From one direction to five, it's been fascinating to listen to what the members of One Direction have been doing on their hiatus. And some of it has been really good, including Niall Horan's latest effort.
While Harry Styles dabbles in ’70s rock, Louis Tomlinson gets into hard-core EDM, Liam Payne embraces in-the-club-rhythm and blues and Zayn Malik explores neo-soul, "Flicker" finds Horan on the folkier side of pop.
Horan's solo album isn't flashy, but his songs are sturdy. His warm voice is unrushed and unpretentious.
Horan seems uninterested in the pyrotechnics of his 1D bandmates, preferring a John Mayer and Ed Sheeran guitar-driven sound. It's a mature effort from the former boy band member, who had a hand in writing every song here and plays guitar on several tracks.
The record opens with the infectious, dance-friendly "On the Loose," but that's not representative of the album. It's like Horan wants to show he can put out pure shimmering pop like anyone else, then move on.
You won't be able to resist "Slow Hands," a pure hit of foot-stomping breezy pop-folk, or the duet "Seeing Blind," where he and country star Maren Morris meld their voices beautifully.
However, much of "Flicker" is airy, dreamy and delicate as it explores love with subtle guitar work, like the achingly beautiful "Paper Houses," the gorgeous, slightly twangy "You and Me" and the excellent Fleetwood Mac-ish "Since We're Alone." The title song is a triumph of sparseness.
The album is a lot like its cover — a portrait of an artist looking straight and honestly into the camera.