October 25, 2008

Kings of Leon / We Are Scientists / The Stills @ Fillmore Denver

[Keith Murray of opening band We Are Scientists]

On Thursday night, the prodigal sons of preacher Leon were out in fine form at the Fillmore in Denver. Playing to a sold-out crowd, Kings of Leon opened with their current steamy single “Sex on Fire” and pushed through the early technical difficulties with the swagger of “My Party.”

Minus the long hair and cleaned up like school photo day, the clan kept it tight through through pent-up rockers like “Four Kicks” (which always makes me feel like I want to, well, kick somebody) and my favorite song off Because Of The Times, “Fans” (to my unbridled delight). Some of their newer material felt a little sludgy but definitely hit a high point with “Use Somebody,” which is a fantastic song and sounds epic live. Although for me they never quite hit the same sweaty frenzy of the last time I saw them at the smaller Ogden Theater, they –and possibly their sex, although this is unverified at press time– were still on fire.

Off Canada’s Arts & Crafts label, The Stills opened the night (always the bridesmaids, never the brides — although they totally could bring it as headliners themselves) followed by New York’s We Are Scientists. The Gigbot photo booth was also out to capture all the fine looking hipsters in the crowd, and then there was me and Julio.

More pics (The Stills, then the rest of KOL):

Beneath The Surface (Sex on Fire 7″ b-side) – Kings of Leon
Snow In California – The Stills
In Action – We Are Scientists

Bonus: an intimidating track to attempt — how do you learn the words?

Hoppípolla (Sigur Ros cover) – We Are Scientists

All pics from the night here.

August 29, 2008

Kings of Leon have some weird chicken thing going on

My friend Justin previewed this new video from Kings of Leon for me by saying it was “sort of homoerotic, meets religious, meets BBQ. i’ll let you be the judge.”

He was also so kind as to explain the theory that the video is a Jesus allegory of sorts, starting by telling me “so Caleb has an alter ego…The Rooster.” By this point I was already laughing.

Sex On Fire – Kings of Leon

Use Somebody (partial) – Kings of Leon
great new song, ripped from this video. I like it better than this.

Tagged with .
July 28, 2008

Kings of Leon say “Crawl,” I say “alright”

Because I love their sound, and also partly because I could watch these boys all day long (and yes, I know that is shallow and inappropriate but come on):

KINGS OF LEON: “Only By The Night”
home movies/album preview

Oh, Followills, showcased in their natural footloose environment — cavorting, making music, riding small scooters. The new KOL album Only By The Night will be out September 23rd. As of this morning, you can download their churning new song “Crawl” for free on Spin.com:

Crawl – Kings of Leon

Monday Music coming later today . . .

Tagged with .
June 17, 2008

Kings of Leon wrap 4th album

The June 12 issue of Rolling Stone carries a bit of welcome news from news from Fuel/Friends favorite sons Kings of Leon: they’ve been drinking, and they just wrapped their fourth album. Only By The Night will be released September 23rd on RCA Records. It was recorded at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, TN, and was produced by Angelo Petraglia, Jacquire King and Kings of Leon.

If you don’t have supersonic vision (I do) the article reads:

‘I know I sound like a fucking cock right now,’ says Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill, ‘But this is the first time I’ve really been proud of myself track for track.’ After a grueling 2007 tour, and Caleb’s recent surgery to repair his arm after a fistfight with brother Nathan (‘Nathan won’), the Kings planned to take a well-deserved break. But when we called them, they were at Nashville’s Blackbird Studio, wrapping their fourth disc, out in September.

Three days after his surgery, Caleb says he removed his arm from a sling and began writing. ‘I don’t know if it was the pills or what, but the melodies were so much stronger than anything I’ve ever done – it’s just really beautiful songs.’ In addition to the pills, the band members say they drank all day to fuel songs like ‘Cold Desert’ and ‘Crawl.’ (In the latter, Caleb touches on politics: ‘Let’s just say that Sean Penn is gonna like us more,’ he says).

