From Zac Brown Band to Harry Styles. With these past two weeks being filled with many big releases in the music scene, I thought I would share my feelings on these four records. I hope you enjoy! Remember, that it's just my opinion. Nothing more, nothing less.
1. Zac Brown Band- "Welcome Home"
Zac Brown Band is one of the very few modern day country acts that I listen to on a constant basis and I personally consider their second major label album You Get What You Give (2010) as the best modern country album ever released and there isn't one song on that record that I dislike. Now, the bands last album Jekyll + Hyde, released in 2015, was an album that although contains some great songs on it like "Homegrown" and "Loving You Easy," the album as a whole went all over the place as far as genres with rock, folk, and even EDM songs on it, the length was a bit too long and was a bit of a drag halfway through with it being over an hour long, and it was just a messy album overall, even though I do commend them for trying new sounds despite the fact that some of them didn't work out at all.
However, with this new project, the band has seemed to come back to their original sound found on The Foundation, You Get What You Give, and Uncaged with a bit of Americana sounds included in some of the tunes on this thing as well. While I won't say that this is my favorite album by Zac Brown Band by any means, as You Get What You Give is my most favored project by them and I honestly don't think they will ever make a record better than that one, it still includes tracks that provide live and organic instrumentation, something rarely seen in today's popular country music with the exception of a few acts, such as with the guitars and drums and Zac Brown's vocals are still as powerful, emotional, and raspy as they have always been. Highlights on this album for me were the heart-touching and absolute tear-jerker "My Old Man," which was released as the lead single to the record, the impactful and motivational "Roots" which is Brown singing about how through all the fame and notoriety he has achieved, he still hasn't forgotten his roots and where he came from, as well as mentioning how that has helped him become who he is today, and "Long Haul" which has an absolutely beautiful violin solo to kick the song off and has an instantly catchy chorus that I will probably be singing along to every time I hear it. However, despite the amount of ear-grabbing and memorable songs on this album, there a few tunes that rubbed me the wrong way and missed the mark, with the song "Start Over" being the biggest let-down. I just feel that with this track, Brown was trying to recreate another song like "Toes" and "Chicken Fried" from their major label debut The Foundation and it just didn't work out as a result, specifically because it seems out of place with the rest of the album due to it's simple instrumentation and forgettable chorus.
Despite it's couple miscues, it was nice to see the band return to their "roots" (Get it? Sorry, I'm just feeling punny right now) on this new record and while I don't mind them exploring new sounds like they did on Jekyll + Hyde, I would personally like to see them stick to this style, but hey I'm not going to tell them what to do. They have the right to do whatever the hell they want. Great album as a whole from Zac Brown Band!
Favorite tracks: "My Old Man," "Family Table," "Roots," "Long Haul"
Least Favorite tracks: "Start Over." "Trying to Drive," "2 Places at 1 Time"
Album rating: 3/5
2. Machine Gun Kelly (MGK)- "bloom"
MGK aka the "Alpha Omega, aka "Kells", aka "The Gunner" is back with a new project basically reiterating the same stories that are similarly mentioned in his previous albums, especially General Admission, about how he has risen from the bottom to the top of the rap game, but on this record he tells us how tough his journey to get to this pinnacle was with corny lines such as how he had to overcome "ramen noodle meal nights," I mean seriously? ramen noodles?, along with pointing out that he "came from public education," who hasn't? If the lyrics weren't bad enough on this album, the choruses on many of these songs just make it worse. If you don't believe me, listen to the hooks on "Wake + Bake," "Kiss the Sky," and Can't Walk," you'll see what I mean. Lastly, to put some salt in the wound, MGK decides to make my ears bleed by singing on the last three tracks to this record and oh boy are they painful to listen to.
Just hearing him sing "don't cover my scars" on the track "Rehab" makes me sick due to how horribly he slides down the scale with his voice while crooning this line the way he does. I think the most disappointing thing about this album to me is that MGK's flows on this record are not as energetic and fiery as they usually are as shown on his previous releases, and the opening track "The Gunner" is really the only song on this album where he gives us hints of that fast-spitting flow he's best known for. Based off the singles "Bad Things" with Camlia Cabello and "At My Best" with Hailee Steinfeld, I didn't think this record was going to be great by any means, but all in all Machine Gun Kelly just delivered a lackluster album with bland instrumentals, painfully dull lyrics, and incredibly flat vocals along with a lack of "spitting fire" type flows that usually bring energy and power to his songs, even if the lyrics are sub-par. Hopefully in the future MGK can stop telling us again and again on his records about how he got to where he is today and be more creative and original by coming up with something new to talk about in his verses on his future releases instead. I wish you the best MGK, I know you can do a lot better than this!
