Review Summary: Average, run-of-the-mill indie pop.
Over the last few years, we've slowly seen the landscape of popular 'rock' music change drastically. Nu-metal and post-grunge once dominated the airwaves, but recently the scene has shifted over to more indie pop and indie rock. Ever since fun. sent the world on fire back in 2012, an endless stream of bands including Imagine Dragons, Of Monsters and Men and The Neighbourhood have been unleashed into the pop world. For better or worse, it looks like this trend will probably last as long as nu-metal did, then die off into irrelevancy. As far as indie pop goes, American Authors are pretty much your stereotypical indie band, using techniques straight out of the "How to Become a Popular Indie Band in 2013: With Instructions" book. They've got anthemic, catchy hooks to ensure that their songs get stuck in your head, buzzing synth lines to catch the ear of DJs who are looking to put a new song into rotation; hell, even their name caters to the artsy writer-types up in Williamsburg.
If there's any song by American Authors you've already heard, it's probably "Best Day of My Life". It's already been featured in trailers for moves like Walter Mitty
and Delivery Man
, and has even captured the attention of pop radio (being played 1122 times in America this last week). However, it's a pretty blatant ripoff of Imagine Dragons' breakthrough single "It's Time", utilizing the same mandolin riff in the intro, nearly identical chorus structures, and vocally both songs are pretty similar. Stealing ideas from Imagine Dragons actually makes sense though, since they're probably the biggest 'rock' (and yes, I'm using this term very loosely) band out right now, and practically anything they make sells, even their godawful songs.
Given the mediocrity of “Best Day of My Life”, I went into American Authors
with pretty low expectations. Yet surprisingly, there’s some material on here that really isn’t that bad. “Luck” is the EP’s clear highlight, and should make the cut if the band ever decides to release a full-length album. A great deal of emotion is put into Zac Barnett’s vocals, and drummer Matt Sanchez brings the best instrumental performance ever by this band. The track does prove that American Authors really do like to borrow elements from other bands though, as the “whoa-ohs” in the chorus sound all too similar to Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up”. “Believer” isn’t horrible; its stomp-clap choruses and verses are only ruined by the track’s venture into generic indie pop territory.
Of course, there still are a couple of other lackluster tracks. “Hit It” is too fast and bouncy for its own good, and as a result it seems rushed. Normally I would applaud a song for its energy, but “Hit It” is so enthusiastic and vibrant that it feels like the sonic equivalent of a junkie going nowhere running around high on speed. Vocally, it’s pretty weak, offering plenty of cringe-worthy moments, and the lack of a hook leaves not much to be remembered. “Home”, however, is the complete opposite. It’s devoid of any emotion or personality whatsoever, and its four-minute long runtime (the lengthiest song this group has ever made) feels like a chore to listen to. “I’m not trying to stop a hurricane, I’m just trying to find a way to make it back home” would be more inspirational if it didn’t sound so damn uninspired. That’s the band’s main flaw: none of their songs are truly bad (except for “Hit It”), but some of them are pretty bland musically.
Unless you’re a fan of a fan of average, run-of-the-mill indie pop, there’s really no reason to check out anything by the American Authors. “Luck” is a pretty decent song, but other than that, the band really doesn’t do anything to make them unique from their contemporaries. Their success is mainly due to the fact that they borrowed elements of Imagine Dragons’ sound; if it weren’t for that, American Authors most likely wouldn’t be as popular as they are now. Only time will tell whether or not they fade away into irrelevancy and remain one-hit wonders or soon become the next big thing in the indie scene.