‘We had to get drunk because we all have girlfriends to go home and deal with,’ he says, before passing the phone to drummer Nathan, who adds, ‘Caleb just blew a 1.2 on the Breathalyzer we have here.’

JANUARY 9, 2008
Black Thumbnail
Taper Jean Girl
King of the Rodeo
My Party
Holy Roller Novocaine
The Bucket
On Call
Molly’s Chambers
Spiral Staircase


[photo from Monolith 2007]

December 15, 2007

Fuel Favorites of 2007

For each year so far that I’ve been dabbling in this music-blog-writing hobby, there seems to be a greater proliferation of choices for my ears to make. It seems like more artists are making their voices heard, more albums getting out there in one form or another, more people being turned on to music outside the mainstream 35 songs you hear on the radio.

This is good news for ears, hearts, and souls, and bad news for listmakers.

After much struggling, I’ve picked out ten albums that I’m happy with being my favorites from 2007; add all of these to your collections and be happy too. There were some very good albums that I left off this year (I am sure you will point them out to me in the comments) but these 10 are the ones that connected with me uniquely and viscerally. And they’re listed in alphabetical order because even numerically ranking them defeated me.

If you would like to hear me talk more about these albums, and discuss my perspective as a music blogger in the digital music world in 2007, please tune in to NPR’s World Cafe on January 1st. I’ll be doing a piece with David Dye, Tom Moon from NPR and Marco Werman from BBC’s “The World” program.

And yes . . . this is my poker face. I’m doing little freakout backflips on the inside.


Kings of Leon

Folks complain that this album isn’t as loose and rough and gut-punch raw as earlier KOL efforts, and they’re right. This album is bigger and hazier and more anthemic, but I find myself craving the riffs, the melody, the scowly drawl of the lyrics, and the unabashed rock. I agree with the fantastic Daytrotter piece that called this one “a sneaker” (as in it sneaks up on you, not a shoe). I like that KOL are experimenting with their sound and pushing the edges. Plus, they absolutely have the best live show I saw (twice) this year, all caged energy, confident strut and rock and roll.
Fans – Kings of Leon

The National

This is the richest album in my top ten this year, in that the songs seep under your skin and percolate slowly. As we discussed, so much of this is 4am music; the late-night special, flawed but transcendent. Woven through songs that pulse restlessly with thumping drums, elegiac strings and evocative piano melodies, the lyrics here destroy me. Absolutely. They lament “another uninnocent, elegant fall into the unmagnificent lives of adults,” then ruefully note that “we’re so disarming darling, everything we did believe is diving diving diving diving off the balcony / Tired and wired we ruin too easy, sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave.” The purity of elemental urges and gorgeous expression makes me wants to live inside the stories of this album.
Fake Empire – The National

The Star Spangles

Here to save the rock and roll crown from the hands of slicker entries this year, The Star Spangles from New York are filthy and gritty and raw, making pub-chant punk with strong melodies. Full of heart, they are the real deal so don’t mess with their work ethic. In addition to playing roughly 3,528 fiery live shows this year, they’re not above doing things like playing a recent show at the Jesse Malin/Ryan Adams hangout Niagara in NYC wearing only a trenchcoat and a fedora (all the better to rock with less friction, I guess). Listen to this vibrant album loud, and feel the ebullient crush of youth.
Take Care of Us – The Star Spangles

The Swimmers
The owner of some trusted ears remarked upon first hearing this Philly band that “this is what Wilco might sound like if they just let their popness run rampant.” Fighting Trees is a shimmering, delicious, intelligent album full of pop goodness but not too sugary-sweet. It’s got the jangle and the thump, the three-part harmonies and the cohesive storyline lyrics that sweep me off to somewhere else; they weave a dream-sequence where you are floating above yourself, watching the actions below with a distanced eye. Loosely based around the 1964 short story “The Swimmer,” both the grad-school premise and the resulting album deserve massive props.
[stream here, buy CD at shows, out via Mad Dragon in early 2008]
Heaven – The Swimmers

