A Little History:
Sam’s Town is the second studio album by American rock band The Killers, released on October 2, 2006 in the United Kingdom and the following day in the United States. Regarding the album, vocalist and primary lyricist Brandon Flowers noted that he “wanted to create an album that captured, chronologically, everything important that got me to where I am today“.
The album takes its name from Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall, a hotel-casino in Las Vegas, the hometown of the band. It is also a local nickname for Las Vegas. Sam’s Town was also a huge sign that was visible by band member Mark Stoermer through his room window when he was young.
According to photographer Anton Corbijn, the band initially wanted a “chic, gypsy look,” for the album, and that “out of those discussions [for the sleeve] came these elements of faded glory.” The album’s co-producer, Flood, is dressed as a Native American in the CD booklet. The artwork inside the album booklet is taken from a Downtown Las Vegas mural painted by Suzanne Hackett-Morgan, a local painter. The cover artwork of ‘Sam’s Town‘ features model and singer Felice LaZae. Sam’s Town, and each of the singles from Sam’s Town, use a script typeface for the titles, Archive Roundhand Script from Archive Type, or Gigofonts’ Gf Script No 2.
The album has been said to be influenced by the works of U2, Duran Duran, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Electric Light Orchestra & Dire Straits among others.
In the October 2006 issue of Giant magazine, Flowers was quoted as saying that Sam’s Town would be “one of the best albums in the past twenty years” and in Entertainment Weekly he remarked that it would be “the album that keeps rock & roll afloat.”
Flowers later said of production techniques used on the record, “We didn’t use too many vocal effects. On the first album, we used auto-tune, and I didn’t even realize what was going on with these machines and the computer. I was adamant about not using it this time. You really hear what my voice sounds like, for the first time.”
The Killers dropped a controversial song about murdered schoolgirl Jodi Jones from the album. Flowers wrote “Where Is She?” after watching a TV news report about the 14-year old’s murder when on tour in Scotland.”
The album debuted at # 2 on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling about 315,000 copies in its first week. It became the band’s second number 1 album on the UK Albums Chart, selling about 260,000 copies in its first week. It has been certified Platinum or multi-Platinum in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Argentina, and Ireland. Sam’s Town also produced multiple charting singles including the Platinum chart topping single When You Were Young. It was the second album by The Killers to receive Grammy nominations.
In December 2009, Sam’s Town was voted by Rolling Stone’s readers as the most underrated album of the decade.
Q magazine ranked it as the 11th best album of the decade.
Sam’s Town is estimated to have sold over 8 million copies worldwide to date.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine name-checked U2 (Bono) and Springsteen (The Boss) in his review of the album:
The ghosts of Bono and the Boss are everywhere on the Killers’ second album, Sam’s Town. They’re there in the artful, grainy Anton Corbijn photographs on the sleeve, and they’re there in the myth-making of the song titles.
For me, I feel like this album is a rock opera, of sorts, unraveling a story as the songs play. I hear U2 and Springsteen, Queen, too, and even some Alice Cooper and The Eagles thrown in. The Duran Duran reference? I heard that more on their debut, but you can’t really escape the influence, especially in the bass lines.
What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?
The first time I played this album in its entirety it was on my way home from Amoeba Records. I was with my then boyfriend, and fellow music obsessive, and both of us were initially let down by it. I think we were waiting and wanting another Hot Fuss, though looking back I do think this album was more us (we just didn’t realize it that night). I can’t speak for him, but knowing us then, and somewhat now, we were/are both writers and storytellers, and this album is one hell of a story.
I grew to love this album so much that it overtook Hot Fuss and became my favorite Killers’ album. Even though I enjoyed, and love, the albums that followed, this one is still my favorite. Sam’s Town reminds me why I love albums so much, and why it matters to listen to them from start to finish, from side A to side B (if you still spin vinyl), and to see how each song works into the next. This album reminds me of the desert, and my love and curiosity I feel for it. It reminds me of writing, and stories. And, this album, helped to inspire a novel I’m writing that takes place in the desert.
Sam’s Town also contains my all-time favorite song by The Killers, Read My Mind.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to that night in the car, on our drive home, and say to both of us – LISTEN to this…really, really listen to this. But, we’d probably protest, insisting that how we felt right then was HOW WE FELT, and go back to discussing music, or pulling off to the side to make out. So be it. I wouldn’t want to disturb us back then.
I’m just glad I hear it, and love it, now.
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. Read My Mind
“It’s funny how you just break down,
waiting on some sign.
I pull up to the front of your driveway,
with magic soaking my spine.
Can you read my mind?“
“Don’t you want to come with me?
Don’t you want to feel my bones,
on your bones?”
3. Sam’s Town
“Why do you waste my time?
Is the answer to the question on your mind.
And I’m sick of all my judges,
so scared of what they’ll find.”
4. Why Do I Keep Counting?
“Am I strong enough to be the one?”
5. When You Were Young
“He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus,
but he talks like a gentlemen,
like you imagined,
when you were young.”