of Leon have simply stopped giving a s**t whether cool people or cool people’s mums will like them. Instead they’ve done what comes naturally – and also what they’re very good at. To put it simply, it’s clear that they like big, possibly-a-bit-cheesy choruses, and so have written 10 of them.

The way lead-off single ‘Waste A Moment’ rises into its bellowed hook is not a million miles away from ‘Sex On Fire’, and it proves to not be a red herring. All the songs here are unashamedly, brilliantly radio and Main Stage-ready: three songs in and we’ve had two of the ultimate going-for-the-jugular phrases (“On the ray-di-oooh!” in ‘Reverend’, then “Been around the world!” in ‘Around The World’), while the likes of ‘Find Me’, ‘Over’ and the closing title track exhibit their widescreen-ness unashamedly. And as for the calypso-with-whistling of ‘Muchacho’, well: any band who do calypso-with-whistling are clearly not too worried what people think any more.

Most of all though, ‘Walls’ just feels fresh. Kings Of Leon were great as a cult band, and great as a stadium band. It doesn’t matter which they do, just as long as they do it with conviction. And here they sound more focused and alive than they have for a while.

Hamish MacBain, NME Magazine

WALLS mostly finds Kings of Leon back in that mode of offering up fast-food “whoa-oh” singalongs and guitars that chime as distinctly as wallpaper.

Say what you will about Kings of Leon: They are probably one of the last groups we’ll watch go from scrappy garage-rock origins to scoring mainstream radio hits and headlining arenas and festivals with the old-school battle-stance of two guitars, a bass, and a drumkit. They are more of an actual rock band than contemporaries like the National, or St. Vincent, or Arcade Fire—those indie titans that too transitioned from the small rooms to the big fields. You know the narrative by now: sheltered Southern kids raised on religion, finding rock ‘n’ roll and sin, then sobering up and settling down. It’s a classic narrative, one that's almost too perfect in its adherence to tropes. There were all the cringe-worthy lyrics about dangerous women and the bandmembers’ own profligacy. There were also, at one point, songs that were invigorated and scuzzy and endearing enough to swat away concerns about a doofy band playing into all manner of classic bad-boy rock archetypes—the types of rock songs few others have been swinging for in the 21st century.

Those are the things about Kings of Leon that come across as real enough. But as they sold their souls over again—this time not for boozy Southern rock, but for schlocky corporate-music refrains—all sorts of questions popped up. What even is this band? “Southern Strokes turned Southern U2” is the oft-cited transition, but over time both comparisons began to feel overly generous. Instead, the Followill crew’s arena-conquering material lumped them closer to mewling radio-rock bands than the indie sphere with which they'd flirted. When it was just “Use Somebody” and Come Around Sundown, it was still easy to hope that Kings of Leon would reclaim some of the roughened charm of their earlier work. “Supersoaker,” the lead single from their 2013 album Mechanical Bull, had even hinted at a return-to-form; it had the earworm ease of the best Aha Shake Heartbreak cuts, but conveyed it with a little more clarity and control. And while the songwriting across that record proved unsteady, it was at least a turn in the right direction. It offered an image of Kings of Leon as grizzled almost-veterans, no longer forcing choruses to soar when they could be more evocative as they rumbled. 

Well, then they made WALLS. It’s their seventh full-length, and it too marks a return-to-form, but this time the form they're revisiting is the soulless would-be transcendence of all the worst stuff on Only by the Night and Come Around Sundown. This is, uh, not the form they should return to. WALLS mostly finds Kings of Leon back in that mode of offering up fast-food “whoa-oh” singalongs and guitars that chime as distinctly as wallpaper.

