JOHN REUBEN – self titled album review

JOHN REUBEN – self titled

self released, 2020


In the very first lines of his 2017 comeback album Reubonic, John Reuben says “They say the best art comes from an unhealthy place/So this will be the last record that I’ll ever make.” Given that it’s 2020 and I’m reviewing a new John Reuben album, this prediction clearly didn’t come true and it might be because he’s still in an unhealthy place. Now I certainly hope that isn’t the case, but either way, I’m happy that there is more John Reuben music in the world.

I’m just going to be up front and admit from the start that I am pretty biased in favor of Reuben’s music. I’ve been a fan of his since the mid 2000s and I could honestly write an entire separate post about why (and maybe I will). I’ll try to keep my fanboying to a minimum and focus on the review. This new self titled album is Reuben’s eighth and it finds him back in what you might call his “traditional” form, especially when compared to the darker and almost industrial tone of Reubonic. Reuben has always operated from a strong position of self-awareness. He’s never really tried to be something that he’s not, and that honesty has permeated into his beats and lyrics. These attributes are on full display on John Reuben, and I personally believe it’s his best album in many years.

One doesn’t need to look much further than the first track on this album for an example of what I’m talking about. On “Secular Music,” Reuben raps humorously about the culture of youth group concerts and about how he was what the kids were allowed to listen to instead of “secular” music. This track is funny to anyone who grew up in this culture, but it’s especially funny to me because I actually saw Reuben perform at a youth group concert. The self awareness continues into the second track, “Cheer Up” where Reuben acknowledges his own corniness but uses it to encourage people to lighten up and enjoy themselves.

But another notable thing about John Reuben is he’s not afraid to get heavier. He doesn’t shy away from the tough subjects, and it only takes three tracks to get there on this album. “Other People” covers the complicated relationships that people can have with their heritage and identities, both from the black and white perspective with guest rapper Alon offering the unique point of view of a black man with Haitian heritage. Other heavy topics include religious practices that turn people away in bitterness and how God is often invoked in destructive political actions (“Still Something” and “God’s Politics”).

Reuben offers lighter criticism of the rapid-fire way we live our lives and consume media in the modern age (“Highlight Reel”), people who use and obsess over personality profiling tests like the enneagram to define themselves (“You’ll Get Your Wings”), and how evangelicals are too eager for the end of the world rather than trying to create more of a heaven on earth (“Here on Earth”). Finally, throughout the album there are more instances of lightheartedness and positivity like a petition for unity, a track about his friendship with Alon, and an ode to nostalgia (“Off Key,” “Call and Responsey,” and “Looking at Now”). Alon provides guest verses on six of the eleven tracks on this album, and he has clear chemistry with Reuben. He has no trouble matching the tone and mood of the track, complementing Reuben like “brie and salami” as they say on “Call and Responsey.”

Another signature of John Reuben’s is his unique instrumentals. Especially in the second half of his career, he pulls a lot of inspiration from pop rock and indie, with his beats using samples of live instruments like guitars and even the occasional banjo. Seth Earnest returns as the producer on this self titled record and he occasionally brings some of the more electronic influence that defined Reubonic. And Reuben isn’t immune to the influence of modern hip hop with a couple tracks employing cicada hi-hats and beat switches, though one of those beat switches is to a more subdued acoustic guitar instrumental only a third into the track on “Still Something.” The bottom line is this album sounds exactly like what you’d expect from a modern John Reuben album.

Overall I think this is a very strong release from John Reuben. To paraphrase The Dark Knight, I’ve always kind of felt that Reuben isn’t the artist that Christian hip hop needs, but the one that they deserve. After figuring out who he was and creating a unique brand for himself, he used his platform to say things that he believed needed to be said. Some of his lyrics might bring up topics that would make more conservative evangelicals bristle, but in the end all he’s doing is encouraging us to be more like Christ. This record gives us that John Reuben brand for the modern era. My only real criticism is that some songs are presented in such a way that the humor might be lost on some people and give them the wrong impression. But apart from that, this easily ranks among some of his best releases like The Boy vs. The Cynic and Word of Mouth. I’m entirely biased, but I don’t care. It’s a great album.



