HARDY, Noah Kahan, & More – Single Round-Up

Single

Week of 2/9/2023

Heartline Hill – The Castellows Written By Ryan Lippe

On their debut EP, The Castellows look to make a lasting imprint on country music. The sisters’ soft voices combined with powerful, twangy production culminates in a delightfully fresh listen. Written by Eleanor Balkcom alone, it sounds like the group is finally hitting their stride with a sound that’s immediately recognizable. It may lack some vivid imagery that other artists pride themselves on, but that’s something that they’ll figure out as they get more experienced. Producer Trina Shoemaker, known for working with Turnpike Troubadours and Charlie Crockett, did an excellent job of balancing each element of their style so that nothing sounds noisy or over-the-top. The second track of their first project is a promising invitation to what new listeners can expect from the Castellows.

8.7

A Thousand Times – Evan Honer Written By Ryan Lippe

Since Evan Honer’s been releasing his own songs, fans have watched him find himself as one of the indie-country scene’s most interesting voices. The way he maneuvers between his upper and lower register channels a smooth range of feeling that displays an increasingly sophisticated singer. Right from the first note, he takes his time with each note and gives these lyrics room to breathe and resonate with the listener. The songwriting continues to be top-tier from Honer; he doesn’t try to use the most descriptive language, but his words are simple and gracefully honest. This is an acoustic gem that shows off some of Evan Honer’s best qualities, from his expressive voice to his knack for writing equally expressive lyrics.

8.5 

Bulletproof – Nate Smith Written By Max Buondonno

Nate Smith has quickly become a favorite in the world of mainstream country music thanks to the radio success of singles like “Whiskey On You” and “World on Fire.” His latest single, “Bulletproof,” aims to reach those same heights with an attention-grabbing chorus and production that screams 2010s bro-country. Written by songwriting juggernauts Ashely Gorley, Ben Johnson, and Hunter Phelps, the track is all about relying on spirits to erase the memory of a relationship, only to realize that the “shots” aren’t enough to get the job done. The clever play on words, coupled with an earworm of a hook, will help this single stand out in the airwaves. That said, with a lack of substance and an accompanying suspicion that you must’ve heard this song on a Jason Aldean album somewhere, “Bulletproof” feels too manufactured to matter anywhere outside of your local FM station.

7.0

Deeper Well – Kacey Musgraves Written By Adam Delahoussaye

Kacey Musgraves, now 35, seems to have found some satisfaction in solitude after spending much of her 2021 record “star-crossed” paralyzed by loneliness. However, in 2024, Kacey is in love with letting go. “Deeper Well” is airy, plucky, and almost carefree in its narrative as Musgraves croons about the freedom she feels from tying up loose ends and realizing the triviality of external solutions to internal problems. Recorded in the famous Electric Lady Studios in New York, producers and co-writers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk create an atmosphere that engulfs the listener in an ethereal folksy wonderland. Always evolving and unafraid of the crossroads that lay before her, Musgraves and her new “me first” attitude is an intriguing sign of things to come. 

8.0

ROCKSTAR – HARDY Written By Adam Delahoussaye

For Hardy’s second single from his upcoming rock album, juvenile ideals of retribution are traded in for a wild homage to the men and mullets who paved the way before him. Immediately noticeable from the song’s cover art, Hardy is clearly trying to sell you on the idea that the birds he flips have the same panache that fueled the Paul Stanleys and Angus Youngs of the world back when “rockstar” and “contrarian” meant the same thing. While Hardy and his producers Joey Moi and Jacob Durrett do a solid job crafting a brash entrance for our redneck rager, the lyrics just can’t seem to break free from the shackles of contrivance. Even so, much like most of his catalog up to this point, he’s having far too good a time to attribute any of that to laziness or a lack of self-awareness. Hardy’s gonna Hardy, whether you and his momma like it or not. 

6.5

Forever – Noah Kahan Written By Creed Miller

The Stick Season era has come to a bittersweet end with Noah Kahan’s highly-anticipated “Forever.” The track opens with a chill melody that focuses on Kahan’s falsetto vocals. His exceptional range proves time and time again to be one of his strongest assets. The layered vocals in the intro are reminiscent of “Call Your Mom” and create an immersive musical experience. At the 2:14 mark, he sheds his somber attitude and slides into a plucky jam about Noah’s expectations for his future. From there, the track comes full circle and finishes just as it started with another verse crooned in Kahan’s soft falsetto. Noah wrote “Forever” with Gabe Simon and it’s another great example of his wisened songwriting wit. He vividly illustrates the connection he shares with someone while reflecting on his former self who longed to be wanted. “Forever” is a song to his former self that everything will work out and he doesn’t need to worry. While it is sad to see the Stick Season come to an end, Kahan wrapped it up with an absolute standout.

9.4

S.O.B – Sam Barber Written By Creed Miller

After allowing his fans to choose his next single, Sam Barber came out swinging “S.O.B.” Producer Eddie Spear leaves his influence on the song in the best way possible. Fitting right in Barber’s wheelhouse, “S.O.B.” is as lyrically jagged as Sam’s anguished vocals. The slide guitar adds a cool facet to the track, which feels more complete than the music we have heard from Barber in the past. The solo-write is all about falling into a toxic, lonely spiral; those thoughts lead to feelings of self-doubt and forge a dark path for our subject. The growth Sam Barber shows as an artist speaks for itself; he sticks to his rustic roots but summons a new, desperate confidence that totally fits the single. Barber has been one of the most interesting up-and-comers of the last year and “S.O.B” is another step for him towards mainstream stardom.

8.8

Perfectly Lonely – Parker McCollum Written By Cam Greene

On paper, Parker McCollum seems like the ideal country star to cover a John Mayer track; unfortunately, his take on “Perfectly Lonely” is a bit of a washed-down version of the original and misses some of the key components it needed to make it feel like a genuine country cover. It would’ve been very cool to hear this single with a new coat of country-colored, paint, but Parker’s version still has multiple redeeming qualities that give this song some life. It’s an easygoing track just like the original with a summer flair that’ll be perfect for those warm nights on a boat dock. Parker McCollum’s always-great voice really shines in tandem with the early-2000s groove. Though he delivers this tune with the same casual sadness of Mayer’s version, some additional country flair would’ve pushed this over the top as a bonafide all-star cover.

7.8

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