If you’re amenable to that version of Kings of Leon, you’re in luck. “Reverend” and “Waste a Moment” join a growing lineage of songs the group has offered up in the last eight or so years, a lineage in which the names and melodies are becoming increasingly hard to distinguish from one another. Sure, these songs get stuck in your head, but they’re not exactly welcome there. The catchiness of these songs is like a party guest who is trying too hard; the choruses and big, glistening guitars have an irritating tenacity. Name almost any song on WALLS: “Around the World,” “Over,” “Eyes on You,” “Wild”—any of them could slot in as third-tier answers to “Sex on Fire” and “Radioactive” and “Use Somebody.”

There are glimmers of something else, hints of why this band has been likable to many over the years, hints of other places they could've gone. The jangling guitars and light moodiness of “Find Me” conjure a style of twilit early ’80s highway-rock that could suit Kings of Leon well as thirtysomething journeymen. And “Muchacho” is an evocative barroom lament, the kind of thing that has you picturing aged faux-outlaws refusing to cry into their whiskey in some distant desert saloon. There's more grit and gravity in frontman Caleb Followill’s delivery here than anywhere else on the album; it makes you wonder if there was more where this came from. It makes you wish for a latter-day Kings of Leon album that was more rugged. One where you can feel the miles they’ve traveled, rather than the ticket sales of the festivals they’ve headlined and no doubt hope to headline once more. Sadly, they seem content for the kind of mediocrity that designates you as the headliner Firefly and Bonnaroo call when someone else isn’t available.

Rating 4.5/5

Ryan Leas, October 20 2016

Even a meat-and-potatoes rock band like Kings of Leon recognizes that, in 2016, the conventional album rollout is a bad move. If you’re at a certain level of superstardom, it benefits you to either drop your record unexpectedly or get all extracurricular with its promotion. Many artists do both. While the Kings probably won’t be releasing a short film or, as frontman Caleb Followill stated in a recent Billboard profile, going “full Drake” anytime soon, they’ve at least gotten a touch more avant-garde with the PR for their latest album, WALLS.

There’s the head-scratching acronym of the title (it stands for “We Are Like Love Songs”), an artsy, admittedly batshit music video for “Waste a Moment”, and — most telling of all — the artwork. At its core, it’s just a photo of each band member peering up from a pool of liquid. But look closer and there’s a deliberate weirdness at work: doll-head replicants instead of the band’s actual faces, fluid that’s the same shade and consistency of the photon milk in Minority Report. And are those women’s eyelashes? Maybe. Maybe not. Whatever the case, the fact that we’re debating its meaning automatically puts it in a different class than the postcard on Come Around Sundown and the neon road sign of Mechanical Bull.

As NME pointed out, though, the art could also be an homage to The Byrds’ Byrdmaniax, an album that’s far more straightforward than the uncanny valley that those faces would suggest. And maybe that’s the point, because, musically, WALLS isn’t some adventurous left turn towards krautrock or no wave. Rather, it’s KOL’s most unified, solid, and direct album since Aha Shake Heartbreak, its arc owing to time-tested AOR more than anything else. It starts with one of the fastest songs (the lead single, no less), peaks with the jangly mid-album cut “Eyes On You”, and closes with the title track, its only proper ballad.

A handful of oddball flourishes pepper the classic rock arc — most notably the funk-lite clavinet on “Around the World” and the Latin-tinged percussion of “Muchacho” — but the members of the Followill clan also never feel like they’re trying too hard. By the time the white noise in the background of “WALLS” mutates into can-opener distortion, the experimentation is well-earned by how comfortable they are with each other on the rest of the record. The sonic diversions — subtle as they are — always count.

Lyrically, the band continues to struggle against the woodenness of their own words, with Caleb once again relying on bellowing melodramatic declarations rather than evocative stories. The West Coast escapism of “Conversation Piece” comes from his cousin Matthew’s lovely guitar line, not the verses, and “Over”, like “Closer” before it, tries to examine psychic pain, but gets undermined by the heavy-handedness of phrases like “I see you’re crazy and so am I.” Even with the band’s youngest member (bassist Jared) approaching 30, the Kings still only write about men and women in the broadest terms imaginable.

