Return of the kings
Kings of Leon
IT’S hard to imagine that Kings of Leon were several leagues lower than The Strokes in its early years. How things have changed.
Ever since Kings of Leon hit stadium-sized paydirt in 2008 with its breakthrough record Only By The Night, the Nashville rock band has spent a lot of time distancing itself from its roots/blues-driven rock.
Yes, Kings of Leon is no DriveBy Truckers. And no apologies are being made.
Unfortunately, with the subsequent (undercooked) album Come Around Sundown, the band has been incredibly burdened by the need to maintain a momentum it has little control over.
Older fans, who were charmed by the band’s unpolished rock music – but have since disowned it since the unbearable sales pitch of a hit single Use Somebody – might rejoice slightly with this new Kings of Leon record Mechanical Bull.
The title of this sixth record alone signals a strong intention for the band to return to its raw and ragged roots. Hopefully the soap opera of the Followill clan has been sorted out. Frontman Caleb sounds sobered and ready for a fight on the bruiser of a rocker Don’t Matter, which tips its hat to the days of Youth And Young Manhood.
Bassist Jared also sounds sharp after his stint in Smoke & Jackal, while guitarist Matthew is pure riffs from start to end on Mechanical Bull.
There is a certain carefree vibe about this record that the band has been missing since it opted for the slick mainstream.
The album’s single Supersoaker and the balladic Wait For Me might sport a suspicious commercial tingle, but they are played with such abandon that you can’t help but be charmed here.
The stinging Rock City, detailing rock ‘n’ roll excess and celebrity fatigue, is as redemptive as it gets when it comes to Kings of Leon reembracing the gritty blues.
It’s not quite a return to early form, but it certainly is a jumpstart towards the right direction. This is one recent Kings of Leon album you can take on a road trip.
(universal music) SCOTLAND isn’t all about post-rock acts or miserable mopers. Recent hipster-approved acts such as Haim (US), Daughter (England) and Lorde (New Zealand) have had a big year, but you have to say that Glasgow-based trio Chvrches are steadily building mainstream momentum.
The group, led by ridiculously charming frontwoman Lauren Mayberry, is part of the new vanguard of female-fronted acts that are dominating the blogs and the trendy trenches of the music scene.
And while it would be easy to dismiss the Scottish group as nothing more than indie synthpop froth, think again.
Chvrches’ debut, featuring 12 cuts, suggests that there is more to them than mere bandwagoning. In vocalist Mayberry, the group has the perfect face (and voice) for the simple but effective electro-pop sound it employs. The combination of accessible electro and 1980s New Wave melodies works like a treat.
In some ways, Mayberry sounds like a modern day version of Altered Images’ Clare Grogan.
Chvrches’ album opener The Mother We Share could lay claim to being one of the most satisfying (and infectious) singles of the year. The beauty of the track is in its giddy pop headrush. Musically built around a five-note vocalsynth line and a muscular beat, you are certain to be reaching for the repeat button as soon as the first chorus hits. And herein lies the appeal of the group – the ability to carve out these pastel cool and memorable tunes seemingly out of very little.
Of course, the trio can pride itself with more pop kicks with Lies and Gun, which backs up the hype surrounding such a delightfully mischievious release.
It’s a gift of songwriting, not technological mucking here. That’s a sure sign that there is quite a bit of meat behind Chvrches’ trendy bones.
(universal music) A MOVIE based on time travel or story themes that move between large chunks of time can be dicey. Musically, the director has a big task to chose the right tunes to mark each time period with a song of that era. It’s not immediately clear if this was the case with About Time, but the tracklist does suggest so.
Writer/director Richard Curtis’ film, revolving around a young man with the ability to time travel and how he tries to change his past to have a better future, does present plenty of potential as far as music markers. Curtis is no stranger to using music as an important motif in his films ( Love Actually and Notting Hill did this to great effect).
That’s not to say he is a natural for great soundtracks (well, Curtis is no Quentin Tarantino). But the British filmmaker, mostly, gets it right with thematically precise cuts.
He must have done his homework or had a chat with Nick Hornby. The presence of tracks by reputable songsmiths such as Nick Cave, Ron Sexsmith and Ben Folds gives this About Time soundtrack added depth. Nick Cave’s Into My Arms, unsurprisingly, is one for the ages (it’s 16 years old!) and remains a romantic delight.
Sexsmith’s pensive yet uplifting ballad Gold In Them Hills is a gem in its own right, while Ben Folds’ lovely The Luckiest (originally featured in his 2001 solo debut) leaves a glow against the film’s bittersweet backdrop. Disposable contributions from the likes of t.A.T.u. and Sugababes reflect the film protagonist’s age, which is probably a necessary evil.
As far as soundtracks go, this one slides down real easy from start to finish. It’s likely to evoke nostalgic ruminations, which may or may not be the intention.
The Naked and Famous
(universal music) INDIE dance act The Naked and Famous, hailing from New Zealand, created quite a stir with its debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You in 2010. It also proved that Auckland had a cool music scene in that corner of the world and not everything was coming from Sydney or Melbourne, Australia.
The group’s Passive Me, largely from a need for “supersizing.” Yes, just put all the influences in one record! Granted it was a diverse record, it lacked the intimacy and depth to endear it past a couple of listens.
On this sophomore outing In Rolling Waves, the group attempts to address that issue immediately with a slow-burning opener A Stillness. The track’s jaunty melody would sound absolutely Björklike if not for a dose of gypsy-like acoustic strumming. Not a bad start.
Given enough attention and spins, this record actually is much more soulful than the band’s debut. That’s not to say the band has locked its synths in storage. Far from it!
Tracks such as I Kill Giants reverts very much to the band’s early sound – “selfie” danceable and infectious synth-lines, while lead single Hearts Like Ours is your perfect rent-an-anthem moment that is bound to dominate many music festivals ahead.
The band’s formula is neither fresh nor curious, and things do get a little too slick at times. But there is a clinical efficiency in the way The Naked and Famous executes the music which deserves some reverence.