Post Malone 'AUSTIN' album review: Passionate vocals limited by production

Post Malone
Post Malone / Audrey Richardson / USA TODAY NETWORK

New York-born and Texas-raised singer, rapper, songwriter, and record producer Post Malone released his fifth studio album, AUSTIN, on July 28, 2023. AUSTIN is also Post's second studio album since last summer. One week after the album's initial drop, Post unleashed a bonus version of AUSTIN, which included one extra track titled "Joy".

Malone's, birth name Austin Richard Post, fourth studio album, Twelve Carat Toothache, came out a little more than a year before AUSTIN, on June 3, 2022.

AUSTIN served as a major stylistic change for Post, going in more of a singer/songwriter direction instead of the pop-rap and trap styles he had on recent albums, including 2022's Twelve Carat Toothache and 2019's Hollywood's Bleeding.

Post Malone undergoes a stylistic change, taking a singer/songwriter approach to his fifth studio album AUSTIN

Listeners got their first taste of what would come from AUSTIN from the three lead singles released starting in the spring. "Chemical" was not only the first on airwaves April 14, 2023, but it also is the album's most popular song on streaming services. It is the album's only track that has eclipsed 100 million streams on Spotify and speculated to surpass the 200 million stream mark as of early August 2023.

"Chemical" is a pretty standard summer pop track as it features a simple and catchy chorus and hook behind some conventional acoustic guitar strings from Post.

The next single from the record, "Mourning", brings a similar pop vibe from Post. It's simple and catchy, but also not my favorite song from the record.

And the last lead single, "Overdrive", released a couple of weeks before the album on July 14. "Overdrive" features more layered production and a more emotional and passionate delivery from Post than the previous two lead singles.

Post delivers a more meditative and heartfelt track on "Overdrive" since the instrumentals aren't as derivative and overdone on this track than a lot of the other songs on AUSTIN. He talks about the exhaustion and pressure he feels from the music industry to meet certain standards, which diminishes his creative inspiration as an artist at times.

Given that AUSTIN and Twelve Carat Toothache released quicker than any other records in Post's discography sequentially, it's easy to understand where he's coming from here. That's not to mention the fact that Post has back-to-back worldwide tours accompanying the release of his last two records.

Moreover, the first few songs from AUSTIN definitely sets the tone for what's to come from most of the tracklist. The album's first song, "Don't Understand", is a personal and emotional track that talks about his struggles with internal confidence while being in love with someone that gives him "something" that is "everything".

"I'll build a church for you
They'll come from miles around
Girl, you're really somеthing, everything
To me, and I'm cold
So hold mе closer, baby"

"Don't Understand" by Post Malone

The themes of coping with internal struggles, love, and mental health, continues on the next few songs early in the album's tracklist. "Something Real" and "Chemical" both have pop rock vibes with passionate chorus vocals and overemphasized instrumentals. The pianos and drums take a lot of the attention away from Post's vocals and guitar strings on these two tracks.

There is more of the same dramatic instrumental palettes and grand chorus delivery from Post on the songs "Novacandy", "Mourning", and "Too Cool To Die". This is one of the biggest criticisms I have for this album is the repetitive and dramatic instrumentals on a lot of the production.

The themes and songwriting throughout the bulk of the first half of the tracklist also becomes derivative after a while.

There is a nice Indie pop/rock vibe switch-up on "Sign Me Up". This track talks about Post's past struggles with addiction, such as when he talks about the alcohol addiction he's openly dealt with. The production and instrumentals fit well with the interpersonal themes of the song.

"But I knew the party was over
When she tried to take my alcohol"

Bridge on "Sign Me Up" by Post Malone

Post continues to discuss his past interpersonal struggles with identity and addiction on the next few tracks "Socialite", "Overdrive", and"Speedometer". The problem that most of these tracks deal with, though, is that they are lacking passion in Post's delivery compared to a lot of the more inspired and cohesive songs on the record.

"Overdrive" is the highlight of this phase of the record that otherwise doesn't feature many memorable tracks.

The energy and passion does pick back up, though, on some of the later songs on the tracklist, such as "Enough is Enough" and "Buyer Beware". Post talks about taking back control of his own life and artistic creations, with some uplifting instrumentals that feature light guitar strings and complimentary drums that don't take the attention away from his strong vocal delivery.

What Post does well on the record with his unique vocals and simple/catchy guitar strings (which he told The Source in an interview that he recorded himself on most of the album) stands out on some of the later tracks on the record. "Buyer Beware" and "Laugh It Off" are two of my favorite songs on AUSTIN, thanks to their unique vibe and interpersonal and often relatable themes.

Post is at his best on this record when he gives us tracks that aren't too hard on the ears and feature passionate and relatable lyrics.

The record closes on a high note both on the original and bonus version. The original tracklist closes on "Laugh It Off", where Post addresses the hate and criticism he receives from fans and haters alike. "Joy", the track Post added on the bonus version of AUSTIN, builds on the theme of blocking out the hate from fans and critics while also expanding on the struggles/addictions he covered on the rest of the album.

Hands down, "Joy" and "Laugh It Off" are two of the best songs on the record. Post sounds more focused and inspired on both songs.

AUSTIN suffers from its inconsistent production quality and Post's occasional derivative pop sound

AUSTIN has more consistent songwriting and more passionate vocals and delivery than Post's previous album, Twelve Carat Toothache. But it didn't have the production quality or emotional consistency throughout the tracklist of some of his earlier albums, such as beerbongs & bentleys or Hollywood's Bleeding.

Had Post added a track like "Joy" to the original album release and dropped some of the slower and overdone songs, this would be a much more fluid listen. There are certainly some highs on the record, thanks to Post's openness to discussing his personal struggles and unique vocal delivery. It's also commendable that he took such a risk with this stylistic change this deep into his music career.

It'll be interesting to see what direction artistically Post goes with his next album after experimenting more with the singer/songwriter and pop/indie rock vibes on AUSTIN.

Score: 5/10

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