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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Kings of Leon
Aha Shake Heartbreak
RCA Records

Rating: 8/10 ?

June 15, 2005
Kings of Leon are often slighted of playing the same Southern rock rehash over and over and over again, as much as they are praised for it. Their first record, Youth and Young Manhood, fell somewhere between the criticisms. But Aha Shake Heartbreak surpasses the previous record by leaps and bounds; it is a triumph over the dreaded sophomore slump as much as it is a worthy feat in and of itself, and really can't be accused of delving too deep into the former. At a spartan 35 minutes, the record does contain the Southern-cum-minimal-80s influenced guitar rock that is their bread and butter, but you don't have to dig too much deeper to realize that there's much more than that going on as well.

The formula goes something like this: Caleb Followill alternates mumbling mushmouth vocals with a screeching Robert Plant wail, chugging out distorted rhythmic patterns with the utmost precision. Jared and Nathan Followill, on bass and drums respectively, lay a foundation of eighth-note boogie. Matthew Followill peppers never-flashy but occasionally-rawkin' guitar solos throughout. Mix and repeat.

If you have a soft spot for Led Zeppelin and Skynyrd riffage as well as the simplicity of the modern throwback rock of the Strokes, Kings of Leon do the trick. Songs like the chugging "Pistol of Fire" and the brightly bouncing "Soft" play out as expected, but areas of welcome experimentation appear as well - a definite departure from their days of Youth and Young Manhood.

"Milk" tries out spare bass and organ verses - Caleb moaning all the way - before a repeating guitar riff and soft-spoken acoustic strumming wrap it up. The opener, "Slow Night, So Long", begins with a bass line played all the way up the neck, guitars spryly flitting about. After about two minutes, the band pauses before starting up again with a surprisingly appealing calypso outro.

The moment of sublime songwriting comes in the second track, "King of the Rodeo", which is probably the best song that Kings of Leon has ever written, and maybe one of the best of the early months of 2005. Tight and urgent single-picked guitar notes and a throbbing bass line guide the verse into a percussive chorus, propelled by Caleb's layered singsong vocals and trashcan drum fills; it is less "Freebird" and more "Dead Souls." The tone found here is something the band has only hinted at in the past, but has, for a moment, embraced warmly. Kings of Leon's swamp rock is charming and invigorating, but this stretching of the wings suits them even better.

Reviewed by Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other reviews by Jonah Flicker



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