It’s a Friday afternoon and I am exhausted. Today marks the end of the first week of my final exams. My body feels weighted down with arbitrary facts about 1930’s Russia not to mention I’m still shaking fatigue from muscles that feel almost overtrained, (could that possibly be a symptom of the three hour PDHPE exam I did yesterday?)
I crawl into bed and grab my Iphone soothed by the rain outside. This feels like a place in between waking and sleeping, in between worlds and this is the place I go to when I listen to music. I press play on the debut offering of Niall Horan and wait… What will it sound like?
The first track is On The Loose and from the moment the drumbeat kicks in to be quickly paired off with that weirdly circular sounding guitar riff, I feel like I might meet a girl named Alice as I fall into the rabbit hole that is this album. It’s already catchy and I can see remnants of a girl that is the kind of intoxicating alluring fire you know you should step away from in case you get burnt but you can’t, the sway of her hips is a little too captivating, the sound of her laugh something you can’t help wanting to hear again. She’s too exciting, too fast, too bright. To me she is a girl from the same clan as Stevie Nicks’s Rhiannon, the kind of girl who causes a twisted yet pretty kind of trouble that you don’t mind. It’s a warning shot, a friendly word in the ear from someone who managed to escape yet perhaps still hasn’t quite figured out why they needed to. The warning falls on deaf ears, bold assurances of things being different as he looks at her with starry eyes.
We all have daydreams that the person who chased us around the playground at five years old will be our forever. Maybe that’s because we’re kids and completely fearlessly ourselves, not yet told to be anything but the kind of people who believe in fairytales and run through fields and marry the loves of our little lives at lunchtime with teddies for flowergirls. But eventually we grow up and for most people, that feeling of child like wonder conjured by the first kid who smiles crookedly at us with a glint in their eye disappears into a ‘what if’ laughed over years later. Maybe it’s foolish but I still believe in fairytales and a person who will one day make me nervous when they walk in the room with butterflies coming alive, the type of person who would still dance to vinyl records with me if the whole world was watching. It’s all in the little things, I seem to remember Niall saying (:
This is the kind of sweeping shy duet in a movie where the guy and girl secretly have feelings for each other, the kind of song that’s in a bar or sung on a stool with just a guitar and the blending of two voices at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. By the end of it they can’t stop grinning in because the secret’s kind of out and they’re leaning in… It’s about movie moments and real life dreams and love. PS: Maren Morris has an album all her own and I’d highly recommend!!!
OK maybe it’s just my dad and his sense of humour that has left him making jokes about having slow hands every chance he gets but if you haven’t heard this song and been caught humming at least, what rock do you live under? By the way, I’ve finally decided that opening funky guitar lick is the sound your heart makes when it skips a beat or that little thrill in your bloodstream when excitement kicks in. Enjoy jamming to this one guys!!!
Too Much To Ask sounds like the older brother of Meet Me In The Hallway & Two Ghosts, but a harsher and filthier heartbreak. It’s an ode of desperation and unsent texts sent from the depths of a broken and wine soaked heart. It’s the kind of song that leaves you a little glassy eyed because we all know what it’s like to feel the empty ache and echoing silence of someone closing a door and never coming back.
Drums. Guitar. Vocals. For me, it sounds like he’s reading a poem; I can hear rhythm and meter. He’s watching the ending of a relationship. He can’t stop it – for me this immediately brings the visual of being so consumed by trying to save something because it was good that you don’t notice you’ve taken one step too far to the very edge of a crumbling granite cliff until it’s almost too late. But now it’s over and he’s left with the memories, wondering why and how to get them to stop meaning so much now that it’s over.
This song feels safe and sweet and the kind of thing a guy with a guitar might sing to an anxious girl whose heart was left smashed to pieces by the last person she let in there. It’s the kind of song girls with broken pieces need to hear, to give them hope that it’s OK; they can still be loved and that not everyone will leave them crying in the dust, manipulated by games. Also, I love the high notes on this, Nialler!
This song is beautiful. It sounds like it was written on nights spent stargazing and being in love. It sounds like it’s a lullaby of sorts, all soft almost whispers scribbled by windowsills in the early hours gazing at the moon. It’s slightly out of time slow dancing and full smiles. Shy laughter and interlocked hands. Summer. Emotion splashed deep and without filter across notebook pages.
This is another sweet safe protective “I’ll stand by you” style message for the girls who feel broken. We all have demons and on this track Niall isn’t scared of whatever hers might be. He’s the kind of person who can see behind the mask she puts on as we all do and isn’t running away. He’s standing right there, reaching for her hand and holding on tight because they can face the world together.
OK. His vocals on this track are really great too. Versatile voice, this lad. This is a sweet one. He knows she’s forever but he doesn’t quite know how exactly they’re going to get from where they are now to there. This seems the only song on the album that perhaps references his fame and the challenges that may present in terms of lifestyle for relationships. He wants things to work out desperately so he’s asking her to have patience and wait. If you love someone you’re willing to move mountains…
I knew the Irish had to make an appearance somewhere and it’s finally appeared like a last call to the bar because this is the last track on the standard version. The craic sounds mighty on this one so it does and I can imagine the Mullingar lads having quite the jig to this. There’s nothing that really beats feeling comfortable in your own skin and having that confort radiate towards everything else so that life is pure adventure.
James Bay vibes on this one. For me, this is what happens when the girl from “On The Loose” comes home to a lonely house. She shrugs off all the clothes and cleans her face of the mask. She cries on the bathroom floor, desperate to feel loved and worth something, clear tracks of tears on her face as she looks in the mirror, barely holding it together. It’s desperation and silent tears and breaking a plate just to hear the noise. Cross-legged on the floor, sorting through broken pieces wondering how she got here…
A love that is being washed away. He doesn’t want to go. Clings to her like driftwood, tight. As long as they’re together and holding each other, nothing can hurt them. But the tide is coming and they can’t hide. You have to ride out the storms. Face them together. Look in the world. We can try and run away, living in an idyllic bubble. But, eventually things catch up to you and that’s just the way life is.
Oh my goodness this post was really long. I’m sorry for that ): But I do hope you liked it because writing and music and things like this mean a lot to me. Niall, you won’t see this but in the parallel universe where you do, I hope this was OK. Buy the album! Stream it! I’ve decided it’s the perfect long roadtrip album for singalongs in vast stretches of country and headphone, face pressed up against window, overwhelmed with feelings moments as well.