This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated.
You can draw a line in the sand of many musicians’ careers, a turning point where their sound changed completely. It’s a shift that usually gains a stadium of new fans while losing a club of old ones. Enter Kings of Leon and 2008’s Only by the Night. The album’s FM-friendly singles, “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody,” catapulted the Nashville family into sports arenas and festivals everywhere — yet the divide between fans grew far and wide.
They returned in late 2010 with the polarizing Come Around Sundown, and while many longtime fans were slightly underwhelmed, it saw the band reach a new pinnacle of success, headlining Coachella and making their second appearance on Saturday Night Live. This proved to be a major turning point for Kings of Leon, and some of those early fans had probably given up on the band returning to their scrappy, soulful hits of the early aughts.
But 2013’s Mechanical Bull was a great reminder of how dynamic Kings of Leon could be, and contained some of the band’s most beloved hits to date — including “Wait For Me,” “Temple,” and “Supersoaker.” They scored some rock radio success with Mechanical Bull‘s 2016 followup, Walls, and released their most recent studio album, 2021’s When You See Yourself, initially as an NFT — which caused some minor confusion for their longtime fans as well.
Whether you’re still with them or dropped off some time in the past decade or so, we hope this list of tracks from every Kings of Leon era offers a bridge between the highlights worth remembering. After all, the last thing Kings of Leon want you to do is “Waste a Moment” (sorry).
Check out the full list below, and scroll to the end for a playlist of all 10 tracks.
Album: Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004)
The Followills have all met their fair share of ladies on the road. They might be marrying off and having babies now, but back in 2003, they found the ideal, hourglass-bodied girl — the type who would loan out her toothbrush and bartend a party. As Caleb (candidly) told MTV: “That’s about, um, an experience that happened while we were making the record. Um, I love her. It was a good experience, you know, got a good song out of it. Hope she’s doing alright.” It’s an oddity of a track, too: Caleb howls over just a few sparse cords and the lyrics quicken as the song barrels over, like a little too much milk in a nice, tall glass. Hope that girl’s alright, indeed. — Amanda Koellner
09. “Wait For Me”
Album: Mechanical Bull (2013)
“Wait For Me,” which feels just a few short steps away from a Pearl Jam song, is a warm, passionate highlight of the band’s sixth album, Mechanical Bull. There’s an ease with which the band handles the central groove of “Wait For Me,” and when the chorus arrives, they melt into the chord changes perfectly. Caleb Followill, as usual, puts his best foot forward, soaring soulfully on the verses and prioritizing a more heartfelt, less-is-more delivery on the choruses. After 2010’s underwhelming Come Around Sundown, “Wait For Me” marked significant growth from the Nashville quartet. They may not bust it out at their live shows too often, but when they do, it’s clear how special of a song “Wait For Me” is. — Paolo Ragusa
08. “Molly’s Chambers”
Album: Youth and Young Manhood (2003)
The second single from KOL’s debut record Youth and Young Manhood showcases the Followill boys in all their Southern Strokes glory. It’s sweaty, snarling barroom rock ‘n’ roll, copping from Thin Lizzy’s “Whiskey in the Jar,” and upon first listen it’s unclear whether we’re in the ’70s or 2003. Before they cleaned up their production and scaled their sound toward arenas, songs like “Molly’s Chambers” demonstrated the raw, kinetic energy of the shaggy-haired, tight-trousered retro revivalists, whose urgent tracks drew upon nostalgia without losing their sense of urgency. — Spencer Dukoff
Album: Only by the Night (2008)
It’s fair to say that Only By the Night is a front-loaded record, largely thanks to this direction-changing opening number. The bouncing key modulation signaled that the “southern Strokes” took down quite a few notes when they scored the opening slot of a leg of U2’s tour. But thematically, the track stays right within Kings’ wheelhouse. “She took my heart, I think she took my soul,” Caleb sings of yet another woman who’s done him wrong. Somehow we’re not so sorry for him. — A.K.