The unstoppable force that is Post Malone has provided an interesting album that challenges his staple sounds of trap and traditional RnB.
AUSTIN is titled after Post’s legal name and features a noticeably brighter album cover in terms of colour palette. The sounds entailed also reflect this brightness, but don’t be fooled, as Post Malone is a master of seeming apathetic whilst having all the feels underlying. Affluence and certain substances have become motifs in Post’s music, and this album is no different; however, we see these themes in a new light.
Some fans will be delighted to hear the opening track is an acoustic number, which is very much reminiscent of when the singer brought out an acoustic guitar for a couple numbers when opening for the infamous Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Auckland show earlier this year. Very quickly, the album establishes the fact that it’s Post’s acoustic and chill album, taking on actual instruments over digital RnB production (Post plays guitar on all tracks in this project). For the opening song ‘Don’t Understand’, we are treated to two recorded guitar tracks, one playing quite softly and the other capitalising on some sharp hammer-ons and pull-offs, so that the strings ring out and disclose Post’s feelings in a more implicit way. Orchestral strings are added too, giving the song body and dramaticism which is appropriate for an opener.
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A well-timed beat signalling the end of ‘Don’t Understand’ leads us into the second song ‘Something Real’. This song is increased in energy and unexpectedly features a choir, which is a nice stylistic choice, adding a richness to the chorus. The cigarettes motif makes a swift entrance with the lyric “Give me somethin’ I can feel / Light a cigarette just so I can breathe” which really nails the personal brand that Post has. A good backbeat and introduction of synths into this song reveal inspiration for this album. When Post caught up with Zane Lowe, he discussed having listened to Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder and Radiohead when crafting this new record. These steadfast influences continue to shine throughout the track listing.
We received a few singles ahead of the release of the album; ‘Mourning’, ‘Chemical’ and ‘Overdrive’. ‘Mourning’ is a personal favourite. It approaches the theme of sobering clarity, emphasising the experience of finding any sort of coping mechanism to silence the hard feelings. The opening verse is rather stripped back and then once the chorus steps in, we return to a driving trap beat, which fans of Post Malone’s earlier sound will appreciate. Great lyrics in this song too like; “Don’t wanna sober up / Try to keep it inside, but I just wanna pour it / Thought I was strong enough / Got a lotta sh*t to say, couldn’t fit it in the chorus.” These lines in the first verse summarise the bottling up emotion cliché, something everyone can relate to. But for me it’s the acknowledgement that the man couldn’t fit it all in the chorus that makes me smile. This is a succinct song, and Post does a good job at getting to the point.
‘Overdrive’ is an honest song which appears to be about being a good role model. Post recently became a father, so this song could be about being motivated to hopefully be worthwhile in his daughter’s eyes. Quite simply put “I’d do anything to be cool to you / Cool to you.” He even goes so far to suggest he would remove his tattoos if that were what it takes for the acceptance of his loved ones. Another great single, as it meshes tropes of Post Malone’s previous style with this new direction.
The middle section of the album features more fusion of styles, as on songs like ‘Too Cool To Die’ where Post has an almost yacht rock moment, layered by the pop treatment to give it that nice finish with powerful kick drums. ‘Socialite’ in a similar vein highlights the brighter sounding songs that this album purports, with a slower strumming tempo contrasting the artist’s previous work. But ‘Hold my Breath’ is the most definitive moment for these sounds, as we are given a ballad that morphs and swells beautifully with the classical instruments guiding hands. Post delivers the heartfelt line “Cause you’re holdin’ onto somethin’ special to me / It’s essential to me”, which feels vulnerable and acknowledges this underlying feeling in the album that the star is acutely aware of where he has been and where he’s going. There is this self-awareness in AUSTIN that shows how Post is taking stock of what he has achieved and expressing gratitude and reverence for it.
The closing song ‘Laugh It Off’ is another point of note, as Post leans completely into the rock influences. It’s a pensive number, which accounts a sort of clarity and acceptance. It’s relatively conservative in presentation, with modest tempo piano and guitar, until we hit the last 45 seconds when the song goes all in on the energy front. The pounding drums are immense and saturated in compression, with a driving guitar shred that leaves everything before it in the dust. It likely leaves listeners wanting more. With lyrics like “Took my cigarettes and flushed them down the drain, ah-ha” we get a hail to the hedonistic motif once again. It’s a closure moment when Post sings “And if I learned anything at all / Smile, smile”, giving a well-rounded conclusion to the overall sentiment of the piece.
It seems 2023 is a year of evolution for many artists, as various personalities and collaborations in the industry look to alternative styles to make a mark. Paramore returned to their punkier soundscapes with a pop-rock flare, Lil Yachty released an entire psychedelic rock record, and Taylor Swift pays homage to her Speak Now era with songs from the vault and a rerecording of the original track listing.
Post Malone now presents a largely acoustic, organic, and rock/folk influenced album of progression. It’s a real testament to an artist who knows the formula well, and so challenges himself to create something different. Post has been quoted saying this was the toughest creative processes he’s engaged with so far. Although some fans might take time to come around, it’s worth the inquisition. Different often leads to more perspectives on an artist’s expression from which we have not previously been privy to. The most representative element of this is hearing Post Malone fall for the enticing sounds of his classic acoustic guitar.
Stream AUSTIN now on all platforms.