March 11, 2020 Niall Horan – Heartbreak Weather (Album Review)
It has been three years since Niall Horan delivered his impressive debut solo disc, Flicker, and now he’s ready to wow fans yet again with its follow-up, Heartbreak Weather. Neon Haze Music and Capitol Records drop the album on Friday, March 13th, 2020.
Clearly you already know the name Niall Horan, the Irish-born singer-songwriter and guitarist being a key member of the beloved ‘boy band’ One Direction. From 2010 to 2015, the boys released five albums—ranging from 2011’s Up All Night to 2015’s Made in the A.M.—all while ruling the Pop world. Fortunately or unfortunately for their die-hard fans, with their career spiraling into something uncontrollably massive, they decided to take a hiatus to pursue other (presumably musical) avenues. Horan did just that, issuing his aforementioned solo debut, Flicker, in October 2017.
Having previously proven his musical might, maturity, and ability to cross genres fluidly, Horan now returns with Heartbreak Weather. Again opting to work with a cavalcade of producers—including Julian Benetta (One Direction, Louis Tomlinson), Greg Kurstin (Sia, Halsey), and Tobias Jesso Jr. (Adele, Sia)—the talented singer-songwriter provides his fans with 14 new tracks that show greater growth and sonic evolution. From danceable, summery vibes to heartfelt intimacy, Horan spans genres and influences as he delivers his cohesive storybook of love and loss.
Heartbreak Weather opens to its titular track, a perfect embrace of spring and sunshine portrayed by a delicate sway set to bass and synths. As the gray clouds part, the infectious and upbeat “Heartbreak Weather” takes a comfortable spin across a sandy beach, providing a glimpse of a more self-aware Horan than we met on Flicker. Proudly highlighting his vocal range, he then dips into the sweet love song “Black And White,” an ode to a vibrantly colorful partner.
The pace slows for the ballad “Dear Patience,” fraught with dainty strings, before picking back up with electronic atmospherics that ebb into the gossamer threads of “Bend The Rules.” Then, skipping the “Small Talk,” Horan jumps straight into some funkier, sexier antics, and continues to get in touch with his groove thang for “Nice To Meet Ya.” Still funky but with a different approach from its predecessor, here the singer delivers some suave French lines offset by deliciously thick bass.
If you’re starting to hate being alone, dressed to the nines and with teardrops in your eyes, you are not alone. The piano and string ballad “Put A Little Love On Me” might be sonically minimalist but it’s heavy on emotion, showing the more serious side to this musician with, pardon the pun, more than one direction. Meanwhile, he continues to struggle with relationships in “Arms Of A Stranger” and the ironically upbeat “Everywhere.”
Acoustic guitar opens the bittersweet “Cross Your Mind,” a Disco-dusted roller-skating romp that, much like its predecessor, sounds like candy though its lyrics belie the giddy sonics. Next, the slinky bass groove of “New Angel” paves the way for the light and airy caress of “No Judgement,” a track that echoes back to the twinkling vibes of the album’s opener, “Heartbreak Weather.”
Ultimately, the wispy “San Francisco” introduces the album’s grand finale, the beautiful love song “Still.” Ending on an impressively strong note, the back to basics track finds its backbone in acoustic guitar and strings, allowing Horan’s Folk influences to shine like diamonds. In fact, more often than not, the highlights of Heartbreak Weather, much like Flicker, are found in those moments where the vocalist gets intimate with his listeners, combining his Pop roots with a more earthy and traditional approach to songwriting.
There are multiple layers to Horan’s songs, layers that often utilize the effects and electronics of today but are kept subtle enough to never detract from the songwriter’s talents. In this, Horan has found his sound on Heartbreak Weather, embraced his eclectic influences, and delivered a powerful Pop record. Full of love and loss, loneliness and joy, there’s a feel-good, light and airy vibe to the album that makes it perfectly-suited as the soundtrack to your next beach bonfire.
While he continues to shine brightest in his minimalist moments, Heartbreak Weather provides an elevated dose of Pop that Cryptic Rock is willing to embrace. For this, we give the record 5 of 5 stars.