Favorite tracks: Honestly, I don't truly like or love any of these songs on here but if I had to choose one that was passable, that would be "The Gunner" just because of MGK's decent flow and the track's instrumental.
Least favorite tracks: "Rehab," "Bad Things" featuring Camila Cabello, "Can't Walk," "Kiss the Sky"
Album rating: 1.5/5
3. Paramore- "After Laughter"
Well with this new record, Paramore decided to take their music in a whole new direction by making songs that are heavy influenced by new wave and synth-pop sounds of the 1980s, and man, it worked out so well for them. When I heard the lead single for this record "Hard Times" back in April, I was a little mixed about through my first couple listens. However, now that I have gotten to become more familiar with it for the past month and hearing how perfectly it fits with the rest of the album's sound, I haven't stopped playing it and the song will most likely end up as one of my favorites of the year. Along with "Hard Times," the rest of the tunes on this album are incredibly impressive with the funky guitar and basslines along with the catchy synths throughout. Examples of songs off this thing that display these sounds the best to me are the groovy "Caught in the Middle" which has an infectious guitar hook, "Rose-Colored Boy" which contains a great synth line and very memorable shouting vocals in the background that say "Low-key, no pressure, just hang with me and my weather," and "Told You So" the second single off of this album that contains another great guitar solo and an outstanding vocal performance by lead singer Haley Williams.
The only songs that I found to come up short for me on this record were "Forgiveness" mainly because it's sound just didn't do anything for me and it was a bit of a drag song, and "No Friend" which was by far my least favorite on the project due to it's inaudible lyrics and while it had some nice hard hitting drums, a decent guitar lead, and fit the album because it carried the same sound that the previous song before it called "Idle Worship" ended on, it just seemed very awkward and unnecessary, especially for it being the second to last track on the album. So, even though it was spotty at some parts, I thought that this was an outstanding release by Paramore because they decided to take a risk by departing their usual pop-punk and alternative rock sounds and came out victorious as a whole with a catchy, fun and exuberant release that is a great nod to the infectious new wave and synth-pop genres of possibly the greatest decade in the history of popular music, "the crazy '80s."
Favorite tracks: "Hard Times," Caught in the Middle," "Rose-Colored Boy," "Fake Happy," "Told You So"
Least favorite tracks: "No Friend," "Forgiveness"
Album rating: 3.5/5
4. Harry Styles- "Harry Styles"
Who would've thought that my favorite album of these four would be from a member of One Direction? However, despite my mixed thoughts on the ever popular boy band, I will admit that I didn't hate 1D entirely as there were a few songs off of their albums that were pretty catchy and I still give a listen to such as "History," "Olivia," "Kiss You," and "Night Changes." But jokes aside, this debut album from Harry Styles is very impressive and took me by surprise with how mature and "out of the box" it sounds. Of course everybody has already talked enough about "Sign of the Times" and how captivating it is with it's bombastic drums, killer guitars, and Styles' captivating vocal performance and I can't praise it enough. Along with Paramore's "Hard Times," this will honestly go down as one of my favorite songs of the year. However, the rest of the tracks on this album are outstanding as well. The record has a great opener with the song "Meet Me in the Hallway" which I thought had a Pink Floyd vibe to it with it's spacey production, soft acoustics, and Styles' monotone and sort of haunting vocal delivery. In addition, it was also a great song that led right into "Sign of the Times" since they both give off that kinda atmospheric sound throughout.
Other songs that were highlights for me on this project were "Carolina," which I thought had a heavy David Bowie influence, especially in the sound with the groovy guitars, funky bassline, and the "Oh yeah" and "La la la" background vocals, the Rolling Stones inspired "Only Angel" which starts with another atmospheric intro along with a pleasant and soft sounding chord being played on piano, then all hell breaks loose (in a good way of course) at about the 52 second mark where you hear high-pitched shrieks and screams from Styles and the song breaks into an old school rock song with a great electric guitar solo and insanely catchy "Woo-hoo" vocals being sung in the background as Styles sings about the "fun times" he has with his girl. The last song I will mention is the cutesy endearing "Sweet Creature" and while it contains somewhat cheesy and cliched lyrics, the hook is very ear-grabbing, the harmonies throughout are on point, the "Oooo" background vocals are a very nice touch, and it gets the job done as a great acoustic ballad pop song. Overall, I thought this was a great debut album from Harry Styles and it seems that he is the one member of 1D exploring a solo career that is going in a whole different direction compared to the others. I will say that you gained another fan Mr. Styles and I look forward to seeing where else your newfound solo gig takes you in these coming years.
Favorite tracks: "Sign of the Times," "Only Angel," "Ever Since New York," "Carolina," "Sweet Creature"
Least favorite tracks: "Woman"
Album rating: 4/5