Post Malone – AUSTIN

A stark and deeply honest record...

The pre-release hype for ‘AUSTIN’ suggested an about-turn, a sudden deviation. If word was to be believed, Post Malone had gone country – the digital syrup that adorns his run of colossal rap hits had been removed, and its place something lonesome emerged. Out now, ‘AUSTIN’ doesn’t quite match that reputation – acoustic aspects are in place, for sure, but while it’s a more organic experience it doesn’t quite sever ties with his past. An evolution into the personal, it’s an album that isn’t afraid to be honest.

His first project since becoming a father, ‘AUSTIN’ was also constructed in the aftermath of moving to Salt Lake City. It’s a long way – literally and figuratively – from his 2015 debut single ‘White Iverson’, and Post Malone responds with a cycle of material that lingers on responsibility, trauma, addiction, and continuation. Pieced together with pop heavy-hitter Andrew Watt and long-term collaborator Louis Bell, the team manage to make often spartan arrangements suit Post Malone’s natural arena-like surroundings.

Plaintive opener ‘Don’t Understand’ sets the tone – the vocal is almost a whisper, while the musicianship frames this in subtle ways. The gospel-soaked ‘Something Real’ expands on this, Post Malone surrounded by warm, familiar voices. But then previous themes intrude – ‘Novacandy’ is given a more digi-leaning treatment, while the sombre ‘Mourning’ swathes the album in shades of black.

There’s a surfeit of material on display. Often twinned, we move from ‘Mourning’ to its cousin ‘Too Cool To Die’ – Post continually flips lyrical meaning – while offers digital permutations amid its 80s leaning electronics, It’s fun, a kind of 80s Miami transplant in the landscapes of Salt Lake City.

That said, the album is most effective when Post Malone is at his most affecting. ‘Hold My Breath’ is admirably stark, while ‘Texas Tea’ crunches with its intense, industrial electronics. Indeed, only sporadically does ‘AUSTIN’ meet the Malone-goes-country hype – latter songs such as ‘Buyer Beware’ or ‘Landmine’ aren’t exactly hoedowns, but the influence runs deep.

Frosted finale ‘Laugh It Off’ dares to look to the future, and you’re left wondering what impact ‘AUSTIN’ will have on his fans, and on Post Malone’s future work. Is this a one-off deviation, a resetting of the dials? Or will these acoustic templates become his bedrock? Whatever the future holds, this is an album that dares to buck trends, and at its best can be genuinely moving.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray

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