"It's a word that looks and sounds beautiful," says Luke Pritchard. "I love the roundness of it, the simplicity of it." The word the Kooks singer is extolling is "Listen" -- which also happens to be the title of the band's new album. Luke's reasons for choosing that title become clear the moment you dive into the new record -- as they do when he starts to describe its genesis, and the personal and emotional transformation he experienced while making it. "To me," Luke continues, "this album is about pure expression. Even the way we made the album felt fresh. Rather than us just being a band in a room, playing our guitars with the vocal over the top, which is what we'd always done before, we were really listening to what was going on around us, picking up ideas. The whole thing was much more natural." "Listen was" kick-started by the track "Around Town," the bare bones of which Luke laid down in his flat in London. The song's subject matter is catty, its melody infectious and immediate -- and, compared with the Kooks' previous material, it represents a major shift. "I'd got really heavily into soul music and Afrobeat," Luke explains. "I remember doing 'Around Town' and thing, 'Hmm, ok: this is interesting.' Everything, the whole album, crystallised around that one song. And it was only meant to be an experiment; I didn't think of it as a song for the Kooks at all. All of sudden, it became the direction. I think I was on a bit of a mission, looking back: I'd gone all around the States for about 10 months, working with different people. I'd only ever written by myself or with the other guys before, so it was something I was a bit dubious about to begin with. But I wanted to open up a bit. There was too much negativity in me; I knew I needed to get away, get back to who I am, which is a writer." Luke's chief ally in that task was the producer, Inflo, who he credits with helping him dig far deeper than he has before as a songwriter. The most powerful and haunting example of this on "Listen" is the poignant "See Me Now," on which Luke addresses his father, who died when Luke was a young child. "That was a real case of Inflo pulling a song, an emotion, out of me," says Luke. "We were talking about it and he just said, 'Write a letter to your dad.' A lot of the lyrics, I just wouldn't have been brave enough to share them before, but he went, 'Do it; they're beautiful.' I found that completely disarming; his whole attitude was, 'That's what music is all about. Let all your defences down.' And that song epitomises that."