One Direction - Made In The A.M. 2LP
Includes digital download of entire album.
Since the release of their last album, 2014's Four, One Direction went from five members to four with the departure of Zayn Malik, but not much else has changed. Working with their longtime production team of Julian Bunetta and John Ryan, Made in the A.M. is another slice of high-quality modern pop brought to life by the band's charm. They mostly stick to the formula that got them to the top of the charts, but throw in a couple of surprises that keep things interesting. The album's mix of upbeat dance-pop songs, emotional midtempo songs, and big, gut-wrenching ballads is a familiar one, with songs like "Drag Me Down" and "Infinity" sounding genetically engineered for radio play. "Perfect" is the album's best radio song, with a nice moody verse and some real emotional punch provided by Harry Styles' vocal on the super-hooky chorus. Like on Four, they cop some serious Fleetwood Mac moves, right down to borrowing a bassline from "Dreams" on "What a Feeling." Their ongoing love of the '80s comes through on "Never Enough," a ridiculously fun song that sounds like it's half Def Leppard and half Amy Grant circa "Every Heartbeat." It really sounds like the band is having a blast all the way through the song, especially the guys doing the doo wop backing vocals. Like on that song, where the album works best are the times when they loosen up a little and don't seem too worried about making music for the charts. The opening "Hey Angel" borrows a lot from the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" and features one of the album's best, most relaxed melodies; the Harry Styles co-write "Olivia" is a sweet Beatlesque sunshine pop song with the nice bounce and light feeling that much modern pop lacks; and the album-ending "History" is a cute little singalong that both sums up the band's past and promises fans there will be a future. As for the present, Made in the A.M. is a fine way to end this chapter of the band's run. While they could have used some of Zayn's vocal prowess, especially on the ballads, the other bandmembers pick up the slack impressively. Their songwriting shows growth, their vocals remain flawless, the production team continues to throw the occasional curveball to go along with the softballs, and there are plenty of songs that sound like the best pop music has to offer in 2015.