To expand his already octave-stretching vocals, lead singer Caleb Followill quit smoking before joining his brothers and cousin in the studio to record the followup to 2003's excellent Youth and Young Manhood. And therein lies the problem. Not that Followill's voice isn't as strong and unique as ever -- like a brilliant, over-encouraged special-needs child left free to create his own nonsensical language, at one point he actually yodels. Yodels! But the album just feels too damn clean. It's darker and more complex than Youth, and there are moments where it absolutely soars, as in the highfalutin heartbreak of "Taper Jean Girl," and in "Velvet Snow," which plays like the coolest amphetamine-addled square dance ever. But even the best songs are too short, like that house party that fucking rocked until the keg was kicked by eleven. Aharepresents a significant step forward for the Followill boys, but not that great, wild leap some of us were hoping for. Ah, the heartbreak.
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