After a year filled with numerous albums and even more songs, choosing 100 of the best is an incredibly difficult task. Like with the best albums of 2013, there will be surprises as well as snubs. Sometimes the snubs are oversights while at other items there are just so many notable songs that some just get lost in the mix. Regardless, here are 100 songs I found to be notable in 2013.
“Drunk In Love”
Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z
From album: Beyoncé
Well, since Beyoncé and Jay-Z are husband and wife, it’s probably fine for them to be ‘drunk’ off of each other’s love. That said, some of the personal side of that ‘romance’ is made public on this bold track from the surprise ‘visual’ album. It is what it is…
2 Chainz featuring Fergie
From album: B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME
You know how fitness trainer Shaun T. says he “don’t do anything but abs”? Well 2 Chainz don’t do anything but stupid. At least he does it like a pro. Making a sex tape and putting it on Netflix may be genius, maybe. LOL!
“Wait For Me”
Kings of Leon
From album: Mechanical Bull
Caleb Followill explains it best: “It’s all better now, it’s all better now / wait for me, wait for me.”
“Who I Am”
Pusha T featuring 2 Chainz & Big Sean
From album: My Name Is My Name
Because Pusha T and his star-studded crew stay true to themselves, they shine on “Who I Am”. “Woo! They said be all you can be / Woo! They said be all you can be / I just wanna buy another Rollie / I just wanna pop another band / I just wanna sell dope forever / I just wanna be who I am.” To each his own… not that I wouldn’t mind a Rollie let alone more than one!
From album: Paradise Valley
“Wildfire” is a folksy/roots/country/pop hybrid that sounds incredibly distinct from anything Mayer has released previously. Vocally, Mayer sounds clear and enthused, shedding with mad skill (as always) on the guitar.
“Do I Wanna Know?”
From album: AM
Ah, drunken confessions of love. Alex Turner is honest on this exceptional opener from Arctic Monkeys’ most recent effort, AM: “Crawlin’ back to you / ever thought of calling you when you’ve had a few? / ‘Cause I always do / Maybe I’m too, busy being yours to fall for somebody new…” You get the idea!
“All American Boy”
Has there ever been a viral hit that was such a ‘hit’ as “All American Boy”? Steve Grand’s country song with a gay love storyline made a gargantuan impact, everywhere. Because homosexuality and country are rarely associated with one another, “All American Boy” like “Same Love” was to hip-hop, breaks down social barriers.
“Take A Fall For Me”
James Blake featuring RZA
From album: Overgrown
At the beginning of “Take A Fall For Me”, James Blake claims that, “You can’t marry her yet…” RZA goes on later to state “I heard through the grapevine that great love, it takes time / sex shapes the body, truth shapes the mind…” So basically, this track seems to be about a relationship that is incomplete of all the necessary facets, or something along those lines.
A$AP Ferg featuring A$AP Rocky
From album: Trap Lord
Ferg and Rocky are on that “Sha-Sha-Shabba Ranks”… rings, change, gold teeth, women… Sound so appealing, doesn’t it?
Janelle Monáe featuring Miguel
From album: The Electric Lady
Sometimes, a great R&B duet doesn’t have to be oversexed or completely stripped of its romance. “Primetime” is a perfect example of this. The vocal chemistry between Janelle Monáe and Miguel is magnificent.
“Kisses Down Low”
From album: Talk A Good Game
Ooh Kelly, you so nasty! “I like my kisses down low / makes me arch my back / when you give it to me slow / baby just like that…” When the word ‘arch’ is used in a song, it’s rarely referencing the ‘arch’ of the foot… just sayin’!
From album: Overgrown
“Retrograde” finds Blake channeling his urban side superbly, accompanied initially by piano. Blake’s initial vocal runs sounds indigenous to R&B or gospel, making “Retrograde” all the more unique. Things truly grow epic on pivotal line “Suddenly I hit,” where excitement reaches a lofty peak.
“Almost Is Never Enough”
Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes
From album: Yours Truly
Duet “Almost Is Never Enough” should be incredibly sappy but it isn’t! Grande and boyfriend Nathan Sykes (of The Wanted) sport sound vocal chemistry on this enjoyable track. A musical oxymoron of sorts, “Almost Is Never Enough”, is soulful, yet contemporary, and old school, yet fresh.