The Alternate Routes

In a year when I was really hoping for a grand, rootsy, golden album from Ryan Adams that never materialized for me, The Alternate Routes warmed the speakers of my car all summer long with their expansive, windows-down, wholeheartedly good brand of alt-country rock. One of my favorite lyrical pictures all year comes from these opening notes: “I’ve been wasting my days good and reckless and true, I have danced in the dark at the edge of the water, swingin my hips at the black and the blue…” The songwriting is solid and incisive, highlighted by the aching tenor of lead singer Tim Warren — and speaking of Ryan Adams, current Cardinals drummer Brad Pemberton pitches in on the skins here as well. Although the album swings effortlessly from rollicking to pensive, the common thread that I find appealing is the earnest commitment to simply playing their blessed hearts out.
Ordinary – The Alternate Routes

Josh Ritter

A pal recently asked me who I thought the best modern-day songwriter was. At the time it was 2am, and I mumbled something about how I thought Josh Ritter was pretty dang incredible. Upon coherent reflection, I take that back; I think Josh absolutely may be the best songwriter of our generation that I’ve heard. His penetrating lyrics consistently blow me away, and the rock influences of his new album ramp up the folk sounds I’ve loved in the past into something that definitely hits harder and leaves me all itchy and excited-like. You must see him live in 2008, the new material is amazing in concert. As Josh weaves his intricate, literate songs on stage, he overflows with each lyric as if he were birthing every line afresh for the first time. That same refreshing joy is palpable on this album, and we are grateful for it.
To The Dogs or Whoever – Josh Ritter

he Broken West
When I first heard this new Merge Records signing last January, my post title was “I want to listen to The Broken West all weekend long, maybe until my eardrums crystallize into sugar.” That pretty much sums up how vividly I crave the sounds on this disc. Catchy hooks and fuzzy power-pop sounds blend with a blast straight from the ’60s in terms of sheer listenability — and you’re having 100% Fun with Matthew Sweet while the Kinks play in your garage. Hailing from Los Angeles, the guys in the Broken West wrap up all kinds of California imagery while also underscoring a bit of the shadow as well: “Sun down, blood horizon, now it feels all right/ No one feels the darkness down in the valley tonight.” Musical novocaine.
Down In The Valley – The Broken West

Coconut Records

This clever, humble, and thoroughly enjoyable album from Coconut Records (the nom de rock of actor Jason Schwartzman) came out of absolutely nowhere this year in a stealth digital-only release that spread like wildfire. Normally we can all agree that actors making music spells disaster, but in this case it absolutely spells y-a-y. Schwartzman blends some of the jangly California indie-pop of his previous work with Phantom Planet with his experience in composing film scores for this aural delight. No two tracks alike: the Weezer rock of “Back To You” flips over the lo-fi duet on “Mama” (with Zooey Deschanel?) and the scratchy dabble into Beatles pop with “Easy Girl” is a million miles from the disco beats of the title track or the Franz Ferdinand stomp on “Minding My Own Business.” The album is eclectic, stripped of pretension and ready to make you smile.
Back To You – Coconut Records


The completely charming and effortlessly cool Leslie Feist covers a lot of ground on this album, her third of original solo material, in addition to her releases with the Broken Social Scene. Feist is musically adventurous with a sound that is impossible to pin down. Moving easily from intimate songs like “The Park” that aches like a midnight dirge sung lying flat, looking out a darkened window, to the spiritual-gospel handclap community of “Sea Lion Woman,” you never know what the next track will bring. The only common thread among the songs is her gorgeously honey-drenched, knowingly sly voice. Feist possesses a welcome imaginative streak that she’s not afraid to reveal on this album. She deserves every ounce of recognition that Apple commercial got her in 2007; anyone who conceives of the idea to do a rainbow-hued dance video clothed in spangles to a song that good gets my respect. I wait in breathless anticipation to see what she does next.
My Moon, My Man – Feist

