>> Barns Courtney’s second album is somehow catchier than his first.
The Good: Anyone who said that Barns Courtney could never replicate the catchy pop hooks of his first album must currently be eating crow, although there can’t be many of them. Courtney’s first album was played in stadiums, on video games, radios, and streamed too many times to count and it was easy to cast it aside as a shot in the dark, a one-time comet that everyone happened to see at the same time. But '404' came back and is somehow catchier, more poppy, and shows maturity in the singer’s voice, melodies, and beats. He’s starting to experiment with some different tonalities that give his sound a bit of a different twist than the first album. The first three songs on '404' grab you so fast you aren’t even sure what you’re listening to. These are big romping, catchy songs with stadium rocking qualities, and driving beats. You can see yourself driving along a country road or rocking next to your friends at the Super Bowl with songs as enveloping as these. This is not meant to take away from the rest of the album. There are other great hooks too, but the first three stand out as unmistakable American Pop.
The Bad: Courtney sounds like the love child of Kings of Leon and Maroon 5. What his fans may not realize and maybe Courtney himself doesn’t realize is that he is the new Phil Collins. He has somehow become the amalgamation of everything Pop Americana. These tunes seem fake as if they’ve been computer-generated using data-driven analytics to see exactly what makes pop radio fans tick. Courtney’s songs would fit just as easy at the Super Bowl as they would in Moana 2. I see Disney following up and signing Courtney to a deal to incorporate his style of four on the floor bang that seems present in just about every uplifting Pixar scene ever created. There’s something almost impossibly amazing about it, something unbelievable, but it’s something that’s been done before. The dreamy reverb on every instrument in every song is more reminiscent of 1980’s Phil Collins, the scratchy tired vocals sound like Kings of Leon, and the sexy hooks are all Maroon 5. It’s good because it’s Disney-esque and this is the very same reason that it’s absolutely awful. Plus, adding in a minor pentatonic (or more specifically an Egyptian Suspended Pentatonic Scale with a flat lead note) in "Babylon" doesn’t make the song interesting.
The Review: If you like Kings of Leon, Maroon 5, or Phil Collins than this album will speak to you. Expect to hear songs like “99” for the next thirty years or so at games, weddings, on television commercials and of course, radio. Courtney represents a very thin line in music, he’s all love or hate. It would be difficult to find someone that had no preference on whether or not they like his music. Make absolutely no mistake, Barns Courtney can write a hook. There are not many tracks in the world as catchy as any of the songs on this album, not to mention that absolute stalwart that is “99”. But love or hate for Courtney is directly related to the type of music you prefer. If you tend to wear a lot of black, stay out of the popular bars, and listen to Morrissey than do not bother putting on a single track from Barns Courtney. But Swifties might want to check him out. At the very least he hasn’t “lost” his accent. Yet. 1.8/5 <<