“Made Up Mind”
Tedeschi Trucks Band
From album: Made Up Mind
If one was unconvinced just how resolute Susan Tedeschi was, listening to her gritty, passionate performance on the bluesy “Made Up Mind” erases all doubts. She can S-A-N-G!
Fantasia featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott
From album: Side Effects Of You
Guys are totally in the ‘doghouse’ on this jam from Fantasia and friends, but even they can’t resist the nodding of head or the tapping of foot.
From album: Appreciation Day
Jaheim spent most of Appreciation Day ‘appreciating’ women, but he took a detour to go socially conscious on the phenomenal “Florida”, a track questioning the controversial Treyvon Martin verdict. Sure Jaheim sounds inspired when he’s singing of pleasure, but he sounds equally, if not more powerful, singing of pain and repercussions here.
From album: Modern Vampires of the City
Someone’s not been going to church lately… “Ya Hey” is a play on the word “Yahweh”, which refers to God. Can you say blasphemous? Religious stance aside, “Ya Hey” is another creative song courtesy of everyone’s favorite vampires. They sure know how to bite!
Ace Hood featuring Future & Rick Ross
From album: Trials & Tribulations
I rarely compliment Future (I’ve been pretty critical), but “Bugatti” sports Future’s best hook of the year/perhaps ever… “I woke up in a new Bugatti!”
Daft Punk featuring Paul Williams
From Album: Random Access Memories
On the warm and beautiful track “Touch”, Paul Williams delivers a superb vocal performance against an excellent neo-disco styled backdrop. There’s not a thing wrong with that retro swag!
“Hold On, We’re Going Home”
Drake featuring Majid Jordan
From album: Nothing Was The Same
“Hold On, We’re Going Home” has nothing at all ‘hip-hop’ about it. Despite this, this 80s-styled R&B/pop cut is nothing short of a pleasure to partake of. It’s like the most delicious dessert ever… Scrumptious!
Panic! At The Disco
From album: Too Weird to Live, To Rare to Die
“Miss Jackson” (featuring Lolo) finds Panic! At The Disco front man Brendon Urie using his contemporary R&B chops, with some emo-pop swag of course! Catchy and manic, “Miss Jackson” is nothing short of pop gold. And as “nasty” as Miss Jackson is, “…[he] love her anyway!”
“All of Me”
From album: Love in the Future
The thoughtful, radiant “All Of Me” strips down to piano, vocals, and ‘robots’, with sensational results. Legend sings chivalrously: “‘Cause all of me loves all of you / love your curves and all your edges / all your perfect imperfections.” Aww!
From album: Bankrupt!
“Entertainment” is quite exhilarating, characterized by its use of oriental sounding synths and its superb, unifying chorus. “Entertainment, show them what you do with me / when everyone here knows better / what I once refused to be / is everything they long together / I’d rather be alone”, front man Thomas Mars sings enthusiastically.
“Suit & Tie”
Justin Timberlake featuring Jay-Z
From album: The 20/20 Experience
Interpreting what it means to be “on that suit and tie sh*t”: Basically ole boy is looking like one dapper mother [shut yo mouth!] and he’s going to do any and everything he can to impress this girl. “Let me show you a few things…”
“We No Who ‘U ‘R”
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
From album: Push The Sky Away
Well written, mysterious, and diverse from many other songs in 2013, “We No Who ‘U ‘R” is alt-singer/songwriter, alt-rock at its best. The sound is reminiscent of a 60s blue-eyed soul hit.
Welcome to the final part of my Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013. Here is where I housed my honorable mentions, which were many. If you missed the previous two posts, here’s how I opened them up respectively, beginning with Favorites and ending with Least Favorites:
“As I look over my 2013 playlist from my iPod, I realize I have listened to numerous albums this year. In fact, the amount of music that my ears have consumed and my pen has analyzed is pretty scary…and I still missed lots of albums! SMH! Some were special, some made me cringe, and some fell somewhere in between the two extremes. As difficult as it was, as of October 7, 2013, I have compiled a list housing my favorites, least favorites, and honorable mentions. I’m almost certain I’ve slighted someone and I’m sure there will be continual revisions, but for now, here’s what you should’ve spun, what you should’ve avoided like the plague, and those that were strongly consideration for favorites. Enjoy!”
