Post Malone - 'Austin' review: Posty gets honest about his vices (2024)

Post Malone‘s fifth studio album, ‘Austin’ starts with a tragic love song. An acoustic guitar magnifies Malone’s vibrating vocals as he admits, “I don’t understand why you like me so much / Cause I don’t like myself” just before the strings come in, introducing the live instrumentation that pervades the entire album. It’s a haunting first glimpse at Austin Richard Post’s namesake collection, hinting at a new level of lyrical honesty and musicality for the singer-songwriter.

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In the lead-up to ‘Austin’, Malone decided to slow down. In a recent interview he explained that becoming a father and moving from the raucous Los Angeles to more subdued Salt Lake City shifted his perspective from focusing on the destination to “[experiencing] the journey to its fullest”. That decision takes on auditory prominence in the album, whether it’s Malone’s choice to play guitar on every song or the decelerating tempo of tracks in comparison to his previous releases.

There’s also a stripped-back element to ‘Austin’, whether it’s pulling back his moniker and stamping his birth name across the compilation or deciding to release a feature-less album for the very first time. Though his notable genre-defying skills are still here in ‘Austin’, Posty’s clearly veering off in new creative directions, which is a bold choice to make considering his formula thus far has pushed him to global acclaim.

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Since he debuted with 2016’s ‘Stoney’, Malone has been gigantic. That album’s single, ‘Congratulations’, featuring Quavo set the record for most weeks on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and launched a hitmaking career for the Texas artist. In 2018 he dropped ‘’ which debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200, and housed hit singles ‘Rockstar’ featuring 21 Savage and ‘Psycho’ featuring Ty Dollar $ign.His third offering, 2019’s ‘Hollywood Bleeding’ followed a similar trajectory, merging pop, hip-hop and R&B into Malone’s own makeshift genre, this time with the hypnotic ‘Sunflower’, featuring Swae Lee which broke records for going platinum 17 times, as well as the echoing ‘Circles’ which quickly hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 charts.

In June of last year, he released ‘Twelve Carate Toothache’ scattered with guest spots from the likes of Doja Cat, his favourite band Fleet Foxes, The Weeknd and more. If ‘Twelve Carate Toothache’ was a “sobering comedown” as NME wrote, then ‘Austin’ is a thoughtful look back at all the vices and drinking that led to that comedown and a quick hopeful glance at what could happen next. The subject matter may be cutting at times – like when Malone recalls being so messed up he’s talking to nobody, throwing up on a tile floor and not wanting to sober up in ‘Mourning’ – but instead of each track playing out painfully, the album’s intricate production acts like a spoonful of sugar to help the bitterness go down.

In ‘Something Real’ Malone goes full gospel, as he confesses opulent sins and worships at the altar of free rounds of drinks in VIP and lighting a cigarette “just so I can breath” all on the hunt for something he can feel. A choir backs his dissolution and the heart-wrenching line “I would trade my life just to be at peace” pours out right before the close. The pulsating ‘Chemical’ is one of the album’s best testaments to dressing up a sad song as a happy one. The track features bright keys at the refrain and when Malone sings about listening to “‘Seven Nation Army’ fighting at the bar with you” he makes it sound romantic, somehow.

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‘Overdrive’ strings together a ballad from the perspective of a protagonist yearning to be “Cool to you”, the singer leaning into heartbreaking vocal tones; the simple whistling and pristine production making direct lyrics like “I’d remove my tattoos if that’s cool to you” sound profound. ‘Green Thumb’ highlights Malone in all of his pop-prowess, his voice clear like a bell and his lyrical treatise on love (or inner growth… or flowers… or death) evokes a solemn reaction, with sharp metaphors layered over timeless and stirring orchestration.

Malone co-produced ‘Austin’ with behemoth creators Andrew Watt and Louis Bell on most of the album, sans two tracks (‘Sign Me Up’ and ‘Enough Is Enough’) where he collaborates with hit Swedish songwriters Max Martin and Rami Yacoub to create what he’s called “some of the funnest most challenging and rewarding music”. The shift from trap beats and hip-hop delivery to purer pop suits Malone well, proving that slowing down can be a creative advantage, especially when you’re heading in the right direction.

Details

Post Malone - 'Austin' review: Posty gets honest about his vices (1)

  • Release date:July 28, 2023
  • Record label: Mercury Records/Republic Records
Post Malone - 'Austin' review: Posty gets honest about his vices (2024)
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