Whether I’m cleaning the bathroom, doing the crossword, or deeply entrenched in a design, music is usually my constant companion. Niall Horan’s new album, Heartbreak Weather, has been one of the albums keeping me company as I wrap up the school year.
What I like about this album can be classified into two categories. First, the instrumentals are engaging enough to stand alone. The chords aren’t hackneyed – songs aren’t interesting when I can predict all the notes that come next without having even heard the song before – but they are still comfortable. The instrumentals are deeply layered, with only a light reliance on engineered sounds, making the music seem more genuine. Even in the slower songs, the simplicity of the acoustic guitar is shaded by the strings in the background. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve listened to this album since I first took a listen in March, but each time I do there is something new I hear in the songs. I realized, for example, while trying to articulate why this music appeals so much to me, that there is always a moving base line. Most songs, of course, have a base element, but some simply hold a note. In my favorite songs on Heartbreak Weather, however, the frequent use of a shifting base line gives the songs a level of movement that keeps me engaged.
Second, the lyrics are different. I often don’t pay attention to the lyrics in a song, but these lyrics discuss the nuances of relationships, not the generic moments or feelings we hear so frequently. For example, in “Bend the Rules,” the lines “Cause on paper you don’t break them, but it hurts so bad the way you bend the rules” addresses some of the grey area in relationships that I don’t see surface often in songs about love. As Horan has stated was his intent with this album, the songs explore all facets of relationships, in a variety of musical styles, making the album suitable for listening across many moods. Similarly, some of the imagery in the lyrics is wonderfully specific. For example, “Are you all dressed up but with nowhere to go” in “Put A Little Love On Me,” or “And yeah we were dancing, dancing to Bruno” evoke precise images that make the listening experience so much better.
Most of my personal music “classics” – the albums that feel like home whenever I listen to them – are albums from the 80s to which I grew up listening. There are few modern albums that have made it into that category so far, but Heartbreak Weather is well on its way to making it in.