Some of the music on my computer is only there for nostalgia purposes while other songs provide constant background noise to my daily routine; they don't represent a single point in time but many. There's quite a few playlists dedicated to high school and college favorites, songs that got me through some of my happiest and saddest days. I still listen to those playlists on occasion, not to relive the past but to remind myself of the different directions my life has taken so far (that and the music is still good in it's own right). My musical tastes change at the drop of a hat but things tend to come back around sooner or later.
To me KOL has always sounded like a classic rock band with a successfully modern vibe, especially in the early years when their nods to the past were more than subtle. I like that you can pick out each individual instrument without the songs sounding like a hodgepodge of noise. Unlike certain pop or rock music these days, Kings of Leon is a band in whole. Much like rock bands of the past, each band member is showcased and not there simply to play backup to the lyrics. You can tell it's a collaborative effort.
Like most musical experiences my love and obsession went in phases. First the singles, then listening to entire albums on repeat, then slowly developing connections with each individual song. I went months, sometimes a year, without listening to KOL until eventually they'd release a new album or I would suddenly be in the mood for their sound again. I liked the edge I found in the songs, the sexiness of it and the angst. Only By The Night is the first album that I can remember loving every single song on the track list. Usually there's one or two weaker songs on an album; ones you aren't as inclined to listen to the third or fourth time around. That isn't the case for me with Only By The Night. When I did go back to their music it usually felt like returning home.
I studied those lyrics. Laying on my bed or on the floor of my room playing certain songs over and over again until everything started blending together. Their songs are like water to me. The music is fluid, it ripples and crashes in natural succession. Eventually it washes me clean, satisfying whatever it is that claws at my insides.
Last night when I was listening to the album for the first time in over a year I was amazed by how hard and fast I fell back into that music. Only By The Night, and Kings of Leon in general, was a staple throughout my college years. The album made appearances off and on but at least once a year I would go through a KOL phase. The band has amazing albums both before and after Only By The Night but my strongest connections are to those songs.
The live version of Manhattan reminds me of sitting around NMC during my first semesters of college, songs like Notion and Crawl put me back on the train to New York City in 2010, Frontier City returns me to the walks between classes on Western's campus with Biggby coffee in hand, I Want You reminds me of a certain crush I had during those years, and Cold Desert usually brings me back to all those nights I cried myself to sleep after drinking a bottle of wine alone in my room. For all of those reasons that album feel as much a part of me as those memories do. Only By The Night got me through all of that and I'm entirely grateful for the tiny moments of understanding I felt along the way.
So I can't tell you if Kings of Leon are the most talented band out there or if Only By The Night is one of the best album of all time. Music, like most artistic endeavors, is entirely subjective. These days it's enough just to play those songs again and add new memories to the list of old ones.