Yet, at the same time, several songs (including “Waste a Moment”) have some charming internal rhyming, and even the aforementioned tracks still plug into the same singular, hook-filled groove as the rest of the album. Jared’s bass on “Over”, in particular, finally achieves the U2 atmospherics KOL started flirting with on Only By the Night, without ever succumbing to being a parody of Adam Clayton. There’s also the added bonus of Caleb’s delivery. While he never full-on revisits the indecipherable yowl of yesteryear KOL classics like “Happy Alone” and “King of the Rodeo”, he’s freer with shifting the dynamics, moving from strategically placed barks to just-hammy-enough vibrato.

And that’s the record’s biggest asset, really. Even if WALLS doesn’t live up to the marketing’s promise of completely redefining Kings of Leon’s sound, it at least finds them at ease with themselves. Although Mechanical Bull attempted the same thing after two albums’ worth of public turmoil, there was still an onset of exhaustion, the sense of a family band who hadn’t yet fully repaired their frayed relationships. But here, the Followills sound mature, relaxed, and locked in with one another. To put out their best album in years, they didn’t have to tear the walls down, as the teaser suggested. They just had to take a breath and repaint them.

Dan Caffreyon - October 12, 2016
© 2007 - 2017 Consequence of Sound

Walls (stylized as WALLS) is the seventh studio album by American rock band Kings of Leon. It was released on October 14, 2016, by RCA Records. The album title is an acronym for We Are Like Love Songs, which continues the band's unwritten rule of having five-syllable album titles.

Following a New Year's Eve show in Nashville, Nathan Followill said the band was aiming to release album seven in 2016: "We've already started pre-production in our studio for the next record, but the main thing on the calendar for 2016 is getting the record finished. And then the whole press machine kicks up and doing press for the record." Caleb Followill added, "We enjoy this part of the process. Obviously there's a lot of work that goes into it and it can get stressful at times, but we're all in a good place and we're having fun with it and we're all excited to do something new." The album was recorded at Henson Studios in Los Angeles, with Caleb saying the band was looking for inspiration: "We might just try to get a little change of scenery. Our first two albums we recorded in L.A., so we're going to try to go back and see if it inspires us," he said. "If it doesn't, we always have a studio at home, so we can always come back." In August, the band announced that album title would be We Are Like Love Songs (aka WALLS), and that it would be released on October 14, 2016.

On September 10, 2016, Kings of Leon headlined at the Saturday evening Lollapalooza Europe music festival, in Berlin, Germany, which featured songs from all their albums, plus the new "Waste a Moment". Kings of Leon performed "Waste a Moment" on Today and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on October 14, 2016. The Walls Tour began on January 12, 2017.On January 18, 2017, Kings of Leon performed "Reverend" on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

The album's lead single, "Waste a Moment", was released on September 9, 2016. The song peaked at number one on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart, their first chart topper since 2010. The first promotional single, the album's title track, was released on September 22, 2016. The second promotional single, "Around the World", was released a week after, on September 29, 2016. The second official single, "Reverend", was sent to alternative radio on February 7, 2017. It was previously released as the album's third promotional single on October 6, 2016.

WALLS received mixed reviews. Dave Simpson of the The Guardian says that with the album, the band has returned to its sound from eight years ago. Rolling Stone's Will Hermes admired producer Markus Dravs's "job of translating Followill's signature sound slurred delivery and the band's muscular jangle into thicker arrangements, though the rest feel generic."

Walls debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with 77,000 album-equivalent units, of which 68,000 were traditional album sales. The next week, the album fell from number one to 20, making it the 10th largest drop from number one on the Billboard 200 as of December 2016. It was the biggest drop of the year until Bon Jovi released This House Is Not for Sale in November 2016. It is Kings of Leon's first number one album in the US, besting the number two peak of Mechanical Bull and Come Around Sundown. It also debuted at number one in Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK.

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