Our first review for ‘What to Listen To’ is a real treat from Colorado-based band, OneRepublic. Although their latest album Native was released in March of last year, I think you definitely need to listen to it if you haven’t yet. I haven’t always been a huge fan of OneRepublic, I really enjoyed a lot of their singles, but never enough to buy their albums. This album completely changed my mind. It’s rich in pop, alternative-rock and gospel influences and really showcases Ryan Tedder’s incredible voice. Honestly, if I could talk about his voice in every song without sounding boring, I would. It is flawless. Native is essentially a collection of hit songs that back themselves up with great lyrical and melodic content.
The album opens with a very familiar song that you’ve probably heard on the radio many times, ‘Counting Stars’. Personally, it’s one of the very few songs that I can hear on the radio or see on TV nearly every day and still not get bored of it. It perfectly balances a mellow but up-tempo mood and features some heavier pop influences than in their previous work. This isn’t a huge surprise though, Tedder has written many iconic pop songs you know, including Beyoncé’s ‘Halo’. ‘Counting Stars’, however, has a gorgeous tone with some interesting flute-like sounds stringing the chords together. This song tells you the boys of OneRepublic mean business and it does a fantastic job as an opening track.
‘If I Lose Myself’, the second track on the album, keeps the ball rolling and serves as another catchy and interesting track. It has a more synthetic sound to it, but still contains the beauty seen on the actual album cover. The absolutely gorgeous chorus evolves further and promises you that you will not regret listening to this album.
‘Feel Again’ has been used in commercials and across media in general and the reason is quite clear, it’s a wonderful song. It feels a lot shorter than the previous two songs, but it is like a quick shot of soul-uplift. You will struggle to resist the urge to clap and sing along. It has been compared to ‘Dog Days Are Over’ by Florence and the Machine (FATM), but honestly, I didn’t notice until I read the song’s critical response and I’m a fan of FATM. The song is a beautiful pop-gospel track and really makes you want to keep listening to the album.
The next track is quite interesting for an unusual reason. ‘What You Wanted’ really focuses on the lyrics more than the previous songs on the album. By doing this, we can actually notice the romantic nature of the songs on the album. I didn’t notice how romantic the first few songs actually were until I heard this song, I don’t know if you would have experienced the same thing, but it really hit me that the lyrics so far have been quite loving. Again, this song might sound familiar as it was used as a promotional track. It blends the newer synthetic sound well with OneRepublic’s previous sounds.
The introduction for the next song, ‘I Lived’, completely takes us out of the zone we were getting comfortable in, but in a really good way. The pure acoustic sound of the first verse is stand-out as you can hear little crackles from the recording process in the background. The song gradually transforms into a really great pop song. An absolutely wonderful chorus drops and breaks up the guitar for a moment. I just need to mention the voice again, guys, Ryan Tedder could sing to me forever and I would be quite pleased. The harmonies are just glorious.
So, you know how the last song sounded different to the previous tracks, well that happens again and this time, we dive deeper into the more experimental side of this album. ‘Light It Up’ is slightly heavier than any other song on the album. It features an electric guitar in the verses with soft and simple drumming, giving a very laid-back but rough-edge sound to it. An honest comment on Tedder’s voice this time other than how great it sounds, he showcases his incredible range by hitting some impressive falsetto effortlessly. The slight distortion of the vocals really compliments the instruments. The song keeps its steadiness going and doesn’t really explore itself, but it is a really great track.
‘Can’t Stop’ is a very stand-alone track that really allows the percussion and experimental production to take over for a second. Soft auto-tune is used on vocals (which are heavy on falsetto) to blend into the more computerized sound of this song. The melody of the verse and leading into the chorus is full of range and plays with the piano in the background really well.
