Kings of Leon – When You See Yourself
Written by Madison Crull on April 26, 2021
Nashville indie rock group Kings of Leon kicked off March 2021 with their eighth album “When You See Yourself.” Frontman Caleb Followill explains his inspirations for this album in an interview with Apple Music saying, “Life is the vein that runs through this album. I wrote songs about youth, I wrote songs about being at the age where everything feels like it’s going so slow you want to get out of your reality. A lot of the lyrics are just coming to terms with what’s to come and what has already happened.”
The album kicks off with the (partial) title track, “When You See Yourself, Are You Far Away.” While the existential title reminds me of Billie Eilish’s “When We Fall Asleep Where Do We Go,” this track’s sound is something much different than Eilish’s. It opens with an intro that builds up with each new instrument entering with their own contribution to the indie rock sound. Further into the track they start to play with some synth effects, adding dissonance and intrigue. All the while, their drummer is putting out a driving beat that keeps the track energized.
Next up on the track list is “The Bandit.” This track houses the first instance of a recurring theme I noticed throughout the album. Many of the songs include melodies or production effects that relate to the title. The opening of “The Bandit” features a melody that reminds me of an old western movie soundtrack. As we can tell by the track title it sounds like something that might come from a chase or fight scene. Besides this title tie-in, it’s a very bass-driven piece, with grunge-y guitar that adds a boldness to the piece. After the guitar takes a solo, the band adds some fun meter changes that keeps the listener on their feet.
“100,000 People” is the third track on the roster, and it opens with really interesting synth notes that sound as though they were recorded and then played backwards. Amongst these funky sound effects are a steady one-note bass line with relaxed guitar and vocals. The production on this track resulted in a sound that I can only describe as “dreamy” or “foggy.”You’ll notice as I go down the album’s track list that the artists really enjoyed this effect. This production felt like a title tie-in to me, because the “fog” almost made it sound like the track was being isolated from a lot of background noise, as it might be if the singer was surrounded by 100,000 people.
Track four, “Stormy Weather” starts off with a fun and solid bass riff underneath simple vocals. Then upbeat drums, piano, and a guitar line full of slides liven up this track. One of my favorite parts of “Stormy Weather” was the chord changes in the chorus, it kept me on my toes and I loved how complex it sounds. The whole track gave me dancing in the rain vibes, and even if that wasn’t intentional, it’s another title tie-in!
Next up is “A Wave.” This track opens with dramatic piano coupled with raw vocals, followed by gorgeous chord progressions throughout. The aforementioned dreamy production is revisited here and some ethereal reverbed synth sounds are added as well to compliment this aesthetic production choice. The grand and beautiful opening is juxtaposed with a more upbeat drum-driven section. These two sections float back and forth between each other throughout the song. This “floating back and forth” effect stood out to me as another call back to the track title!
“A Wave” is followed up by “Golden Restless Age” which begins with a bold bass line in its opening, layered with syncopated and “restless” sounding percussion. (Once again, this seems like a title tie-in.) The “dreamy” synth sounds that have been omnipresent in most of the album continue in this track. This time, they almost encapsulate the vocals, bass, and percussion in the chorus. This results in a more “distant” and “foggy” sound.
“Time in Disguise” is next, and it is no stranger to the popular “dreamy” sound that we’ve seen thus far. The vocals are pretty bare to start, but the pace picks up to reveal a more familiar indie rock sound. This track really resonated with me as something the band wrote to showcase their Nashville roots.
The next track up is titled “Supermarket.” The title tie-in element comes up early in this track. As odd of a description as this may sound, it comes in the form of an opening that sounds reminiscent of people drumming on buckets and sneakers squeaking on a tile floor. My first impression of this is it definitely sounded like it could have been recorded in a supermarket, as the title implies. Beyond the opening, this track has a solid guitar and bass duet supporting raw vocals. There is also the nice addition of a “call-and-response” section between the guitar and vocals before closing out with a call back to the thematic opening.
“Claire & Eddie” brings back the Nashville roots sound that we saw in “Time in Disguise.” This one stood out to me as very similar to something from Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” or “Evermore” through its general southern indie rock sound as well as its story format. This track was an unexpected addition, but it fit seamlessly amongst the rest of the album.
Second to last we have “Echoing.” It features an interesting echo-y production throughout, and as we’ve seen previously, this choice isn’t a surprise considering the title. The drums are a driving force in this track, being supported and amplified by the guitar features. It finally disappears with a full-stop ending that contrasts with the dreamy, “echoing” sound.
Finally, the album rounds out with “Fairytale.” Acoustic guitar and piano are the base for this serene finale. The whole album has been very bass and percussion driven, so this added some beautiful contrast. The title tie-in I found in this track was one of my personal favorites. In addition to featuring the album’s signature dreamy and ethereal production I’ve mentioned many times, there are also faint, distant strings behind it all. It had a storybook, and of course, fairytale vibe to me. Almost like a magical movie soundtrack.
All in all, I enjoyed this album. It was a bit of a change of pace for me. Even though I am no stranger to the Alternative genre, this album was suggested to me by my dad who shares my love of music, so I wasn’t familiar with this group. While it was very cohesive and enjoyable, I did sometimes find the album to be a bit one-note. Especially after looking back at my notes, I noticed a lot of similar attributes popping up in each track. That being said, my favorite tracks were “Stormy Weather” and “A Wave,” and I liked being able to take a step out of my comfort zone and analyze a suggested album. I’d give it a 6/10, but still definitely recommend it for anyone who likes a solid bass-driven sound!