“Welcome all who dare to part deux of my Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013 for all who dare to enter the brentmusicreviews zone! Ha… If you missed the first part (Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 1), you should like totally check out my favorites from 2013, ‘cause there was some awesome albums. If you’re not one for positivity and optimism, maybe you’re just checking this out because some you enjoy skepticism, criticism, and the occasional, um, cynicism.
Onward to the honorable mentions!!!
Travis Garland, Travis Garland
Ariana Grande, Yours Truly
Lorde, Pure Heroine
Conor Maynard, Contrast
There was one dominant pop album in 2013 and it was not by Justin Bieber (yep cheap shot). Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience was sort of ‘the promised land’ of pop. But Justin wasn’t the only album that impressed. John Mayer has been more subtle lately, but Paradise Valley was well conceived. Travis Garland isn’t well established yet, but he should be following EPs and his compilation effort Travis Garland. Ariana Grande sounded angelic, particular with boyfriend Nathan Sykes (The Wanted) on “Almost Is Never Enough”. Lorde’s sorta pop, sorta alternative mix made it a fine listen while Britain’s Justin Bieber Conor Maynard out-swag’d the “swaggy” singer easily with debut Contrast.
Harry Connick, Jr. Smokey Mary
Harry Connick, Jr. Every Man Should Know
Michael Bublé delivered my favorite traditional pop album of 2013, but who can deny the musicianship of either Harry Connick, Jr. Or George Benson? Smokey Mary introduced the funky “S’pposed To Be” to my constant rotation playlist while Every Man Should Know added its country-tinged self-titled ballad. As for George Benson? What more is there to say to hear a legend paying tribute to one of his own legends on tracks like “Route 66” or “Unforgettable”?
Kings of Leon, Mechanical Bull
Alice in Chains, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
John Fogerty, Wrote A Song For Everyone
Rock certainly didn’t dominate 2013, but there were definitely some exceptional albums. While Queens of the Stone Age’s …Like Clockwork and David Bowie’s The Next Day took top honors in my eyes, Kings of Leon, Alice in Chains, and John Fogerty definitely ‘did work’ too. Kings of Leon impressed on “Supersoaker” and were humanized on the seemingly autobiographical “Wait For Me”. Alice in Chains reminded us just how good 90s rock/metal was, particularly on title track “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”. As for the legend of this trio, John Fogerty’s collaborations effort Wrote A Song For Everyone was so much better than expected, like really!
Depeche Mode, Delta Machine
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away
The National, Trouble Will Find Me
Let’s just keep this short and sweet. Stacked, stacked, stacked!!! This category of music is always loaded, period. An annual number one seed you might say. Vampire Weekend were definitely the act to beat, but Phoenix, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and The National all rocked too, as evidenced by their spot on my list. “Entertainment” from Phoenix just made me feel happy because of its bright brilliance. For electro-alt vets Depeche Mode, it’s the general darkness of the music that has a hypnotizing effect; they never sound old. Nick Cave’s exceptional songwriting is undeniable, particularly on standouts like the opening “We No Who ‘U ‘R” and the infectious groove of “Finishing Jubilee Street”, which is a follow-up to “Jubilee Street”. The National pleased with “Don’t Swallow The Cap” and “Humiliation” among others.
Bilal, A Love Surreal
Chrisette Michele, Better
Alice Smith, She
Yeah, I know I’ve whined about R&B, but most of the time it wasn’t the quality of the albums but rather the dismal sales. None of the above mentioned albums exactly made a huge chart impact (Fantasia did well contextually speaking), but all four were and are definitely worthy of some spins. “Without Me” was definitely my jam from Side Effects Of You, even if it is more of a women empowerment cut… don’t judge me, it’s sick! “Winning Hand” tickled my fancy from Bilal’s A Love Surreal, while one of Alice Smith’s best moments was actually a cover of Cee Lo’s “Fool For You”. As for CM, “A Couple of Forevers” is among my top cuts of the year regardless of genre. All four albums receive my humble approval.
Teena Marie, Beautiful
Aaron Neville, My True Story
R&B isn’t getting much attention in general, so of course the veterans get the worst of it. Teena Marie’s posthumously released final studio album is one she would’ve been incredibly proud of. As for Aaron Neville, there is literally no one who come close to the versatile soul singer’s vocal timbre. He exceptionally covers old, old school classics on My True Story.
