Niall Horan, Flicker | Album Review
Niall Horan releases his highly-anticipated, debut solo album, ‘Flicker.’ All in all, the Irish One Direction member delivers an enjoyable, pleasant LP.
The One Direction solo albums are on a roll! Former member Zayn dropped Mind of Mine in 2016, while Harry Styles arrived earlier in 2017 with his self-titled, rock-oriented affair. Niall Horan becomes the third member of the UK pop band to drop a solo album. Flicker has been a long time in the works, beginning with the release of single “This Town” in Fall 2016. Now, the ‘fruits of Niall’s labor’ see the light of day. Ultimately, he yields results he should be proud of, as well as room for growth.
“On the Loose”
“On the Loose” kicks off Flicker energetically. ‘Energetically’ should be taken contextually. No, Niall Horan isn’t the most ‘fun’ artist, but there are ‘fun’ vibes on this particular record. It’s nothing too crazy, but features some oomph with a pronounced bass line and electric guitar. All in all, it’s a strong kick off for Flicker.
“This Town,” a familiar hit single, smartly appears early on the project. While it isn’t as exciting as the opener, “This Town” is well-written and well-performed. Horan doesn’t wow you as a vocalist by any means, but he also doesn’t disappoint. This is pleasant, if middle-of-the-road. Still, it’s a highlight.
From the onset, “Seeing Blind” seems destined for success. The production is driven by an acoustic sound, treading light as opposed to heavy. The sound is heavier on the chorus, which is more intense and thrilling. While Maren Morris is an unexpected collaborator for Horan, she ends up being a ‘match made in heaven.’ “Seeing Blind” is folk-pop, hence not too far-fetched from country.
The sexy “Slow Hands” appears timely on Flicker, contrasting the acoustic, folk-pop of “Seeing Blind.” This is the closest we come to hearing ‘modern pop’ from Horan. This isn’t ‘modern pop’ – the sound is still more rock-pop than anything else. Still, this is far riskier and more risqué than say “This Town,” even if Niall barely breaks a sweat.
“Too Much to Ask” features moody sounding production, led by piano. Horan delivers beautiful, lower register vocals. He has a pleasant voice, though he could use more character. His most expressive moment comes by way of an f-bomb on the second verse when asks, “Don’t it feel fucked up we’re not in love?” Ultimately, “Too Much to Ask” is another respectable song from Niall Horan. It’s pleasant, if not particularly rousing, game changing, or ground breaking.
“Paper Houses” retains the old-school, classic-pop sensibilities of Flicker. Horan continues to sing with the utmost maturity, a selling point by all means. But, with the music growing more dynamic and exciting, the hope is that Niall will rise to the occasion as well. He could stand to ‘let loose’ a bit more. “Since We’re Alone” is sensitive, romantic pop. Horan showcases a dash of falsetto, but never a ‘heaping dose.’ Like most of Flicker it’s radiant, if safe. The production – vocal and overall – are strong.
Title track “Flicker” is simple, warm, and thoughtful. The production stands out, using piano, lush strings, and of course acoustic guitars. “Flicker” won’t overtly wow, but the listener more respects what they are hearing – the poise, the tenderness, so on and so forth.
“Fire Away” doesn’t take any notable risks, but gives Horan another respectable moment. Vocally, it would’ve been nice if he did more with the song, particularly on the long notes on the chorus. Still the simplicity and radiance of the record go a long way. “You and Me” concludes the standard edition of Flicker soundly. It’s not incredibly memorable, but by all means, sound.
Deluxe Edition Tracks
The standard-deluxe edition, as it might be coined, adds three more songs. It commences with the gritty folk of “On My Own,” one Horan’s most assertive performances. This reminisces back to 70s folk-rock, as well as the influence of modern folk acts – Mumford & Sons comes to mind. “Mirrors” adds a degree of energy, most perceptible on the chorus. The song as a whole is good, but not ‘next level,’ the biggest rub of Flicker.
Like most of the album, Niall sings “The Tide” well. Furthermore, the musicianship is notable – the production and various cues are impressive. Is it so well-rounded that it’s game changing? No, but it is admirable in other regards. The Target Deluxe Edition Bonus Tracks adds acoustic versions of standouts “Flicker” and “On the Loose.”
All in all, Flicker is a solid debut from Niall Horan. Honestly, it’s better than expected. Musically, there are some fantastic moments. Furthermore, there are some fine songs. Still, that characterization of ‘middle of the road’ rears its head at times. Niall has a beautiful voice, but at times he could expand on it, and infuse more personality and character into his performances. That’s nitpicky, but considering such could take him to the next level. His genuine nature, perceptible throughout Flicker, shouldn’t be overlooked.
Gems: “On the Loose,” “This Town,” “Seeing Blind,” “Slow Hands” & “Flicker”