Album Review: American Authors’ “Seasons”

American Authors takes a detour from their usual genre and explores a darker side to their musicianship with “Seasons.”

It’s been three years since the release of American Authors’ last studio album “What We Live For,” and what a difference those years have made. American Authors rose to fame through releasing lively and uplifting songs like “Go Big or Go Home” and “Best Day of My Life.” Their new album “Seasons,” however, seems to reject this typical style for a darker, more mature sound.

One can hear this change in “Stay Around,” American Authors’ gritty opening song on this album. The song initially seems fairly noisy and unimpressive, with an instrumental introduction featuring rowdy bass drum hits, slightly off-tune backing vocals, and synthesizer-dominant harmonies. Yet somehow, the band manages to make this strange combination of sounds work to their advantage once their edgy-sounding vocals kick in, giving the song an upbeat yet somber energy. In fact, many other songs in the album have a similar vibe; you can hear it in “Say Amen,” “Calm Me Down,” and “Neighborhood” most clearly. The band seems to be trying to blend their alternative and folk rock origins with a heavy rock sound. Although it’s often difficult to merge two distinct styles of music effectively without having one style overtake the other, American Authors have somehow sidestepped this problem and created a palatable final product representative of both genres.

Not only is the general sound of the album much heavier, the lyrics also reflect the band’s shift towards a more serious atmosphere. “Neighborhood” showcases this the best, featuring angst-filled lines such as, “Who am I, I don’t know what I’m fighting for.” The lyrical themes in “Seasons” reflect somber topics, such as failing at achieving aspirations in “Deep Water” to finding oneself during an identity crisis in “Before I Go.” These ideas are markedly negative compared to the generally jubilant emotions American Authors’ older songs instilled in listeners.

While the album is certainly a bit gloomy, it is not completely depressing. “Seasons” includes tracks like “I Wanna Go Out,” “Can’t Stop Me Now,” and “Bring It on Home,” all of which exude a positive energy akin to their older works. The similarities seem to stop there, though, for even these songs have some heavier rock elements than what is typical for the band. One just has to hear the guitar solo in “Can’t Stop Me Now” to understand the difference. As much as the band tries to show off their musical flexibility in this album, they just can’t seem to shake off how good they are with cheerful concepts. These three tracks are probably the highlights of this album, showing how the band has truly mastered the art of composing feel-good songs.

Like every album, however, “Seasons” has some flaws. Most notably, while the band does a fantastic job carrying a similar, heavy-indie fusion sound throughout the entire track list, they didn’t put in as much effort making sure the songs were distinct from each other. “Say Amen,” “Deep Water,” and “Calm Me Down,” for example, all have a vocal riff in their choruses that sound uncannily similar to each other. While this could be just a coincidence, it gives listeners the impression that the band lacks originality, and must have replicated parts of their music into different songs to pad the album length. This incidentally sets up the next flaw — the album is too short. If anything, this criticism is a test to the band’s solid performance, but with the album clocking in at only around 35 minutes, “Seasons” leaves listeners with a small yet noticeable yearning for more. Finally, the heavy-indie rock sound may not be to everyone’s taste. As mentioned before, the album is on the louder side. Combined with their coarse-sounding instrumentals, “Seasons” may be a bit harsh to listeners unfamiliar with this band who appreciate more mild music.

With another album under their belt, American Authors once again proved their worth in the rock scene. “Seasons” is a bold and compelling attempt by the 13-year-old band to step outside their comfort zone and try out a new darker sound and image. While the band is unlikely to ever escape the fact that they perform best with youthful and cheery concepts, American Authors have shown that it’s possible for them to successfully venture off into new styles. Hopefully, the next time they try out something new, they offer more than 35 minutes of it.

Grade: B+
Release Date: February 1, 2018

Image courtesy of Bearded Gentlemen Music.