Kings of Leon – “When You See Yourself” Review

Story posted March 12, 2021 in Arts & Entertainment by Caelan Chevrier.

Kings of Leon find itself maturing on its eighth studio album, "When You See Yourself."

The band has shown a lot of growth and development in its nearly two-decade run. Originally dubbed as “the Southern Strokes,” the group stuck to southern garage rock for their first two albums. After, they found themselves on almost every radio station when they switched to arena rock on their next two albums.

2008’s “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody” put them on the universal map and were some of the biggest hits of the decade. 2016 also signified a tonality shift where the band’s “WALLS” became the most pop and radio-friendly the group has ever been.

In "When You See Yourself," Kings of Leon sound sonically unique compared to their previous works, bringing audiences their most fleshed out and complete album in over a decade.

Teaming up with “WALLS” producer Markus Dravs, the band sets the scene from the first track. In “When You See Yourself, Are You Far Away” eerie synthesizers are introduced that perfectly match the gloomy themes of the song.

One of the band’s singers Caleb Followill sings “This long goodbye is overdue | You never came when I called on you.” The band has a history with their opening tracks being extra dark, but this may be one of the darkest and most saddening.

What follows are the album’s two singles that were released in January. “The Bandit” might have been partially misleading as there are very few other tracks on the album that are as fast-paced or as heavily reliant on the guitar.

“100,000 People” slows the pacing back down again, and it’s one of the best songs on the album. Between the guitar and synth work, the passionate singing and the catchy chorus, it sounds genuine and wholesome. Essentially, the rest of the tracklist works the same — there will be one or two slow songs then it picks up for one and repeats.

Most of the songs on “When You See Yourself” are longer than typical with the length per track averaging over four-and-a-half each. This plays to the band's advantage, choosing quality over quantity. Usually, it takes the Followill’s at least three verses to tell a cohesive and interesting story.  

“Supermarket” deserves a mention as well. It was written in 2009 while the band was on tour, and then later revisited in March 2020 for release on Youtube and Instagram TV titled “Going Nowhere.”

Followill sings “And it's a long hard road until I can get to you | And I'll be holding on, hoping the sun comes shining through.” The song was fitting for the time as people found themselves in quarantine, and a year later is still relatable.

“Golden Restless Age” takes listeners back to the late 2000s Kings of Leon era and reminds them of why the band is so good in the first place. Everything about the song is incredibly catchy, it’s not only a highlight on the album but in their entire discography. “Echoing,” as well, brings back some of that southern charm that has been missing for a while.

“A Wave” is the most abstract cut on the record because so many different things happen over the track’s nearly five and a half minutes. Opening with an influx of synthesizers, an atmosphere is built and the drums don’t even kick in until the two-minute mark. Followill seems deliberately drowned out in the mix as he yells in the chorus. From there, it turns into an acoustic and piano ballad before returning to the chorus again. The band took a risk here, but it ultimately paid off.

Some songs such as “Time in Disguise,” and “Claire & Eddie” unfortunately seem a little bland. They aren’t bad songs in shape or form but it just feels like Kings of Leon have written very similar — and better — ones prior to them. Aside from that, the record seems very up to scratch.

Overall, Kings of Leon have subverted expectations on this “When You See Yourself.” They show how the impact a little ripeness and experimentation can make. They are all a family band, after all — the three brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared Followill with their cousin Matthew all do their part to make "When You See Yourself" special.

The album may be able to retain some new listeners, but to any of their fans, it was well worth the wait. Although it is a little more mellow than previous entries, there is a lot of fun to be had and it helps secure their spot as one of the most creative rock bands of the time.

Rating: 7/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Songs: “100,000 People,” “Golden Restless Age,” “Supermarket”
Reviewer’s Least Favorite Songs: “Time in Disguise”

Caelan Chevrier is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, email cjc6789@psu.edu.

About the Contributors

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Caelan Chevrier

Freshman / Journalism

Caelan Chevrier is a first-year student in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State University studying broadcast journalism with the goal of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in four years. His plan is to get involved in numerous media-related clubs during his stay. His career goal is to spread informative, meaningful and entertaining content across various platforms and to be a positive impact on the community. If you’d like to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).