Niall Horan really seems to be going through it. Someone should check on him, maybe bring him a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and a fleece blanket. Or maybe not, since everyone should be practicing social distancing right now.
Released March 13, the Irish singer-songwriter’s second album “Heartbreak Weather” is about, well, heartbreak. It’s clear he’s been around the block a few times when it comes to breakups and has decided to channel it into his songwriting material.
“Heartbreak Weather” is a solid addition to Horan’s solo discography. The more emotional ballads such as “Put A Little Love On Me” are balanced out with edgy, sensual tracks including “Small Talk” and lighter grooves in “Cross Your Mind.” He has evolved from the acoustic coffee shop sound of his debut album “Flicker,” leaning into glossy mainstream pop without losing his down-to-earth quality.
The 14-track album is nothing too groundbreaking, but it’s thoroughly pleasant to listen to. Horan isn’t a vocal powerhouse like former One Direction bandmates Harry Styles or Zayn Malik, but his honeyed, raspy crooning gives him an appealing boy-next-door charm.
Plenty of fans experienced heartbreak of their own when Horan had to cancel his album release party due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. He opted instead to livestream for his fans on Instagram.
On Twitter, Horan joked about the unfortunate situation, saying “Surely as far as ‘difficult second albums’ go, I’ve smashed it with my timing.” Perhaps Friday the 13th is a less-than-ideal date during a global health crisis.
Launch party fiascos aside, there isn’t a bad song on the album. While there are several stand-outs on the tracklist, even the more forgettable songs are inoffensive. Songs including “Dear Patience” and “Black and White” veer dangerously close to being overtly cheesy, but avoid going overboard by maintaining their earnestness.
The latter envisions a future wedding, and there’s a sweet sincerity in the words “I swear in front of all our friends / There’ll never be another / I promise that I’ll love you for the rest of my life.” It’s wholesome, perfectly suited to a rom-com soundtrack.
The title track sets the tone for the record, sweeping in like a fresh breeze before a storm and buoyed by a bouncy, hopeful chorus. There’s a bit of ‘80s pop present in the punch of the drums and the fade-out, and it’s easily one of the best tracks on the album.
“New Angel” fits right in with the current pop ecosystem. It could pass effortlessly for a Maroon 5 song with its rubbery bass, snappy beat and lyrics about getting an ex-lover out of one’s system. The third single “No Judgement” has a similar vibe, and its sound is distinctly reminiscent of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You.”
The album closes out with “Still,” a heart-wrenchingly genuine track that laments the end of a relationship. The squeak of acoustic guitar strings keeps the song grounded as it builds steadily to a crescendo, accompanied by soaring backing vocals and strings that reach for the ceiling.
The song lands softly with a final, raw admission of “I’m still in love with you,” and ends with Horan quietly whistling the melody. The storm has rolled through, and while the smell of rain still hangs in the air, it signals that spring and new life are on the way.
“Heartbreak Weather” is available on Spotify, iTunes and other streaming platforms.