Sean’s Favorites: 2010

Let’s see, where was I in 2010? I turned 20 years old, I finished my first year of college, and would start my second. I did that thing almost every guy does and stopped getting haircuts and I would continue to grow my hair out for the next couple years. A lot of good movies came out and a couple would become all-time favorites of mine (Inception and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World). My interest in music was at an all-time high. I was pretty well-informed on indie and alternative music with a little help from MTVU (or so I thought). I started taking hip-hop music more seriously. And I was pretty humbled when I started reading Pitchfork and for the first week, I didn’t recognize a single artist they reviewed. But I wasn’t deterred, I just went deeper. Below are not only some of my favorite albums from 2010, but some that were important to me and my musical growth.


THE BLACK KEYS – BROTHERS–This was the album that turned The Black Keys into a sensation. Not to be that guy, but I was into the Keys before they were cool. I was introduced to them in 2006 with the Chulahoma EP, and they quickly became one of my favorites. I had a lot of mixed feelings about Brothers when it first came out. At first I wasn’t thrilled about the band trading their sludgy delta blues sound for a more R&B inspired rock. But at the same time, Brothers was a huge improvement over their previous two records. In true hipster form, I also lamented the attention that the band was getting, fearing this would lead to a more mainstream sound from them. But again, I was also happy that more people knew about one of my favorite bands. It took 8 years of hard work, but The Black Keys finally made it, and it still holds up as one of their best albums.


THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA – ZOMBIE EP–In 2009, The Devil Wears Prada released their third album, With Roots Above and Branches Below, and it was their best work yet. The production finally caught up with their style, and their songwriting was better than ever. Metalcore was at its peak popularity and Prada was among the best. How could they possibly do better? Then in 2010 they released the Zombie EP and completely blew Roots out of the water with five fucking tracks! The band ramped up the speed and brutality, and the theme was based on vocalist Mike Hranica’s interest in zombie books and movies. Weirdly enough, The Walking Dead would premiere two months after this EP released and everyone else in the world would hop on the bandwagon. The band was just firing on all cylinders with this one. It’s a bright spot in Prada’s discography and one of the few metalcore releases I can still listen to today.


GORILLAZ – PLASTIC BEACH–Prior to 2010, I didn’t pay much attention to Gorillaz. All I really knew about them was “Feel Good Inc.” and it wasn’t my style of music when it was popular. I don’t remember what caused me to give the band another look but when I did, I became almost obsessed with them. This newfound appreciation coincided almost exactly with the release of “Stylo,” the first single from Plastic Beach. Their third album would have them moving further from hip-hop and refining their wonky alt-pop. The result would be some of Gorillaz’ best tracks and best collaborations, with contributions from artists like Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Little Dragon, and Bobby Womack (who had a bit of a resurgence in popularity, thanks to this album). Unfortunately, it would end up being the last great Gorillaz album. But they’re still making music, so there’s always hope.

Bad Boy/Wondaland

JANELLE MONÁE – THE ARCHANDROID–The first time I knew anything about Janelle Monáe was when I saw a poster at Best Buy. I was instantly intrigued by this black woman wearing a tuxedo with a massive pompadour hairstyle. What on earth kind of music could this woman make? I don’t know what I expected, but I liked what I found. Her funk infused, alternative R&B and psychedelic soul were so much fun that it quickly became a favorite of mine. Which is weird considering I didn’t give pop and R&B music much attention at this time in my life. The genres were presented through a lens that helped me bridge the gap from my preferred music at the time, with rock and progressive influences coming through. And because I’m a nerd, the overarching sci-fi narrative of the album helped too.

Big Beat/Atlantic

SKRILLEX – SCARY MONSTERS AND NICE SPRITES–This entry has probably awakened some dark memories for some readers. Memories of hard drops, wobble bass, and questionable fashion choices. But regardless of how immature some of those trends seem now, they were a key milestone on the trajectory of EDM in popular culture. And it all starts right here with this EP. Scary Monsters was the EP and the song that made brostep a phenomenon. Whether you loved him or hated him, you knew about Skrillex. And if you listen to this EP beyond the title track, it proved back then that he wasn’t just a one trick pony. He had some range, and his work since proves that he still does. He hasn’t really matched the quality of this EP since, but the mark it left has given him producer credits throughout the decade and likely well into the future.


SLEIGH BELLS – TREATS–The “Loudness war” is something that has plagued music production for the past 30 years, and it can be the difference between a good album and a bad one. But there’s something to be said for using that digital compression as an aesthetic choice. From the very first seconds of Treats, you are bombarded with guitars, synths, and drums that are bricked out so hard that everything clips. Apart from bass boost memes, this is perhaps the only time that these levels of compression 100% serve the songs. It’s just one piece of Sleigh Bells’ in-your-face approach to noise pop (or their self-described “shred pop”). I had never heard anything like it before this album, and nothing has quite captured this level of noise and energy for me since.