Again, we are exposed to more well-experimented sounds with ‘Au Revoir’. If you like orchestral instruments fused with more modern sounds, you will love this song. It begins with strings and piano but is touched up with vocal harmonies and soft synth stabs that keep a slow pace. The beat that comes in around halfway through the song seems quite shy, but it really lifts the song off the floor and reminds us of the life this album is giving us! The strings play an absolutely gorgeous melody towards the end of the song. This is the song that my new found love for this band was sealed. It is definitely one of my favourites from the album, not because of anything in particular, but it just really shows us that these guys tried hard and it is paying off big time.
The next song, however, is my favourite from the album, ‘Burning Bridges’! Why, you ask? Simply listen to it, and while you’re at it, listen to the acoustic version that comes with the deluxe version of Native. Guys, I cried listening to it, no word of a lie. The highlight of this song is most definitely the chorus. Although the verses are very calm yet exciting, that chorus gave me severe goosebumps to the point that I was actually cold after listening to this song. I stand up and give OneRepublic applause for this song. It keeps the album alive as it approaches the end and can work with any mood you happen to be in. It’s actually a shame that this song ends, but thank the lord sweet baby Jesus above that there is a rewind button.
Remember I said this album is full of real hit-songs, this next song is the point you realize that. ‘Something I Need’ could easily be a number one single anywhere. It’s a very catchy yet relatable feel-good song that encompasses the quality of the album in a simpler form. By that, I mean the fusions of genre and the production quality. The chorus sounds like it could be chanted at a football game and features lyrics anyone would want sung to them and a beautiful explosion of lower and higher vocals from Tedder with a foot-tapping beat.
‘Preacher’ brings us a very mellow set of verses and a very clever offering of lyrics. As you may have predicted, this song also brings out the gospel-pop sound of the album. This comes in the form of the religious story-telling lyrics and the gospel choir accompanying Tedder’s powerful vocals in the chorus. However, this is not solely a gospel song; there is a classical twist to it with some similar extracts from previous songs.
‘Don’t Look Down’ is the shortest song from Native, and this is possibly because it doesn’t seem to be able to move in any way; it is a very continuously flowing sound with not much vocals from Tedder, but a nice few chords from a choir in the background. Other than that, the song doesn’t offer a whole lot, but it does end the album on the standard edition. Personally, if I only had the standard version, I would feel the album is missing a limb and would be quite disappointed with that ending and would be desperate to hear more. So, I beg you, buy the deluxe version! The extra tracks end this album perfectly and I will tell you why!
‘Something’s Gotta Give’ is a great little tune that has many of the same qualities of the other songs, but the way it is composed is very different in some way. It features a lot more cymbal action and a (and I use this word in the best way) whiny chorus. A more technical way of wording it is there are long, sustained, harmonized vocals. They allow the synths to bounce softly in the background with an interesting drum pattern (particularly in the outro). It’s probably not considered the best song on the album, but it belongs on there and is a really great track.
Another one of my favourites is only available on the deluxe edition, ‘Life In Color’. This song gives me life. You just want to lose yourself in this song. It’s bright and colourful, as the title suggests. Listen to this song on the way to work or school, if it doesn’t cheer you up and give you energy, listen again. If you couldn’t tell, I don’t hate any song on this album, they’re all great, and this is up there as one of the best songs from this band yet!
The three acoustic songs that end the deluxe version can be summed up collectively. I really mean this when I say it, they are, in my opinion, the highlight of the entire album, and they are the last songs! After hearing their studio versions in the standard edition, we love them, after hearing their acoustic versions, you will be obsessed. Immaculate vocals and instrumentation contrast to the original tracks in the best way. They make your whole hour-long experience of this album very, very worth it. They are how acoustic versions of songs should be done.
Native is one of my favourite albums of 2013 by a clear mile. Whether you prefer to listen to just mainstream hits or if you prefer to listen around to as much as you can, this album is for you. It will welcome you with open arms and it will hold you and never let go! I am literally buying a ticket to the next available show they play near me. Congratulations to OneRepublic on this fantastic gift to music-lovers!
You can check out the regular version of the album below and pick up the album on iTunes or in stores now!