Mac Miller, Watching Movies With The Sound Off
Tyler, The Creator, Wolf
Earl Sweatshirt, Doris
A$AP Rocky, Long. Live. A$AP
A$AP Ferg, Trap Lord
This is one lengthy list right? There are also probably omissions and arguable omissions. To answer the skeptics, yes I purpose excluded Jay-Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail off this list – it was not my favorite, least favorite, nor really an honorable mention in my eyes. Kanye West definitely had an argument for a ‘favorite’, but I also had my own reservations with the album itself. Mac Miller showed more maturity on Watching Movies With The Sound Off, but not without his fair share of references to his… Anyways, Odd Future releases are always captivating (Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt), while A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg both impressed with their respective efforts and signature styles. I know I’ve left off others… it was a good year for hip-hop.
I’ll admit, I knew very little about Congo Natty, also known as Rebel MC. After being given the opportunity to review Revolution, however, I was extremely impressed with the album and Congo Natty himself.
Avishai Cohen, Duende
Gerald Clayton, Life Forum
Redtenbacher’s Funkestra, The Cooker
I absolutely adore jazz, period. However, it is easy to ‘sleep’ on a genre which played a huge role in my musical education. Yes, it sounds like I turned my back which seems hypocritical given my jazz piano background. Actually much of the reason is that popular music tend to ‘shock’ and pull in so many major headlines. It’s not fair obviously, as some of today’s greatest talents lie within the jazz realm and definitely don’t receive the attention they deserve. Jazz may often take a backseat on this particular site, but it doesn’t in my heart in the least. I do review it in addition to the ‘pop’ and Avishai Cohen, Gerald Clayton, and Redtenbacher’s Funkestra definitely had killer albums. #MadRespect
- Album Playlist: Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 1… (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Album Playlist: Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 2… (brentmusicreviews.com)
It’s that time… for me to list songs that made me :-) over the past month. 14 of ‘em baby, get ready!
You knew it would take some mega force to unseat Robin Thicke from the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 with the ubiquitous smash “Blurred Lines”. That force came via everyone’s favorite pop star Katy Perry, who shocked with her maturity on “Roar”. Sure, Ms. Perry had a lot of fun in her jungle music video to accompany her number one single, but she goes all inspirational on us as opposed to, um, risqué. I wasn’t one hundred percent onboard at first, but it certainly tickled my fancy after a while.
2 Chainz featuring Fergie, “Netflix”
I wouldn’t call 2 Chainz the most intellectually-stimulating rapper – he goes dumb (and sometimes dumb-er) with the best. Throw in the queen of silliness in Fergie and the resulting cut “Netflix” should be a total bust. Instead, it is one of 2 Chainz’s most triumphant moments from B.O.A.T.S.II:#METIME, which also turns out to be a much better album than it should be. The best line from my perspective? “Let’s make a sex tape and put it on Netflix”. SMH.
John Legend, “All Of Me”
Love In The Future
There may never be another John Legend number as touching as his acclaimed, stripped ballad “Ordinary People” was, but “All of Me” seems to be the closest Legend has came to that Grammy-winning classic. Simplistic sporting a certain innocence about it, part of the appeal of ballad is its sheltered, chivalrous genuineness.
Tamar Braxton, “Love and War”
Love and War
Yeah, I know, I know. “Love and War” has been out for a minute… but it is still arguably the best track on Braxton’s sophomore effort. Sure, the album was kinda so-so at best, but “Love and War” would easily rise to the top of most track lists. Soulful, old-school yet contemporary enough, it’s no surprise that the ‘battling through love’ track helped propel Braxton to number two on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.
Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”
A Miley Cyrus song on a Brent Faulkner playlist? Something must be wrong! It’s not, if you can believe it. For as much controversy as Miley Cyrus has successfully stirred up around her hyper-sexual makeover for upcoming studio album BANGERZ, “Wrecking Ball” the song is actually pretty impressive. Honestly, I was onboard from the first time I saw the video, even if I found the video itself to be…um… yeah I can’t think of the word. As for the song and the concept of the song, I’ll give it to ole girl. I’m still no fan though…
Janelle Monáe featuring Prince, “Givin’ ‘Em What They Love”
The Electric Lady
“Q.U.E.E.N.” one killer jam by all means, but Monáe’s promo single has been receiving buzz for a minute. More surprising and equally alluring is her collaboration with Prince, who definitely doesn’t lend his pipes or skills to many… The results, specifically the vocal chemistry between two left-of-center artists is nothing short of brilliant – pretty fly from my perspective.