THE SWORD – WARP RIDERS–I know that within the spheres of stoner rock and doom metal, this album is not held in very high regard. But, I wouldn’t know that if it wasn’t for this album. I don’t even remember where I first saw the album artwork, but the retro typeface and Roger Dean-esque sci-fi watercolors compelled me to listen to this album. Through it I was introduced to retro styled traditional metal and left hungry for more. Finding other artists like this proved difficult at the time, but I just didn’t know where to look. I finally did learn a few years later, and even though I’ve found “better” examples of what The Sword were trying to do on this album, the riffs on Warp Riders still hold a special place for me a decade later.

XL Recordings

VAMPIRE WEEKEND – CONTRA–This album was my introduction to Vampire Weekend and contains perhaps my favorite song of theirs (“Giving Up The Gun” is the song by which all other Vampire Weekend tracks are judged, and it has one of the best music videos). The bright and clean sound was a perfect break in the winter clouds when the album came out. When compared to the band’s debut, Contra took the formula they set for themselves and refined it. Rough edges were polished and influences were mined even deeper, creating a major improvement stylistically and compositionally. This really was a great work of indie rock that was only topped by their third album that took this stylistic trajectory to its logical, almost absurd conclusion.



self released, 2018/2020 (re-release)

Heavy Metal/Progressive/Thrash

I think it’s about time we’ve had another metal review. I haven’t published a full review of a metal album since Black Friday after all. Anyway, for the first metal review of 2020, we’re going to pull out something nice and underground for you. Today we’re looking at the latest from Lostpray, an EP called Priestianity, originally released in 2018, but re-released to digital platforms just last week after some distribution troubles.

Lostpray are a Ukrainian band with vocalist and guitarist Burak Gundogdu coming originally from Istanbul. The group plays a form of heavy metal that is unique yet accessible and progressive without being pretentious. Their riffs are clearly inspired by thrash, but they are shooting for a more polished, modern sound. And they only come close to thrash’s blistering speed on one of the four tracks on this EP. Lostpray also take a progressive approach to their songwriting by giving their songs varying movements rather than packing in moments of dense solos.

Another thing they bring from a more progressive side is long-ish songs. This EP only has four tracks, but the total runtime is around 25 minutes because each song is over six minutes long. But the impressive thing is that none of these songs feel like they’re six minutes long. They all end at just the right time. A couple even feel like they could go a little longer without overstaying their welcome. One more thing I want to mention that gives Lostpray that extra little bit of uniqueness is the Turkish influence that Gundogdu works into his vocal melodies. But this isn’t a heavy-handed gimmick like other bands that claim an Arabic or Middle Eastern influence. These are tasteful little hints that keep the vocals from sounding like generic alternative metal.

Lyrically, things are a little cryptic as metal bands tend to be at times. But I can pick up on a couple themes. Specifically they seem to be criticizing conformity and beliefs that unite people through fear and hate. They never name anything specifically, but it’s not hard to guess what they’re implying considering the title of the EP and its artwork. Sonically, the EP is pretty impressive considering it’s self-released. The electric guitar tones in particular are satisfyingly heavy. I do wish the drums and bass had a little more punch at times, but they still sound better than some major releases I’ve heard.

Overall, I think that Priestianity is a very promising taste of what Lostpray are capable of. They are clearly a talented band with an ability to combine their interests and influences into a sound that’s unique but could potentially have massive appeal. But that mainstream tendency is also a slight weakness. Personally, I would have liked certain parts to be a little more aggressive. Also, on a longer release, I would want a bit more variety, but what Lostpray have put together here works very well in this smaller, 25 minute package.


*this review was written in association with Metalhead Community*

GREEN DAY – FATHER OF ALL… album review


Reprise, 2020

Alternative rock/Some approximation of garage rock

Did… didn’t Green Day already do this? Didn’t they already attempt to do some kind of garage rock revival album back in 2008 with the Foxboro Hot Tubs? Did they forget they made that entire album? Actually, sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who remembers it, so maybe they did forget. Anyway, Father of All… is Green Day’s thirteenth studio album and the driving idea is that the band is tired of making thematically heavy and political music. They just wanted to make a pretty straight forward rock album. And I get that, especially in today’s political climate. The expectation to make the American Idiot of Trump’s America can weigh heavy on you and be exhausting. But I feel like maybe they went a little too far.

