After being a critical darling for years, Kings of Leon shot for rock supremacy with their fourth album Only By the Night (okay, technically they tried with their previous album but failed) and became the biggest band in the land thanks to throbbing rock songs like Use Somebody and Sex on Fire. Like most rock bands, they did overindulge with their follow up (of course they brought in a black southern church choir for the album’s first single). Then on cue, like every other brotherly based band (see the Gallagher’s, the Robinson’s, the Davie’s et. al.), they imploded on themselves while on tour. After a three year layoff repairing those bruises, the Followill brothers (and one cousin) are back with Mechanical Bull. Sure it will not do as big as Only By the Night, and maybe not even Come Around Sundown, but it sounds like the most fun they have ever had. Case in point is first single Supersoaker: no “serious” rock band has been this silly and catchy since U2 released Discotheque. Songs like Family Tree are just as fun. They do occasionally try for stadium anthems again like Come Back Again, but the album is much better when they are clearly just sitting back and having some fun.
Mechanical Bull gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
Diane Birch quite possibly made the best seventies blue eyed Philly soul album of this century with her debut Bible Belt. But that was four years and since then it sounds like Birch updated her sound by a decade because sophomore outing Speak a Little Louder is a decidedly more eighties shoe-gazing new wave sound which is more in the line these days with the music of Daughter than Mayer Hawthorne. Speak a Little Louder is a more synth driven, darker sound than her debut. Although the music of the title track is very reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s Stranger In Moscow (I would have never thought of Jackson as a shoe-gazing fan of synths, but after making this connection, it makes his sound more interesting than I first thought). The best song on the album Tell Me Tomorrow which is the most upbeat, and least synth dependent song on the album. There are a couple of other influences throughout the album, Love and War has a disco beat to it, Pretty in Pain is the closest she get to the sounds of her debut, while Frozen Over sounds like a long lost Pat Benatar song. I appreciate Diane trying to expand her sound, but I do prefer the Philly soul version. Now I wonder which nineties genre will inspire her for her third album.
Speak a Little Louder gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
The latest trend for legacy artists is to rerecord their biggest hits with the biggest stars in country today. Both Lionel Richie and John Fogerty have done so in the past year. The latest to do so is Willie Nelson. But do not expect Willie to just piggyback past artists. First off, as the title To To All the Girls... suggests, Willie only duets with the fairer sex. And do not expect Willie to bring out his biggest hits and just add a female voice to them, really aside from Always on My Mind there is not a massive hit of Willie’s on this album. Half of the songs on the album are written by other people like Bill Withers and even Folgerty’s own Have You Ever Seen the Rain, one of the album’s best as recorded with his daughter Paula. And though he brings out heavy hitters like Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, most of his duet partners are his contemporizes like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn as well as some newbies like Brandi Carlile and Melonie Cannon. All the songs are ballads and at eighteen tracks, that does drag on a bit. But like his fellow Highwayman Johnny Cash, Willie is still aging quite well.
To All the Girls… gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.