Ike Reilly Assassination

Call it defiant pre-punk, cranked-up ’50s rock’n'roll that slipped past the censors, or just some seriously good music. Ike Reilly writes unflinching rock songs full of bluesy, boozy, humid, rock riffs and intelligent, biting, evocative lyrics that make me want to take off with him through the desert on the run from the cops, the windows down and a knowing glance between us. Ike’s not ripping off a halcyon era of memories past like some of the retro-influenced acts today (Brian Setzer, I love you, but I’m talking to you), but rather he feels like an earnest, fierce character who somehow slipped in from a time when the music was rawer, the sex was furtive, and the liquor was bootlegged. This is a fiercely fantastic album that provocatively edged itself into my top ten the first time I listened to it.
Valentine’s Day in Juarez – Ike Reilly

And yes, since you asked, my membership in the bloggers guild is currently under review for revocation for not listening to Arcade Fire or Radiohead in 2007. I’ll keep you posted.

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September 18, 2007

Photos from Monolith, Day One

I’d call the Monolith Festival this weekend a rousing success in terms of quality, diversity, and incorporation of local musicians and artists. Here’s some highlights from my Friday.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah played in the daylight to a 1/3-full main stage audience. We all know that the lead singer Alec Ounsworth has an unusual warble, to say the least, and after seeing them I was kinda lamenting the way that the “Saaaatan, Saaaatan…” line stuck with an iron will in my brain all afternoon. But all the reasons that made them the blog sensation superstars are still in full effect – their exuberant and melodic sound, the catchy, solid, danceable tunes. The Talking Head comparisons are unavoidable in my mind, and I really enjoyed their show. Next time, smaller venue for me.

Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood – CYHSY

Oh Kings of Leon. I’ve been waiting for you guys. After seeing them at the Ogden Theatre a few months ago and being completely converted, this was one of my most anticipated sets and they didn’t fail me, bringing an hour of excoriating rock (okay, 56 minutes) which was more than I expected for a festival act at 7pm.

They played a fantastic set, including the claptastic Spiral Staircase, Four Kicks (which always makes me feel all pugilistic), and a slightly-sped-up version of Fans which sounded great to these ears — it’s one of my current favorite tunes. I took a video of Charmer that regrettably starts with some too-loud audio and an out of focus bit, but then it shapes up and ain’t too bad — it gives you a sense of the swagger in their show and how they project a huge enough sound to challenge those red rocks.

I think they were one of the best-suited bands to the huge venue; as I wrote in the little blurb for the festival program, “Their live show pulls songs from all three of their full-length studio releases, a catalog of material that grows and shimmers in a live setting. The songs seem to pull air from the ether around them in a supernova of raw and unbridled Southern garage rock.”

Fans – Kings of Leon

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club electrified the second stage in a set that I’ll talk more about when I post that interview soon. The Decemberists also played the main stage and it sounded superb from up above, but I regrettably didn’t make it back down those billion stairs until Cake, who I thought played a great show as usual. There was some skepticism from folks who haven’t followed their consistently fun, intelligent, clever output since the “Going The Distance” hit, but I think they converted a few. I only got one picture – John McCrea rockin the white-rimmed sunglasses, fedora, and track jacket like a child molestor on vacation (sorry but come on).

You Part The Waters – Cake

Saturday dawned clear and lovely. More pics coming.

September 3, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

What better way to spend a holiday Monday than at the ballpark? That’s a trick question; there is no better way.

We had a mini family reunion this afternoon at the Giants vs. Rockies game in Denver, as my sister was in town from California for the long weekend. We brought our own small contingency of Giants fans to represent with cheers and SF love while they painfully lost (7 to 4 final – it was 7-1 for a while there). But not for lack of fan support out in the bleachers, I tell ya.

And (!) I got stung by a yellow jacket that I figure must have been Rockies-trained to go after the orange and black. I guess that’s what I get for wearing a Giants tank top. Seven hours later, it still feels like a hot needle in the skin of my forearm. Little yellow striped bastard.