Drake featuring Detail, “305 To My City”
Nothing Was The Same
Is it just me, or is every Drake album stacked? Nothing Was The Same has a hard act to follow compared to either Thank Me Later or Take Care, but there is still plenty of notable numbers from rap’s softest heavyweight. “305 To My City” benefits from it moodiness, grinding tempo, and honestly its ‘Drake-isms’. Hard choice between this one, “Tuscan Leather”, “Wu-Tang Forever”, or contemporary R&B number “Hold On We’re Going Home”.
Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes, “Almost Is Never Enough”
I’m not one who is into boyfriend/girlfriend duets nor big youthful pop/urban duets. However, every now and again, one comes around that works splendidly. Remember a little hit called “No Air”? Exactly. Sure there is no comparison of Ariana Grande’s fine duet with The Wanted boyfriend Nathan Sykes to the gargantuan Jordin Sparks/Chris Brown duet, but it is so much better than it sounds on paper. Vocally, the chemistry is undeniable, the maturity transcendent of both stars’ age, and the songwriting ‘tried-and-true’ yet relatable. Yeah, “The Way” and “Baby I” might garner more attention, but “Almost Is Never Enough” is a definite sleeper.
Raheem DeVaughn, “Complicated”
A Place Called Love Land
Love is a complicated thing. Just imagine how complicated and complex it is in the context of A Place Called Love Land, Raheem’s DeVaughn’s slept on, exceptional fourth studio album? Basically the premise of this soulful standout is that DeVaughn is in a relationship (or something like it), but doesn’t want to label it. Therefore even if ole boy is “…kinda single” but also in love, it truly is complicated. Nothing complicated or questionable about the strength of this number though.
Kings of Leon, “Wait For Me”
Mechanical Bull was a fine new effort from Kings of Leon overall. Sure, I was looking for another “Sex on Fire”, but maybe the lovin’ has leveled off. Regardless, “Wait For Me” is a brilliant showing offering multiple interpretations (though likely referencing Caleb Followill’s demons) while ultimately delivering a plea of ‘waiting’ for the ‘lost’ to clean up his act. It’s that sort of situation where one went on the wrong pathway and is now back on the straight and narrow.
On his underrated sixth album Appreciation Day, Jaheim spends a good chunk of time discussing the opposite sex, particularly on the incredibly sensual title track. However, he breaks away from the female anatomy on the brilliant, socially conscious “Florida”, which details the infamous Trayvon Martin case. One of the most ‘trill’ songs I have heard in sometime, “Florida” strikes a soulful, chilling chord from an initial listen.
Stalley, “Coupes & Roses”
Self Made 3
Maybach Music Group’s third compilation wasn’t exactly charm. Self Made 3 seemed to lack the same spark as the 2012 compilation which was loaded with the likes of “Power Circle” and “Bury Me A G”. Still, Stalley’s “Coupes & Roses” is a standout that blends luxurious sounds, old-school, and swagger a la 2013 into a winning formula. All bow to rap’s ‘next’.
The Weeknd, “Belong To The World”
I’ll be the first to criticize The Weeknd’s follow-up to mixtape compilation Trilogy. Kiss Land feels pretty blasé for the most part, but this overproduced number has its moments. Particularly, its lyrics are quite alluring: “Ooh girl, I know I should leave you / and learn to mistreat you / cause you belong to the world / and ooh girl, I want to embrace you / domesticate you / but you belong to the world.” Who would’ve thought a song alluding to a stripper Abel Tesfaye wants to ‘domesticate’ could be fascinating?
MGMT, “Alien Days”
You wouldn’t be making an generalization if you said that MGMT’s music is getting weirder and spacier. “Alien Days” is certainly and opener that requires more than one listen to truly digest and understand what’s going through the band’s head. Opening with a child’s voice that eventually is taken of very VanWynegarden’s trippy, nonchalant voice, MGMT is characteristic of the band while continue to stretch (perhaps overstretch) the boundaries. I think it is quite possible to get high of the cut without even smoking.
