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Name: "Smile Kid"
Label: S-Curve Records
Release Date: December 8, 2009
My rating: 4.6 out of 5
Review written by: Stephanie Mora
The saying goes, “good things come to those who wait,” and fans of the band, We The Kings have definitely been waiting for their next album. We The Kings released an EP last year, in 2008, titled "Secret Valentine," but it has been a little over two years since the Check Yes Juliet musicians released their debut self-titled album. Now, Travis Clark, Hunter & Drew Thomsen, and Danny Duncan are back with the release of their second album, and good things have indeed come to their awaiting fans.
We The Kings released their sophomore album, "Smile Kid," on December 8th, 2009 and as whole their sophomore effort does not disappoint. The one major theme of "Smile Kid" is the always complicated and never easy, love and relationships, but the Florida rockers managed to craft an entire album that provides and optimistic spin on the subject.
The album starts off strong with a track entitled, “She Takes Me High.” The lyrics of this track relay a story of intimate moments between a couple that take place via nightly dreams. Although, each time the chorus is sung, there is a shift in the lyrics and they describe how a girl can take this guy so high that he feels like his reality is a dream world, hence the lyrics, “She’s got me 10 feet off the ground, she takes me high, high, she takes me high tonight.” These lyrics are easy for anyone to relate to considering most of us have probably either wished our relationships were as perfect in reality as they are in dreams or had a person make us feel like we were dreaming. The song begins with a mini guitar solo and is then accompanied by intricate drumming to make for an upbeat song that you can dance and sing along to.
Continuing on, the next track off the album, “Promise The Stars” could almost be described as a ballad with an island like feel to it. It’s one of those songs that you could easily sway your body to. The track describes the strong feelings one person has for another. There are doubts and there is no guarantee the relationship will work out but there is the certainty that this is the only person they’d want to share the world with. For the most part the song is mid-tempo containing simple drum beats and guitar rhythms with snapping in the background, and it only picks up the tempo slightly in the chorus.
The third track titled, “Heaven Can Wait” is actually the band’s first single off the album, and it definitely wasn’t a bad choice for a single. Personally, I might have picked a different song for their single, but the combination of the guitar and drums in this track is nearly perfect. Throwing in the bells in the background and the techno-like sounds makes “Heaven Can Wait” a very catchy song that a person will find themselves tapping their toes and nodding their heads, without even realizing it. The song is also strong lyrically describing how a guy loves a girl so much that he doesn’t ever want to leave her. Even heaven can wait.
With three strong songs in a row, the album continues this streak with tracks four and five. Track four, "The Story Of Your Life" describes how a boy has such strong feelings for a girl that he is willing to be there for her throughout the good and the bad, the ups and downs, and basically whatever life has in store. He's willing to stick around as the girl figures out the story of her life; he would even help write the pages. "Smile, kid" even pops up in the lyrics of the song which reinforces the title of the album and the optimistic view it takes. "The Story Of Your Life" begins soft and simple with soft vocals and very simple drum beats and guitar rhythms. It then transitions to a mid-tempo beat with harmonizing vocals while the drum beats and guitar rhythms pick up and get faster. This track showcases the band's vocal talent and range well. Moving on to track five, "Rain Falls Down" is a beautiful power ballad. It's very well put together musically and lyrically. The guitar in the beginning resembles the sound of actual rain, and the drum is very distinctive in this particular song adding in the power. Lyrically, the track is about being there for someone; two people can get through anything together. This song is intended to be for a girlfriend or girl, but the track is versatile in the way that it could easily describe the strength of a friendship as well.
The sixth track, “Summer Love” is one of the weaker tracks off the album. The song describes a summer romance and the care free feeling of it which musically, is portrayed very well. There is the imitation of birds chirping throughout the duration of the song and the clapping and “hey oh, hey oh’s” added to the track leaves the listener with a feeling of summer. However, lyrically the track is not as strong as the others on the album, and there is nothing that stands out. Basically “Summer Love” is just your typical summer anthem.