Playboy Decoy (demo)
Probably Vampires
Oh vampires are so hot right now.
I thought I had read about Chicago’s Probably Vampires in Rolling Stone, but I think that was actually Vampire Weekend, an NYC band also with an EP coming out. These guys don’t sound anything like vampires, unless vampires got all poppy ’60s harmonies (like The Redwalls with a vengeance) when I wasn’t looking. There’s nothing about this band hearkens the pasty gothness of nocturnal bloodlust — this will make you tap your toes and feel sunny. They’ve opened for folks like Voxtrot, Harvey Danger, and Phantom Planet, and this track is a home demo version of a song on their forthcoming EP, Sons of Guns, due out in October. Be their MySpace friends — they’re not as scary as they sound.

Tick Tick Boom
The Hives
I love this new Hives song because it’s unrelenting and urgent, making me feel like I am the protagonist in a high-action movie like Mission Impossible, racing against the clock. It will undoubtedly be optioned for a film soon, what with the ticking time bomb chorus and tightly-caged riffs, so listen to it now. In fact, I made a whole mix around this vibe over the weekend. This is the first single off their upcoming October album The Black and White, which is conveniently also the two (non?) colors that they allow in their strict matching band dress code. This Swedish garage rock five-piece is on tour now with Maroon 5 (and did you see them on the cover of Rolling Stone and is Adam Levine’s head molded of rubber?).

Love In A Trashcan
The Raveonettes
This track is worth listening to simply for the feeling I get that it’s what Hole would sound like if they joined a ’60s surfing community. The guitar tones on this are amazing, echoey and warm and so close you wanna dive in. Another Nordic delight, The Raveonettes are a duo from wonderful Copenhagen with an edgy retro-Spector 1950s sound. This is track 3 on their 2005 album Pretty In Black (Columbia/The Orchard) and I’m glad to be finally hearing it now.

My Party (Kenna & Chad Hugo remix)
Kings of Leon
Stereogum had this up last week [story here], and I gotta confess that Kings of Leon are one of the last bands that I expected to get the remix treatment from Ethiopian musician Kenna and sometimes-Neptune Chad Hugo, but this song has a strong backbeat to begin with and actually works pretty well. We’re still not sure what Caleb is singing about (she saw his party?) but this remix is suitable for busting out at your next shindig, and will help me get ready to see KOL in two weeks at the Monolith Festival out at Red Rocks. I am ridiculously excited, you don’t even know.

Middle Distance Runner
So at least my tastes are consistent. I was finishing up the post for today, including my favorite tune off the new Middle Distance Runner EP, when I realized that this is a new version of the same song I posted from them last November. Originally included on their full length Plane in Flames album, this re-recorded version is cleaner and tighter for the new EP, and I still love the handclappy pop sound. MDR is from Washington D.C., and their hometown paper (the Post) said, “MDR’s sound clearly draws on mid-’90s British rock — think pre-OK Computer Radiohead, Blur, Oasis — and exudes a confidence and professionalism that many young bands lack.” The more I listen to this, the more I like it — especially the layered breakdown at the end with cascading chorus harmonies. Addictive.

May 6, 2007

Kings of Leon make me taste blood

I saw Kings of Leon at a sold-out show last night at the Ogden, and it was possibly the best show I’ve seen so far this year.

In addition to a catalog of songs that grows and shimmers live, I was completely blown away and converted by the stage presence (and yes, swagger) of these brother/cousins who acted like they’d been doing this for decades. My pal in attendance pointed out the similar brooding demeanor of guitarist Matthew Followill to Keith Richards, and I have to say that I saw more than a little of Jagger’s panache in Caleb’s frontman posturing. This was very good. As a band they were tight, intense, and a real joy to witness doin’ their thing.

Although the show was short at 70 minutes (and left me with a strong hankering for more), the setlist was top-notch, heavy on the older stuff, with a crowd absolutely bursting with enthusiasm. This spilled over and manifested itself in shoving and attempts at moshing — leaving me with a head-butt to the mouth and the taste of my own blood.