- Playlist: 5 Favorite September 2013 Albums (brentmusicreviews.com)
September 2013 yielded a number of notable new music releases. As a blogger, music journalist and critic, I found it incredibly difficult to make the time to listen to the over abundance of music provided. That said, I am so glad for there to be an over abundance as opposed to an under-abundance. While all of the albums I listened to left me with something special and a new jam to add to my playlists on my iPod, I chose five albums that stuck with me for various reasons. If you haven’t partaken of these, you should definitely check them out!
Kings Of Leon, Mechanical Bull
Who thought this would happen? After all the breakup rumors, everyone’s favorite southern-rock/traditional rock band return with a solid album in Mechanical Bull. Sure the an electrifying “Sex On Fire” is missing here, but memorable cuts like “Supersoaker” or the personally-based “Wait For Me” are definitely worthwhile.
Ariana Grande, Yours Truly
Ariana Grande is THE young Mariah Carey, period. The girl can ‘sang’, evidenced throughout her brilliant pop/contemporary R&B debut Yours Truly. Flaunting an impressive upper register, not to mention her overall beautiful vocal tone, Grande sounds much more mature than her youthful twenty years of age. While “The Way” featuring Mac Miller was a huge attraction in promoting the effort, there are plenty of other delightful ‘treats’ to partake of.
Drake, Nothing Was The Same
Drake‘s latest studio album lacks a knockout punch like the ubiquitous “Over” from Thank Me Later or a banger like “HYFR” from the Grammy-winning Take Care, but like a defending national champion, Nothing Was The Same remains loaded. Still very much a Drake album, the moody production work and even more emo-tinged lyrics continue to represent the new, modern hip hop way. Tracks like hookless juggernaut “Tuscan Leather“, “Wu-Tang Forever“, and “305 To My City” certainly tickle my fancy.
John Legend, Love in The Future
John Legend is definitely the man, I mean I would totally like to be Legend, particularly being a pianist myself. He sounds as if he should’ve been a recording artist in the ’60s and ’70s given his incredible soulfulness. While Love In The Future does pay ode to old-school, it is contemporary enough to keep the throwback retro-soul singer fresh. It doesn’t hurt that “All of Me” seems like Legend’s closest number to his classic “Ordinary People“. Throw in some covers and notable soul samples and Love In The Future will definitely be a mainstay within my playlist into the future!
Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady
I was totally ready to put John Legend in the top spot for his classy, refined solo comeback effort, but Janelle Monáe totally outdoes herself on her brilliant sophomore album. Just how consistent is this album? Well, I’d call it not only the best I heard in September, but also among the best of 2013. I mean, you know this album is poppin’ if Prince is one of several notable guest artists!
- Review: Janelle Monáe, ‘The Electric Lady’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Chart Moves, September 18, 2013: Keith Urban’s Narrow No. 1 (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Will R&B Ever Recover From Sales Inconsistencies? (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Drake, ‘Nothing Was The Same’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Kings of Leon, ‘Mechanical Bull’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
On Mechanical Bull, KOL show listeners that their latest album was worth the wait.
Kings of Leon⎪ Mechanical Bull ⎪ RCA ⎪⎪US Release Date: September 24, 2013
For a while, it seemed that southern/traditional rock darlings Kings of Leon were toast. Done. Rumors ran rampant that the band was splitting up. Thankfully, Kings of Leon quieted such troublesome talk by returning with their highly anticipated new album, Mechanical Bull. Following up mixed Fall 2010 effort Come Around Sundown, Mechanical Bull has plenty of positives throughout its 42 minute duration. To call the effort truly innovative would be an overstatement, but it is definitely Kings of Leon among their best. Maybe a “Use Somebody” or “Sex on Fire” is missing from the mix, but there is plenty for the audience to sink their teeth into.
“Supersoaker” opens Mechanical Bull with great enthusiasm. Caleb Followill’s vocals are incredibly soulful, easily rising above the production. Adding to the strength of the cut, lyrically it impresses, most notably on the pre-chorus and chorus sections: “Cause I’m the supersoaker red, white / and blew ‘em all away / With the kisses unclean as the words that you say // I don’t mind sentimental girls at times / mister walk away, walk away.” In addition to the in-your-face guitars, Jared’s bass playing anchors the production down. “Rock City” follows up “Supersoaker” in groovy fashion, finding the quartet delivering more of their signature soulful southern rock without missing a beat. “I got back to Rock City / that’s where she saw me / everybody’s seen her / everyone believes me,” Caleb sings on the catchy, easygoing refrain, after boasting things like “Oh baby I could shake it like a woman…” and “I found myself face-first on the floor, searching for something / but never finding something.” Captivating, “Rock City” rocks, as it should.
