Their alternative rock sound is peppered with full-bodied choruses, Shelley's folksy banjo accents, and background vocal work that is infectiously easy to sing along to and provides beautiful harmonies. This first album is convincingly energetic and passionate thanks to Barnett's vocals. Either there's something in the water at Berlee, or they really are teaching them something. Our free single, "Believer", is the first track on the album, so without any further ado, we'll dive into it.
The song opens with a distant, stadium sound effect to introduce the drum beat, to teach the listener the vocal hook and highlight the Shelley's banjo plucking. They follow the pop formula to a 'T' - bringing the instruments down so that Barnett's vocals can be heard in the verses, then swelling again into the instrumental breaks and the wall-of-sound choruses. The bridge re-introduces the stadium sound effect, creating a lull in the song before the final chorus, which really blows the listener away, and gives them one final chance to sing along with their hopeful lyrics that describe an optimistic underdog character that is you, and me, and them.
American Authors really does a fantastic job of dressing up the pop music formula. Typically, it's a jarring effect to peek behind the curtain and realize that the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure is just a series of pieces to construct a successful radio hit, but with this album, I can't seem to bring myself to care. They've done damn near everything right: slight folk influence which is hot on the music scene right now, lyrics that are intentionally easy to understand and then easily sung, powerful drum beats and electric guitar work that drops out and swells back up in perfect musical phrasing and keeps the listener bobbing their head and feeling the groove. This really is a top-notch recipe for a successful album.
And you have to believe that American Authors knows that. In the competitive sphere of pop music, becoming famous and staying famous over the course of several albums is no easy feat, but American Authors seems in it to win it. Don't get me wrong - this isn't the album of the year, nor does it have the artistic depth of an album like Arcade Fire's The Suburbs (one of my favorites), but it's still damn good. It's feel-good music, the kind that you've probably heard a thousand times before, but never quite like this. This time it's with the sheer musical talent of four incredible Berklee graduates.
So it's a good song, and the rest of their album, Oh, What a Life, is good, too. In fact, I bought it. I already had their hit single, "Best Day of My Life", and wanted to buy another song off the album called "Trouble". When I saw the $7.99 price tag, I decided to go all in. After hearing this first album, I'd call myself a fan, and I hope a second album from them generates the same catchy pop work with glimpses of more musical depth. Until then, I'm giving their featured track, "Believer"
3.5 out of 5.