By Greg Kennelty, January 19, 2018

 

Front to Back Album Review: Kings of Leon - Walls

  • Released: October 4, 2016
  • Label: RCA
  • Producers: Markus Dravs

 

 

 

  

4 Play Buttons

 

Pop and dance music on the radio seemed to solely exist in the digital realm for quite a bit in the 2000s. Artists like Skrillex and DEADMAU5 wielded Ableton like an infinite weapon of synthesizers and 808s, while countless hip hop and rap artists employed similar methods. These dancier styles never made much headway in mainstream rock, whose concentration was on hard-hitting choruses and a slightly edgier attitude. That all changed in 2013 with the release of one album – Random Access Memories by Daft Punk.

 

Always reliant on synthesizers and snapped-to-the-grid beats, Daft Punk took a step back and single-handedly revived a very natural disco sound. The bleed into rock was almost immediate. 2014 saw the release of songs like Stolen Dance by Milky Chance, Come A Little Closer by Cage The Elephant, and Fever by The Black Keys. These songs took a DIY approach to production, in that they sounded like they were recorded in a (very expensive) garage. They encroached on the borders of dance and disco music, but were armed to the teeth with guitars and rock sensibilities instead of a brass section and an afro. Fast forward to Kings Of Leon’s newest album WALLS and everything has come full circle with a few lessons learned from the journey.

 

Kings of Leon - Walls

WALLS is the product of the Random Access Memories renaissance in rock, in that it plays like an unaltered live in the studio performance. Muchaco sounds like Kings Of Leon is sitting 10 feet away, while Waste A Moment is a whirlwind of energy that puts you right in the eye of the storm with its production. I draw the comparison between WALLS and Random Access Memories because WALLS is essentially its direct descendant, rather than a ripoff. This isn’t quite the dance party thrown by Arcade Fire on its past few albums, but instead a stripped down rock record that takes after where bands like Arcade Fire have gone post-Random Access Memories. It’s a big, natural rock record that marries what’s going on now in rock with the classic rock vibes in both production and writing style.

 

WALLS opens up with Waste A Moment, a straightforward rocker that conjures up images of driving down a sun-drenched desert highway with a pair of Aviators on. With its reverb-to-the-max guitars and spirited drums, it’s ostensibly a rock song, though given a few tweaks, this one could’ve easily been a B-Side on The Eagles 1974 song Already Gone. The same sentiment goes for the slower songs like Muchaco and Walls – the throwback to classic rock is real, yet the songs don’t sound out of place in modern times given the context. In the vein of more modern dance-meets-rock songs are Find Me and Over, both of which are earworms that accurately represent the new, natural-sounding paradigm of rock in 2017.

 

So go ahead and dance along to WALLS. Revel in its raw, honest recording quality. Crank the volume up and enter Kings Of Leon’s unique brand of classic retro-rock, whose mission statement seems to be paying homage to classic rock as much as it does forging a unique chapter in the band’s history. WALLS is an unapologetic love note to the past while very much still retaining its now-ness, and the result couldn’t have come out any better.

 

Listened to on the LS50W via Spotify Premium