As another week passes, more music is released to the public, which means the Billboard top 200 could have some changes. Recently, Zac Brown Band’s new album, “The Owl,” has risen to second place in the charts just underneath Post Malone’s “Hollywood’s Bleeding.”
Zac Brown Band really took a different turn in its music by producing this new age pop-style album. What has normally been country genre music with a modern twist has now turned into mostly pop with “The Owl.” Songs like “OMW,” “Someone I Used To Know” and “Need This” really show the band’s progression from primarily country to more pop.
Right away when taking a first listen to the album, the first song brings out computerized drum beats, echoed vocals and constantly repeated beat patterns. “The Woods” does not instill a good feeling that the rest of the album will get much better. The journey that seems to be lying ahead seems to be a collection of songs with repeating beats, simple lyrics and slight country twang thrown in, which is something that for older fans of the band might be hard to listen to.
The next two songs, “Need This” and “OMW,” shows similar style to “The Woods,” which confirms the notion that this album is more generic than other albums produced by the band. “Need This” does have some redeeming qualities even though it sounds generic. The use of multiple instruments, including what seems to be an organ, makes the song catchy. However, taking a quick listen, there was not enough variation to make it an instant playlist addition.
“OMW” gives the listener immediate whiplash from the first two songs of the album. The amount of techno beats used and autotuned vocals make it seem like this song should be a single rather than an addition to the album. Not only does the beat just simply repeat, but the addition of simple, repetitive guitar riffs make it seem like the band was desperately searching for content, so they just did whatever they could to make a song. This is just made worse by the over-simplified lyrics which seems to say “omw” more than anything else.
Moving in another direction, “The Owl” also offers the listener some southern rock with songs like “Me and the Boys in the Band” and “Shoofly Pie.”
Starting off with some electric guitar riffs and a nice baseline, “Me and the Boys in the Band” brings forth a feel-good country style ballad. The blues-style guitar along with the slightly muted vocals of Zac Brown gives a toe-tapping melody, however, the song itself lacks enough originality to stand out from other songs the band has produced. It would be hard to see this song become as popular as “Chicken Friend” or “Toes.”
“Shoofly Pie” is also more rock based, and relies more heavily on a strumming baseline than anything else. The rhythm and style of the instrumentation makes the song sound like a newer version of a song by Creedence Clearwater Revival. However, just like “Me and the Boys in the Band,” the lyrics are so repetitive that it takes away from the interesting melody that is provided by the rest of the band.
Even though the start of this album may leave a lot to be desired, there are redeeming songs that are brought forth later on. “Finish What We Started” and “Leaving Love Behind” bring back the more original country sound that made Zac Brown Band famous.
“Finish What We Started” begins with light snare drums and a soft acoustic guitar which are accompanied by the clean vocals of Brown. What makes this song also enjoyable and unique is the featuring of Brandi Carlile. By combining both vocals, a unique and enjoyable experience is created, which is heightened by the addition of heavier drums and electric guitars. Overall, compared to the first part of this album, “Finish What We Started” made going through the initial songs worthwhile.
“Leaving Love Behind” ends the album on a high note and provides a little hope to listeners that Zac Brown Band is still capable of producing quality music. This song sets itself apart from the rest of the album by being simple yet beautiful. Brown’s unedited vocals are accompanied by acoustic guitars, piano and backup vocals in certain areas by the rest of the band. Combining these elements creates a powerful and emotional song, which hopefully will be seen in later albums the band will produce.
Overall, “The Owl” provides a journey, but maybe not the journey that people were expecting. The amount of variation in the songs on the tracklist makes the album seem more like a compilation of random singles than being a well-thought-out and cohesive collection. Simply put, it seems listeners are in store for more whiplash than easy enjoyment.