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Kings of Leon

Because of the Times (RCA)

The whole point of Because of the Times, according to Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill, is to throw the unsuspecting listener for a loop. And the group's third full-length should have no trouble pulling off that one. The Kings have abandoned their earlier worship of Damn the Torpedoes and Exile on Main Street in favor of artier blueprints, from the Wire-y throb of "Charmer," where Followill squeals like he's being produced by Deliverance-era Ned Beatty, to the Walkmen-doing-U2 sense of atmosphere that colors several cuts. They've bathed most of these tracks in so much echo, Phil Spector might find it excessive (although My Morning Jacket wouldn't). The new aesthetic suits these boys better than those haircuts ever did, especially on "Trunk" and "True Love Way," two atmospheric ballads that would've been completely out of place on earlier efforts. The only quality remaining of Kings of Leon's former sound, in fact, is Followill's distinctive vocal style (an odd, attention-grabbing blend of Elmer Fudd and Adam Sandler). The band's also retained the American Gothic Girls Gone Wild appeal of its lyrics, from the knocked-up girlfriend of the seven-minute lead-off track to the karma-stealing West Virginia preacher's wife who's eyeballing Caleb in "Charmer."

 
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