But the ferocity of the music fully recharged my soul in that inarticulable way, and I cannot recommend this tour strongly enough. Any guys who are confident enough to write and sing a song like “Soft” deserve due notice in my book. Ha. This is a band that absolutely needs to be seen live to be fully appreciated. Sure, I’d heard their studio albums, but it really didn’t prepare me for the sheer . . . supernova of last night.

My Third House (b-side) – Kings of Leon

(A great recent b-side from the On Call CDS which actually has lyrics about Colorado so clearly there’s a theme here)

Opening band Snowden was . . . snowed in (and isn’t it ironic). They didn’t make it out of Wyoming, so local band Born In The Flood filled in and impressed me as well. All my Denver friends keep telling me to check them out, and their set last night convinced me to give their music a closer listen. Last night was time well-spent on all fronts.

KOL image credit

February 2, 2007

New song from Kings of Leon: “On Call”

The third full-length studio album from Kings of Leon, titled Because of The Times, will be coming out on April 3 (April 2 UK) and the first official sample of the sound was added this morning to their MySpace page.

“On Call” is available to stream at www.myspace.com/kingsofleon, and feels a lot grander than the stuff on their last album, the fantastic Aha Shake Heartbreak. The songs starts off slow and vaguely psychedelic, but quickly picks up a thumping, defiant bass line and fat guitar solos. It’s a fair deal of Seventies rock with glowing vocal effects and range not far removed from My Morning Jacket.

Because Of The Times was produced by Ethan Johns –as with their other albums– and Angelo Petraglia. According to NME, singer Caleb Followill said: “These songs are so much bigger, this band is so much better. There was a growth that people thought they heard on ‘Aha Shake Heartbreak’ from ‘Youth And Young Manhood’ (2003 debut), but there’s no comparison this time out. I think it’s pretty evident when people hear it.” Here’s the tracklisting, and you can read more about the album here:

1. “Knocked Up”
2. “Charmer”
3. “On Call”
4. “McFearless”
5. “Black Thumbnail”
6. “My Party”
7. “True Love Way”
8. “Ragoo”
9. “Fans”
10. “The Runner”
11. “Trunk”
12. “Camero”
13. “Arizona”

Oh, and Canadian pal Neiles has the live Kings of Leon EP Day Old Belgian Blues up today in honor.

Tagged with .
October 26, 2006

Kings of Leon: Bonus Live Tracks

The more I listen to Kings of Leon, the more I come to think that they may be one of the best things to happen to family musical groups since The Partridge Family, or maybe Jack & Meg White. Consisting of three brothers and a cousin (all in their early 20s), this Tennessee rock band is making a name for themselves through a few quality releases and, most recently, a tour with Bob Dylan. They’ve got a loose Southern-garage rock feel to their music with a classy and restless edge.

Kings of Leon has worked with whiz-bang British producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Ben Kweller, Counting Crows, Ray LaMontagne) for all three of their releases: 2002′s Holy Roller Novocaine EP, 2003′s Youth & Young Manhood (which sounds like the title of a bad After-School Special), and the most recent Aha Shake Heartbreak (2005), which was recorded at Johns’ Three Crows Studio in Los Angeles, using The Beatles’ old Abbey Road mixing desk. Wahoo.

The Australian version of Aha Shake Heartbreak came with a bonus DVD of 5 live songs recorded in Belgium. Here are the audio rips of these energetic tracks. They play like they mean it:

Taper Jean Girl” (live) – Kings of Leon
(YSI alternate link)

The Bucket” (live) – Kings of Leon
(YSI alternate link)

Soft” (live) – Kings of Leon
(YSI alternate link)

Molly’s Chambers” (live) – Kings of Leon
(YSI alternate link)

Four Kicks” (live) – Kings of Leon
(YSI alternate link)

And here’s a bonus just because I can:

Slow Night, So Long” – Kings of Leon with Eddie Vedder
Live in Seattle, 4/25/05

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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