Review - OneRepublic - Native
Ryan Tedder has never written or produced a bad song in his life (that I've ever heard at least), so I had some ideas about the quality of 'Native' before I started listening. While I was correct about the level of craftmanship that went into each and every track, the album contains quite a few surprises.
OneRepublic's third album continues thee lyrical and vocal stretch that have made them a favorite around the world, but musically, things have changed. After producing for, writing for, working with or just meeting most of the musical talent on the planet, it is clear that other songs and artists have started to leave their mark on Tedder.
'Native' isn't so much an album of original ideas as it is interpretations and reworkings of beautiful pop smashes that have come before. Lead single "Feel Again" is the male equivalent of Florence + the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over", "Au Revoir" borrows a piano riff from Ben Folds Five's "Brick", and Tedder even looks back to their last album by dropping the whistle from "Good Life" to create "Burning Bridges".
On top of that, the band has been playing with the machines of music, introducing synthesizers to the mix and pushing their sound further than it's ever gone. Don't worry, this isn't a dance record, and everything is done in good taste. While these synths do make their presence known, their power is in their understated use. The focus of the album is still in the expert songwriting and in the plethora of ways Tedder uses the human voice (most notably by featuring a more-baritone-than-usual choir on ethereal last track "Don't Look Down").
OneRepublic have never been a top-of-the-charts kind of band (save for their breakout hit "Apologize"), and this leads a lot of people to miss out. While the album may not produce an "Apologize" or "Good Life"-sized hit, it is one of the best pop albums of the year. Interestingly composed and genre-blending (there are even hints of garage rock), much of 'Native' is destined to be one of music's best-kept secrets of the year.
Listen to: the album, especially "Feel Again", "Au Revoir", "Don't Look Down", "Counting