Kings of Leon/ Snowden/The Features Maybe Kings of Leon was inspired by the Strokes 2006 album First Impressions of Earth, which saw the band transform into post-Smash Mouth surf-rock weirdos. Not only was KoL once tagged the "southern Strokes," but the Nashville quartet's latest, Because of the Times, like Impressions, accentuates the most eccentric aspects of its once-familiar sound: Caleb Followill's strangled whinny, his lyrics about wanting to have babies with groupies, guitarist Matthew Followill's post-Edge barrage of barnyard ambiance, and drummer Nathan Followill's off-kilter groove. (There's one more Followill in this proudly bearded family band: bassist Jared. He's the normal one here, except when he shows up thinking he's in the Wailers.) These guys used to specialize in rustic neo-garage fluff, but Times introduces a much darker sound -- and kudos to them for chasing it.
Atlanta's Snowden also works a unique thing on its latest disc, Anti-Anti. The band can't decide whether it's hardcore or dreamy shoegazer. The Features, meanwhile, aren't as complicated as the other bands, but they do manage to squeeze plenty of disco and synth-pop moves into their amiable bar-band shuffle.