New CD reviews: One Direction, Jake Owen

  • Updated: December 7, 2013 - 2:00 PM

"Midnight Memories" by One Direction

POP/ROCK

One Direction, “Midnight Memories”

(Columbia)

On its third album, the globe’s biggest boy band ramps up its ambition, and the results are impressive. For the most part. The British cute-tet has added crunch to their usual laddies-in-unison anthems. “Best Song Ever” carries a hefty Who-sian bluster. The similarly cranked “Little Black Dress” may in fact be 1D’s best song ever.

They carry their rock fantasies a little too far on the silly title track, a Def Leppard knockoff. But even the sugariest pop songs here, like “Diana,” have more kick than they did in the past. There’s a disastrous experiment with Mumfordy folk, on songs like “Story of My Life” and “Through the Dark.” That is one direction the boys definitely should not be taking.

David Hiltbrand, Philadelphia Inquirer

COUNTRY

Jake Owen, “Days of Gold” (RCA Nashville)

Life’s a beach — an endless blur of them, really — on the fourth album by this affable country rogue. And it’s clear that we should have seen this coming. Last year around this time, Owen released an EP, “Endless Summer,” that included a mildly suggestive come-on (“Summer Jam”) and a set of instructions (“Pass a Beer”). Turns out that was just the warm-up.

Owen, 32, grew up in Vero Beach, Fla., so this is his native habitat. Some of the songs here, notably the summer-bliss title track, hail surf and sand as a beau ideal, a state of mind. Elsewhere, things get a lot more literal such as on “Beachin’,” with its dismal, rapped verses and raise-your-cup chorus.

Inebriation and seduction intertwine to form Owen’s other major theme here. The word “tipsy” forms a pivot point in one song, and the title of another.

Strikingly, Owen had no hand in writing any of these songs. The best efforts of the hired songwriters home in on Owen’s capacity for open heartache, epitomized by the ballads on his previous album, like “The One That Got Away” and “Alone With You.”

What are the keepers? For starters, “Life of the Party,” a solid new entry in the putting-on-a-good-face subcategory of heartbroken country songs, and “One Little Kiss (Never Killed Nobody),” which feels like a worthy sequel to “Alone With You,” another that contemplates stirring the embers of a dead romance. “Thought I’d be fine to see you one more time,” Owen sings. “Yeah, right.”

NATE CHINEN, New York Times

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