From the title alone, one might think that the seventh track, “In-N-Out (Animal Style)” will diverge from the theme of the album but the title is misleading. The title might pay tribute to the widely popular fast food restaurant chain but the only thing that the title has in common with the actual content of the song is that it is about Los Angeles, and In-N-Out originated on the west coast. The track doesn’t speak of a relationship between a boy and girl but rather a love-hate relationship with the city of Los Angeles. There is a very home-sick feel about the song and it discusses how it is easy for people to lose themselves to Los Angeles. Musicians get caught up in the industry and people get caught up in the lifestyle. A staccato is used in the introduction of the song but musically, nothing else stands out.
“Spin,” the eighth track off the album, delves back into the feelings of love held in a relationship between two people. The kind of love spoken of in “Spin” is the kind of love we all hope for: the lighthearted, untroubled love, where two people can just be together and live freely. The song can be summarized as party song especially with lyrics like, “let’s make champagne rain down from the sky, let’s toast to the night.” The band does an excellent job creating a carefree party atmosphere by adding in chimes for special effect. The combination of the chimes and the guitar in the beginning of the song actually sounds like champagne glasses being tapped together.
The emotion projected from the vocals of lead singer, Travis Clark, in the ninth track “Anna Maria (All We Need)” makes for a beautiful and believable song. The name, Anna Maria is never used directly in the song but with it being the title, it’s clear that every word is meant for her. Although with lyrics like, “love is all we need” could easily be used as every person’s motto because most of us think that way or at least want love to be all we need. Starting out, the song uses simple guitar rhythms and repetitive drum beats but then they pick up for the chorus.
For the tenth track, We The Kings brought in a special guest being the popular pop princess, Demi Lovato. With the guest vocal styling’s of Demi Lovato, listeners might expect to be amazed by the track, “We’ll Be A Dream” but they could just end up being disappointed. “We’ll Be A Dream” describes how the love between two people will stay safe and perfect when the lights go out and it’s time for dreams to start. The song is intended to be a beautiful powerhouse ballad but unfortunately it is a hit and miss. Demi enters the track during the second bridge and instantly her voice sounds oddly misplaced within the song. No offense to Ms. Lovato because she has a wonderful voice, but it just does not flow well within the song. And it does not mesh well with the voice of, We The King’s lead singer, Travis Clark. On a positive note, the music box in the beginning and the drum and guitar sequences accomplish giving the track a dream-like atmosphere. The song almost sounds like a lullaby and has the potential to be great but adding Demi’s vocals into the mix was not the right choice.
The eleventh and final track, “What You Do To Me” makes up for the previous track and brings the album to a strong close. “What You Do To Me” describes how a girl has a boy so twisted up on the inside that it’s driving him crazy. He compares this girl to a storm, and admits that he has no control when it comes to her. The “hey, hey, hey’s” used during the song make it seem like the boy is actually shouting, “you have no clue what you do to me” at the girl. This song is very upbeat and catchy. Musically, it does a great job of portraying the boy’s loss of control when it comes to the girl. At one point in the song there is a break where there is just quiet vocals with the piano playing lightly in the background, and this gives a good depiction of the boy breaking down. In addition, the song does not end with lyrics, it actually ends with the combination of the piano, guitar and drums all played together which further portrays the loss of control.
For those who purchase the deluxe edition of “Smile Kid” there are two bonus tracks, acoustic versions of “She Takes Me High” and “Heaven Can Wait.” The acoustic versions of both these songs really showcase the vocal talent in We The Kings. In addition, with only the simple guitar rhythms being played in each track, the true raw emotion behind the lyrics can be seen. Each acoustic track is beautiful and a wonderful special treat for those who have the deluxe edition of the album.
Overall, the sophomore album effort, “Smile Kid” by We The Kings is a job well done. With the exception of a few weaker ones, this album is filled with tracks that are strong lyrically and musically. Even though the tracks deal with the rather sticky subject of love, We The Kings bring out the positive side of love in their songs, which is very refreshing to hear. There is a vibe throughout the album that gives hope that there are better days ahead. This message fits perfectly with the album title, “Smile Kid,” which in and of itself suggests everything will be alright. This is one album that listeners will be able to blast in their cars with the windows down or dance around to in their rooms. Either way, it will leave them with a positive outlook on life.