As the members of One Direction continue to stray away from their boy band roots, some of them (namely, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson) have solidified themselves as disappointing solo acts. Niall Horan, with his second solo album, Heartbreak Weather, has proven he’s far from that.

Known for being the only Irish, guitar-playing and blond-haired boy in One Direction, not necessarily earning accolades for his voice, Horan recognized his solo career had to be different. With 2017’s Flicker, Horan showed flashes of what sets him apart from his four former counterparts, but everyone knew there had to be more. It only took two-and-a-half years for him to give that to the world.

Heartbreak Weather contains a lot of blatant inspiration from Ed Sheeran, who wrote One Direction’s hit “Little Things,” among others. “Black And White,” both vocally and instrumentally, resembles Sheeran’s personal hit “Castle on the Hill.” Besides the gorgeous fiddle in the outro, “Dear Patience” is sonically bland. Despite its relatable nature, “New Angel” sounds almost too much like a few tracks found earlier in the track list. Despite these couple hiccups, Heartbreak Weather surpasses everything those who saw the folk-pop spirit in Horan could’ve asked for.

Here are the best five tracks from Heartbreak Weather:

5. “Bend The Rules”

The simplistic yet gorgeous harmonies blended with the synths all throughout “Bend The Rules” are so satisfying. As Horan embarks on a fairly new relationship, he can’t help but wonder if his significant other is hiding something. He knows she isn’t completely lying to him, but he has his doubts: “’Cause on paper, you don’t break them / But it hurts so bad the way you bend the rules.” The gentle guitar in the outro is easily the track’s best feature, though there are no off moments to be found.

4. “Heartbreak Weather”

The grooviness of the rhythm guitar in the title track is wholly infectious and pairs well with the track’s overarching message: Life always gets better. Horan has endured mostly gloomy days, but after entering a new relationship, everything is starting to look up for him: “All of my life, it’s been heartbreak weather / Thinking to myself it won’t get better / It can be so lonely in this city / But it feels different when you’re with me.” Horan unquestionably chose an enticing way to open the album. 

3. “No Judgement”

Though someone deserves a slap on the wrist for releasing this song with “judgment” spelled wrong, “No Judgement” is still an all-around bop. The feel of the track is eerily similar to Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” but the soft electric guitar vibe fits Horan extremely well. Horan is reassuring his significant other that she doesn’t have to change anything about her when he’s around because he loves it all: “When you’re with me, no judgment / You can get that from anyone else / You don’t have to prove nothin’ / You can just be yourself.”

2. “Put a Little Love On Me”

First things first, the way the strings accentuate Horan’s beautiful vocals in the chorus should be enough to jumpstart world peace. Horan is trying to make sense of his recent breakup, and he’s realizing he’s nowhere near over his feelings for this girl: “I look around as my heart is collapsing / ’Cause you’re the only one I need to put a little love on me.” You’ll definitely want to give Horan a bear hug after listening to this track.

1. “Still”

The closing track, “Still,” focuses on coming to terms with your true feelings and being brutally honest with yourself and those you love. As Horan reflects on his past relationship, he realizes his feelings have never faded: “If honesty means telling you the truth, then I’m still in love with you.” In the bridge, Horan provides a more hopeful tone, promising himself “Oh, it’ll be alright.” The track fades out with enthralling strings, a gentle acoustic guitar and happy whistling, hopefully signaling that Horan is headed toward happier times. “Still” is perfect in every way, and it’s the best track on Heartbreak Weather.

Rating: 3.5/5

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