One Direction's Niall Horan flexes his folk muscles in solo album

Horan's new album, "Flicker," will impress his fans.

— -- Niall Horan’s “Flicker” (Deluxe)


Niall Horan is the third member to drop an album on his own. Unlike ZAYN and Styles, his music as a solo artist plays like a direct evolution off of the sound One Direction was exploring on its later records. When you hear “This Town,” it’s not too large a leap from “Story of My Life.” The strange funk of “Slow Hands” also sounds like it belongs in the 1D catalog.

Most of the 13 tracks on the deluxe edition of “Flicker” wallow in a mid-tempo, lovelorn balladry. Horan does flex some folk muscles, and that makes sense since he played guitar with One Direction as well.

Sometimes he hits gold, like on “Too Much to Ask,” (with its intro that sounds a little like Kesha’s “Praying,”) and sometimes he gets ahead of himself. When “You and Me” begins with the lines, “I’ve got a young heart / and it’s wild and free,” it leads to some of the most clichéd writing on the record. That being said, it also sounds like his stab at what passes for mainstream country these days as he injects a little bit of twang into his voice. That continues on the next (deluxe edition) track, “On My Own.” On “Seeing Blind,” he duets well with soulful country artist Maren Morris.

In all, Horan wants to blend his “boy-band” past glories with an easygoing sound. This album may not be quite as distinct as the work of Styles or ZAYN, but it ends up mostly sounding like a more mature answer to One Direction. Horan doesn’t quite amaze, but he still has a bright future.

Focus Tracks:

“Mirrors” Why this track is on the deluxe edition and not the standard version is a mystery. (The expanded version is a mere 46 minutes long.) This ballad is quite single-worthy and Horan effectively sings over a (somewhat loud) guitar wall during the chorus.

“On the Loose” There may be a little bit of Hall & Oates’ “Maneater”-influence in this song’s DNA and that actually suits Horan’s skill set just fine.

“Too Much To Ask” This song has one of the most affecting and melodic choruses on the record and again Horan proves himself to be well suited for such ballads.