“Don’t Matter” sports a driving groove (a wall of rhythm), tightly packaging its contents at under three minutes much like “Rock City”. As the title suggests, Caleb confirms “It don’t matter to me”, period. Numerous illustrations are mentioned lyrically, including “Such a swine lips like wine / but it don’t matter to me…”, “Like a snake I wake and I back…I could f*ck or I could fight / it don’t matter to me…”, or “You could bleed stain my seed / it don’t matter to me…” Yeah… Apparently it doesn’t matter because “It’s always the same / and I’m always the same…” Ultimately, it’s another enjoyable number.
“Beautiful War” expands the duration, clocking past the five minute mark. In addition to the expansion of duration, the tempo slows a bit, but not sans rhythmic presence. The cut isn’t a ‘smooth ballad’ by any means, as Caleb definitely asserts his presence throughout the progressive pacing. The main quibble is it’s length, and perhaps a bit of one dimensional thinking, as the cut relies on a minimalist harmonic progression. “Temple” predictably accelerates the tempo, but this proves to be a smart move. While a return to three-minute cuts fails (it stands at over four), the length is more accessible than the lovely, though longish “Beautiful War”. As a song, “Temple” certainly isn’t bad, but nor is it valedictory. Still, The Followill boys would “…take one in the temple / I’d take it for you…” I suppose they’ll also take criticism in regards to “Temple” falling short of the glory of say “Supersoaker”?
“Wait For Me” arrives in the nick of time to provide atonement for any ceded momentum. “Wait For Me” is certainly not ‘new’ Kings of Leon by any means, but well conceived, familiar territory. Medium in speed and open to multiple interpretations, “Wait For Me” seems to be a plea to its audience to ‘wait’ and not ‘give up’ despite the past, problems, so on and so forth. The refrain is simple, finding the band not over thinking by any means: “Wait for me, wait for me / it’s all better now, it’s all better now / wait for me, wait for me.” “Wait For Me” stands tall alongside “Supersoaker”, the top echelon of Mechanical Bull.
“Family Tree” funks things up, In a traditionalist rock and roll sense that is. Everything definitely feels like it’s in the pocket. The highlighting moment? The breakdown section with some good ole southern gospel sensibility. Let the church say yessssssss! “Comeback Story” is no slouch itself, featuring signature KOL cues in play. Anchored by a pleasant, memorable chorus (“I walked a mile in your shoes / and now I’m a mile away and I’ve got your shoes…”), the “Comeback Story” is overall soundly presented. Oh and did I mention the use of strings? Beautiful.
On “Tonight”, Caleb’s pipes seem incredibly drenched in nuance, particularly on recurring lyrics “It’s coming on, it’s coming on”. The impact on the refrain is large in scope, but who expects any less, right? “Tonight” is a fine cut overall, but a bit lengthy when it’s all said and done. Penultimate number “Coming Back Again” pushes the tempo while maintaining brevity. The results? It receives my approval. “On The Chin” closes solidly, though isn’t necessarily a highlight per se.
How does Mechanical Bull rank? Pretty well ultimately. It’s not perfect by any means, but it is a soundly conceived effort that should please both fans and critics alike. Personally, I’m just glad one of my favorite bands are still a band, period.
Favorites: “Supersoaker”; “Rock City”; “Wait For Me”; “Comeback Story”
- Kings of Leon: Mechanical Bull (Review) (popmatters.com)
- YSP Sound: Kings of Leon, “Mechanical Bull” Review (yongestreetportage.wordpress.com)
- REVIEW: Kings of Leon Pick Themselves Up On ‘Mechanical Bull’ (codareview.com)
- Review: Mechanical Bull by Kings of Leon (sweetpremium.wordpress.com)
- ‘Mechanical Bull’ – southern vibes (beatouttherhythm.wordpress.com)
- Kings Of Leon – ‘Mechanical Bull’ – Album Review (lucasfothergill.wordpress.com)