There’s no easy way around it, this isn’t very good. Now, Green Day hasn’t released a great album in quite some time, so the bar is already low, but this just stomps it into the dirt. Like I mentioned before, the sound they’re going for is reminiscent of the garage rock revival of the early ’00s. There’s hints of glam, rock ‘n’ roll, and Motown, and it’s fun for the first listen. But this album sounds like the worst parts of a Jet album, but lacks the charm that makes you sing along when “Cold Hard Bitch” comes on the radio; like what little soul was there has been sucked out.

There is one vaguely bright spot in “Sugar Youth” that sounds the closest to an actual pop-punk song. But it’s one of the shortest songs on the album and it’s still not immune to hand claps and garage band riffs. Another that comes close is “Stab You in the Heart” that approaches horror punk with a ’60s rock feel. But then you realize that it would have been better if it was done by an actual horror punk band like The Cramps. The title track sounds like it’s ripping off Eagles of Death Metal, “I Was a Teenage Teenager” sounds like it’s ripping off a bad Weezer song, and “Junkies on a High” sounds like they’re badly ripping off themselves.

The lyrics aren’t very good either, but that’s to be expected when they’re trying to get away from being political. There are some hint’s a current events, but overall this is just the dumb album that they wanted it to be. “I Was a Teenage Teenager” is particularly light on the lyrics despite being the longest song on the album. And I normally don’t criticize album covers, but this one is just awful. We get it, you’re trying to make the opposite of American Idiot. Why don’t you beat it into our heads a little harder?

Overall, Father of All Motherfuckers (it’s the end of the review, I don’t have to censor it anymore) is probably the biggest misstep of Green Day’s career. I can understand wanting to free yourself from certain expectations, but I feel like pushing the “Fuck, go back!” button from that one meme. They’re trying so hard to not do something that they forgot to make the songs actually good. You end up with a slog of an album that’s less than 30 minutes long. And I’m going to remind everyone again that they already did this better with the Foxboro Hot Tubs album, Stop Drop And Roll!!! in 2008, in the midst of their most political era. I guess a good thing about this is they can only go up from here, right?


Good Albums I Didn’t Review in January 2020

One month into 2020 already. It’s almost hard to believe. Anyway, since I waited until the month was practically over to start writing reviews, I tried to make up for it by publishing two this week. Thank goodness there were a couple easy ones to write about. Since I was silent for most of the month, there were obviously several good releases that I didn’t review. As you clearly don’t deserve to be deprived of my recommendations and opinions, here are a few releases from January that I think might be worth your time. As always, these albums would likely have a score of 3.5 or higher if I gave them a full review.

Triple Crown

CASPIAN – ON CIRCLES–Post-rock isn’t a genre I really keep tabs on, but I do enjoy an album here and there. It can sometimes be tricky to make a good post-rock record. There has to be a balance between crafting vast soundscapes and enough variation to keep it from getting boring. Caspian are not boring on this album. Instead of being just guitar-based, they incorporate keyboards and synths and some of their songs are busier than other post-rock fare. It’s not particularly special, but it’s a good listen.


CIRCA WAVES – HAPPY–Circa Waves are releasing a double album this year, and their releasing the two halves digitally a couple months apart. This is obviously the first half, and I find it far more engaging than their album from last year. I don’t know if that’s because it’s in a smaller 20 minute package or if they’re leaning a little harder into the dance rock sound and their hooks are stronger. Either way, this is a pretty solid offering as far as modern indie rock goes.

Pretty Good

DRAGGED UNDER – THE WORLD IS IN YOUR WAY–This band is on my radar because a YouTuber I watch is their guitarist (Ryan “Fluff” Bruce). They’re a heavy band clearly influenced by the mid-2000s. Their sound has elements of metalcore, nu-metal, and hardcore. But their riffs come off with a welcoming familiarity, rather than cheap imitation. Fluff’s day job is mixing, so it’s no surprise that the mix on this is pretty good as far as self-releases go.


DESTROYER – HAVE WE MET–Daniel Bejar return once again and as usual, this one is pretty hard to nail down exactly what it is. I mean, it’s clearly a rock album, but there’s nods to synth-pop and new wave all over this thing. And Bejar’s stream of consciousness lyrics just add to the eclectic experience. Much like other Destroyer albums, despite all this weirdness, it draws you in and holds your attention. They know how to take their inspirations and write compelling songs around them.


DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS – THE UNRAVELING–On their 12th album, the veteran alt country rockers offer their perspective on Trump’s America. With song titles like “Thoughts and Prayers” and “Babies in Cages,” you can be sure they don’t pull any punches. All of it is sung with the conviction of a band that has to deal with this on a daily basis as they’re based in the deep south. If you’re not part of that world and wonder what it looks like from the inside, this album will give you a glimpse.


KONVENT – PURITAN MASOCHISM–After last year, I’m hoping that slow metal has a better time in 2020. If this release from Konvent is any indication, I don’t think I have to worry. Konvent is an all-woman death/doom band from Denmark, and boy do they bring the heavy. What they don’t have in riffs, they make up in doomy vibes. This thing is dark, it’s heavy, it’s slow… It just ticks a lot of boxes for me, okay? And doom metal is always good when women are making it. I don’t know why, but it just is.


MAC MILLER – CIRCLES–Chalk this one up as one of the first pleasant surprises of the year. On this first posthumous release, producer Jon Brion pieces together what was left when Miller passed. Originally intended to be a companion to his previous album, Circles goes even further into the realm of pop and R&B and ends up being a better realization of the direction he started going on Swimming. It makes his passing all the more unfortunate, because it seems like he was on a promising path.

Iron Bonehead

REAPER – UNHOLY NORDIC NOISE–You have to respect a band that describes their sound right on the album cover. Unholy Nordic Noise is a very fitting title for this Swedish black metal outfit. They play really old school black metal. As in hardcore punk and D-beat black metal rather than tremolo picking and blast beat black metal. The recording is old school too, but not so lo-fi that it sounds like it was recorded on a potato. The vocals take some getting used to, but it’s a lot of fun. You won’t find them on Spotify, but they’re on Bandcamp, and you can download the album for €6.66 (the commitment!).


SQUAREPUSHER – BE UP A HELLO–I don’t know near enough about IDM or Squarepusher in general to give this a full review. I thought I had a rough grasp on IDM, but I wasn’t expecting what I got with this. Most of the tracks on here are frantic collections of sounds with no clear rhythm, but somehow still coherent? And even when the typical drum ‘n’ bass breakbeat shows up, the rest of the track just kind of floats around it. I don’t know how this measures up to the rest of Squarepusher’s catalog, but it certainly was an experience.

KESHA – HIGH ROAD album review


Kemosabe/RCA, 2020


There’s no easy way around it, Kesha’s had a rough go at it. Between eating disorders and her lawsuits, her personal life hasn’t been what one might call a good time. However, she has proven over and over to be incredibly strong, pushing through the adversity and not allowing it to keep her from doing what she loves to do: make music. Despite the less than agreeable trajectory her lawsuits have followed, she must have at least earned some creative freedom. Regardless of the score I put at the bottom of this page, this is a bold album for a pop star to release.

The range of styles and influences present on this album is far and wide and apparent in the very first track. “Tonight” starts like an epic piano ballad in the vein of songs like “We Are Young,” talking about how we need to live our lives now because it’s all we might have. Which sounds terribly cliche, but you soon learn that it’s intentionally cliche. The song quickly transitions to the party pop that made Kesha famous on her debut. This same style shows up on a few tracks on this album to great effect (especially “My Own Dance,” “Raising Hell,” and “Birthday Suit”), proving that she’s still really good at her specific brand of tongue-in-cheek, simple pop that serves no other purpose than to be fun to dance to.

The other style that appears on here is a more emotional country-ish pop that appeared on her last album, Rainbow. This is best on “Chasing Thunder” that blends gospel gang vocals and even little hints of bluegrass. “Country Blues” is similar, and while the sentiment of wondering if you missed a chance at a happy relationship feels sincere, its attempts at being cute only kind of work. The other notable track in this style is “Resentment” featuring Sturgill Simpson, Brian Wilson (yes, the Beach Boys guy), and Wrabel. Despite the input from true musical heavyweights, the song ends up being only okay. The rest of the tracks fall into pretty basic pop, but nothing is outright bad. There is one outlier, but we’ll get to that later.

