By AARON KREIN
It’s shameless to say that in Lady Antebellum’s place, Little Big Town has been the dominate country group across the nation. Last Friday, they released their eighth studio album, “The Breaker,” less than a year after their last, dismal effort. The group, known for hits such as 2011’s “Pontoon” and 2014’s “Girl Crush,” still has fans excited to see what comes next. The first single from the album, “Better Man,” was released last October and became the group’s fourth crossover hit in the Top 40.
The album opens with “Happy People,” an anthem describing the bright side of being a good person and insisting you can’t be happy if you take away the emotion from someone else. The ending lyrics, “life is short and love is rare, and we all deserve to be happy while we’re here,” perfectly summarizes this track. The vocals, especially in the opening, gave me a Sheryl Crow “Tuesday Night Music Club” vibe and the song itself seems made for country radio. It’s way more positive than half of what is being played now. “Happy People” is definitely a solid start to an album; it really sets the mood.
The mid-tempo party tune, “Night on our Side,” is a generic “we’re going to live our lives the way we want tonight” kind of track. Even the chorus seems a bit like Miley Cyrus “We Can’t Stop” but leans more toward what Sam Hunt and Florida Georgia Line have been gaining hits from. It’s a fine track but not one of the most memorable.
“Lost in California” is a moody ballad about a couple spending time together near places such as the ocean and the desert. However, the chorus makes me wonder if the ocean and deserts are used as double-entendres. I could totally see this track being played behind a love-making scene in a Nicholas Spark book-to-film adaptation, despite it not being about North Carolina. The vocals are delicate and even haunting at parts, making for a euphoric feel.
The group takes on commercialism on “Free,” which reminds listeners that memories are richer to our hearts than what we want to buy. The harmonizing bridge before the chorus is so peaceful and makes you want to run through a valley like Julie Andrews. The topic is far from uncharted territory with songs like Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson’s “The Best Things in Life are Free,” Sia’s “Cheap Thrills,” and Miranda Lambert’s “Automatic.” However, unlike the ones above, this track feels more personal with inclusions of memories in time with friends and family.
“Drivin’ Around” is an upbeat roadtrip song set with a chant-like chorus and an irresistible head-nod of a drum line. The vocal delivery has more of a rocky feel and seems reminiscent of an automobile version of “Pontoon.” It’s the kind of song you roll your windows down to and blare through your speakers. For all those driving out for spring break, I definitely recommend this for your playlist.
The track, “We Went to the Beach,” brings the group back to familiar territory of their early music efforts. The songs revolves around the love of going and staying by a beach, despite being very expensive. In sense, it contradicts their message in “Free” but it’s understandable you can’t have the memories there if you don’t pay for something. The track is frankly adorable and highlights more of the men’s vocals than the ladies’, which was interesting to hear.
Unlike most artists, Little Big Town decided the put the lead single as the eighth track opposed to closer to the beginning on the LP. Of course, some artists like Alanis Morrisette and Lady Gaga have put their lead singles as the last track, but it was interesting to see it from a group like this. However, the lyrical message of wondering whether you would be in a relationship still if the ex was “better” really fits the time spectrum of where it’s placed on the track list.
This Taylor Swift-penned song is the definition of a sing-along track that you want to belt from your diaphragm as if you were the fifth member of the group. Even after listening to the full album, it’s still my favorite and the group’s definitive best.
The rock‘n’roll-inspired track, “Rollin,’” sees the men take main vocals again, singing about remaining positive despite difficulties. Like “Night on our Side,” it has this rebellious energy to it that makes you want to have fun with your friends. Out of the two, this latter is more memorable.
The guitar-driven “Don’t Die Young, Don’t Get Old” is a mid-tempo tune about living in the moment with your lover. The vocals are very smooth against the production, especially during the bridge that reiterated that they will “shine like gold.” It’s a very sweet song, but it feels like there’s something missing, whether it’s an extra beat or verse. Despite this, it warrants repeated listens, especially for college students entering adulthood.
“Beat Up Bible” tells of a family heirloom that started their faith and it’s definitely the most original concept on the album. The emotional vocals mixed with the eerie guitar chords make for another personal track that I could totally see meaning a lot to people. Understandably, the song will not resonate with everyone, but for those it does, it encourages many memories during its running time.
The group tells of the troubles of getting through a break-up on “When Someone Stops Loving You,” such as running into them or going by where they live. Basically, the point is that even though your life seems like it’s over, you’ll be able to survive this and your heart will mend in time. It’s lyrically one of the most genuine on the album despite having a couple clunky analogies in the beginning. I could see this being a single released around late summer into early fall.
The emotional title track ends the album, describing the guiltiness of someone who broke up their relationship despite knowing it was for the best. It’s very mellow and ends the album on one of the saddest notes possible. Astute listeners will realize that the album’s concept is chronologically setting up a relationship, from its inception till the end, and it hits your heartstrings even harder.
As someone who has never listened to a full Little Big Town album before, it makes me want to check out their earlier discography. Of course, many of the topics on this album are generic, but there’s so much emotion behind it that it’s easily forgivable. The vocal delivery, production, and lyrics range from solid to outstanding, which makes for a must-hear record.
Country music is a genre that has evolved very much lately into sensual party anthems and for those who miss meaningful music, I would highly recommend “The Breaker.”