"I haven't felt like this in a long time," Brandon Flowers says. It's a few weeks before the release of the Killers frontman's second solo album, The Desired Effect (due out May 18th), and he's all revved up when he calls from his Las Vegas home. "I'm not even going to lie – this record, man, it's relentless. "I'm not afraid to say it. I see the checkered flag in front of me, and I'm starting to get excited."
The Desired Effect arrives a little under five years after his solo debut, Flamingo, and Flowers says it's a big step forward. "On the first record, I was holding things back," he says. "I'm not holding back on this record. I just want to write the best thing I can and put it out right now."
That means more of the driving backbeats and anthemic choruses he might once have squirreled away for the next Killers LP instead of using them up on a solo project. "I want to tell the truth," Flowers says. "And the truth is, sometimes I love pop songs — I respect the craft and the history of that. But I also love telling stories and applying my experiences and observations. You hit a home run when those worlds can all work together."
Flowers began work on The Desired Effect while his bandmates in the Killers were on a break following their tour for 2012's Battle Born. "I was feeling pretty confident coming off the back of Battle Born, even though it wasn't a huge success," he says. "I felt like we were making a great rock record and that it would stand for something. It didn't work. But it was also fine that it didn't work — the gigs were the best they've ever been. And I just kept going. I feel like I have a job to do."
He spent a year recording the album in Vegas and L.A. with producer Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Vampire Weekend). They ended up calling in guest appearances from Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant and Haim's Danielle Haim, as well as session hands including Joey Waronker, Kenny Aronoff and Bruce Hornsby, who plays on two tracks. "Nobody plays piano like him," Flowers says of Hornsby. "There's a particular emotion that he conjures up, which I associate with being a teenager."
Another song samples U.K. synth-pop act Bronski Beat's 1984 hit "Smalltown Boy." Flowers' favorite tune at the moment is the dramatic "Still Want You." "It's fun," he says. "The chorus goes, 'Crime is on the rise, I still want you/Climate change is dead, I still want you/Nuclear distress, I still want you/Earth is heating up, I still want you/Hurricanes and floods, I still want you. . .' I love that chorus."