If you go into a Kesha record looking for real thought provoking lyrical depth, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Deep is something Kesha just doesn’t do, but she’s also self-aware. You can pretty easily tell that being deep isn’t the goal on the dance tracks. That doesn’t mean that she’s a bad lyricist, in some cases she’s actually clever and crass at the same time. You get a sense that every “fuck” is a statement and you can’t tell me “don’t circumcise my circumstance” wasn’t a deliberate choice. A lack of depth also doesn’t mean that she can’t be sincere. I previously mentioned “Cowboy Blues,” but there’s even more genuine sincerity on tracks like “BFF” and “Father Daughter Dance.” The former is a truly heartfelt appreciation of her friendship with Wrabel and the latter expresses how she feels like she missed out on experiences other girls get to have since she never knew her father.

The only song that doesn’t really land for me at all is “The Potato Song.” It’s intended to be this statement song about how she can do whatever she wants and it has this oom-pah beat and intentionally silly lyrics. And I get it, I really do; it’s symbolic. She’s proving that she can do what she wants by putting this truly ridiculous song on her album. You can take it as her really just driving the point home or taking it too far. Personally, I lean more towards it being a step too far. You’ve been spending the entire album trying to make this point. Was taking it to the lengths of “The Potato Song” really necessary on an album that’s already 15 or 16 tracks long?

At the end of the day, High Road is a long-ish and uneven record. But when it’s good, it’s a lot of fun. Kesha is out to prove that she’s not going to let the bad things that happen to her keep her down. She’s answering to nobody but herself and she’s going to make her music the way she wants to, dammit! It’s a refreshing exercise in self-expression in the current landscape of pop music, even if some of those expressions fall a little short.




Arista/78, 2020

Pop/Pop rock/Britpop

It’s something that’s inevitable for every boy band or girl group. Whether they break up or not, their members will always release solo albums. There are some exceptions to the rule, like Justin Timberlake, but in general the solo releases are never as successful as the group albums. With the release of Walls, every member of One Direction has now put out a solo effort. A couple were better than others but they’re pretty much following the same trend. I’m not even really a fan of 1D, but there is a certain something they have all together that none of them have quite delivered on their own. Walls is no exception, but now the question is exactly how short it falls.

It’s not uncommon for boy band members to try and brand themselves with a specific style when they try to strike out on their own. For the most part, the 1D guys have stayed pretty close to generic pop. Harry spread out a little on his last album and Niall played around with some acoustic guitars and a hint of folk pop, but that’s about as far as anyone had gone successfully. With Walls, Louis appears to be branding himself as the Britpop guy, more specifically the Oasis-style Britpop guy. This is apparent from the first song where he sings with a cadence that sounds like Liam Gallagher. And this same voice comes back along with Oasis-style melodies on nearly half of the tracks on the album, and the title track even has a very “Wonderwall”-esque drum fill (there’s actually a couple hints at “Wonderwall” on the album).

That’s not to say that an Oasis influence is a bad thing. There’s a reason they were one of the most popular British bands of the ’90s. They’ve probably influenced dozens, if not hundreds of artists. The problem comes when the influence crosses a line into just copying, and then copying to the extent that it’s distracting. And that’s a line that this album crosses, a lot. It’s not really saved by the rest of the tracks, either. They’re all pretty generic pop or acoustic ballads that teenage girls will latch onto and teenage boys will play to impress those same girls. One in particular, “Perfect Now,” feels like it’s trying to be this decade’s “Hey There Delilah,” but it makes more sense in the context of this pop album than “Delilah” did on a pop-punk album.

Lyrically, Louis does rise above your typical vapid pop on a couple tracks. The first is “Two of Us,” a track dedicated to Tomlinson’s mother, who died in 2016 after a bout with leukemia. In it, he promises to live on in her memory with a bright vision for the future. Another instance is “Too Young,” and while it does basically follow the trope of being too young to fully realize what love is, it kind of approaches it from a different angle. Here Tomlinson is apologizing for giving into the pressure of others telling him he was too young and cutting off a relationship in a bad way. So the way I’m hearing it is he admits he was too young to understand true love, but also too young to realize that what they had probably could have lasted…? Maybe? I don’t know, but to me it’s a little refreshing despite the overall trope of the song. The rest of the lyrics on the album don’t really present much to write home about, but he does manage to avoid truly cringe-inducing lyrics for the most part.

Overall, Walls isn’t a terrible album, but it’s not a particularly good one, either. It’s greatest sin is ripping off Oasis, and there are far worse musical sins that one can commit. But it is a pervasive sin, nonetheless. Beyond that, there are two lyrical bright spots and the rest of the tracks are pretty forgettable pop. I don’t fault Louis for trying to give himself an identity outside of One Direction, but he really should have tried to find his own instead of adopting someone else’s.