If you've been busy like me through the festival/concert season, you might be a little late for specific 2023 releases, and 'AUSTIN' was one I unfortunately missed. It was released on July 28th this year and is like nothing Post Malone has released yet. The record harnesses no features, only the man himself. This and the album being titled 'AUSTIN,' Malone's real name is Austin Richard Post, already setting you up for a deep dive into his personal life, thoughts, and feelings - and he did not disappoint in this regard.
I was lucky enough to see Post Malone in 2021 at Leeds Festival, performing all of his current hits, and he is a wonderfully playful force on stage. From where I was standing, which was a great deal away, he lit up the audience and the festival crew, creating a beautiful sunset to end Leeds that year. You can tell he adores what he does and finds solace in creating his own music and listening to others' too.
A rather far away image of Malone performing 'I fall apart' at Leeds Fest 2021, image via myself.
When talking to Zane Lowe for Apple Music about this latest studio album, the fifth for Malone, he spoke of listening to Fleetwood Mac and Radiohead when creating the record. These influences are evident in the atmosphere of many tracks, rock and whimsy being great themes throughout 'AUSTIN.'
The biggest stand-out to me on the album was the bold display of drugs and alcohol throughout. While this is not a new addition to Post Malone's music, it felt like a unique, more confused, and conflicted point of view on the pop/rock star party lifestyle that Malone is known to have dabbled in (fans of Malone may remember how the media ran with news that he was using drugs again this past year).
The tracks 'Something Real' and 'Chemical' present Malone almost pitying his addictions, the latter portraying a Springsteen 'Nebraska'- like instrumental backing (melancholic and acoustic if you are not familiar), and 'Something Real' being much more rock with great gospel influence - both having synth that cuts through these different inspirations. Both tracks reflect a teetering mental state, in which Malone seems addicted to the bad despite craving the good in his life so much more ('I would trade it all to be at peace' off of 'Something Real').
Malone dancing in the 'Chemical' music video, via GIPHY
Later songs like 'Novacandy' and 'Texas Tea' also reflect the context of his worrying appearances last year, and all point to both happiness and drugs being fleeting in his life. Happiness is a clear focus in this album, yet a focus that Malone seems always to be distracted from in reality.
Songs like 'Mourning' and 'Hold My Breath' could indeed be interpreted as conversations with his past self, echoes in the latter song suggesting that they're not responding and are perhaps too far gone. Malone trickles enigmas throughout this album to make the listener feel as if they know more than ever about the artist, yet there is so much more left unsaid and unseen.
Despite the heavy topics throughout the record, the musicality is new-wave pop at Post Malone's best. 'Too Cool To Die' runs with more echoes, making the album feel more like a soundscape of Malone's life rather than an album, and is reminiscent of psychedelic indie rock artists like Djo, A.K.A. televisions favorite Steve, 'Stranger Things' actor Joe Keery.
Djo 'End of Beginning', via the Djo Music Youtube channel, a great song if you loved 'Too Cool To Die' (with a little more reflective angst).
It is suggested in this track that there are now more positive influences in Malone's life. He is now rumored to be in a loving, committed relationship and confirmed to be a father. The title 'Too Cool To Die' infers a boost of self-confidence and appreciation of life, a welcome change in tone compared to past songs like 'I Fall Apart' from the 2016 album 'Stoney' (although that is still a brilliant tune).
On the topic of musicality, Malone does not commit to one genre for this album, although I would class it as synth-pop. The album starts with the acoustic stylings of 'Don't Understand,' displaying Malone's country roots and very much sets the tone for a 'Give Me Three Chords and the Truth' record (a classic country music saying).
It eases the listener into this personal album through dramatic violins, sparse echoes, and Post Malone's iconic shaking vocals. The later song 'Socialite' mixes a life of social pressures in big cities like L.A. and the constant thought of a more grounded home through acoustic guitar, adding extra connotations of vulnerability.
Malone loves to use acoustic guitar in his music (especially this album), pictured here performing at the 61st Grammy Awards in 2019, via GIPHY
Post Malone has been visiting country/ folk music as an influence recently. One of my favorite releases lately has been 'Dial Drunk' by Noah Kahn, in which Malone is featured. The implications of 'Socialite' reflect the negative mental state of fame and reputation that unfortunately comes with climbing to the top of the charts.
Fan-called 'Folk Malone' and Noah Kahn's promotion for their excellent song 'Dial Drunk', via Post Malone's instagram
Immediately after 'Socialite,' 'Overdrive' launches the listener into the aftermath of a fame-induced lifestyle. The heavy beat grounds you in a world of reflection and melancholy; the atmosphere is so personal, whimsical, and thoughtful yet bound with lyrics like 'I'd do anything to be cool to you' and is suddenly riddled with self-consciousness and the constant desperation to please and appeal. It is the most vulnerable song on the record, only truly seen when carefully listening to the construction of both Malone's words and his music.
And, of course, it wouldn't be a Post Malone album if we were not bombarded with cars in most verses. 'Sign Me Up' and 'Speedometer' lighten the heavy theme of religion and the idea of being controlled by solid infatuation with car imagery.
Malone has always used cars and driving as a symbol of freedom in his music, which is a beautiful sentiment. All the fame, all the money, all the people, and yet it is clear driving is what makes Malone happy, even having a Ford F-150 Raptor tattooed on his neck (which is personally a bit far for me).
After the initial release of the album, Post Malone went on Instagram Live to discuss the record with fans and give analytical insight into his process. During this, he revealed that 'Landmine' is one of his favorites on the album and was inspired by the iconic animated band Gorillaz. It has a grand choir backing up lyrics like 'I'm just thumbing my way through a landmine,' which implies Malone is trying to get through tough and dangerous times with little to no power (as what does 'thumbing' through a landmine do?).
'Enough is Enough' is one of the standouts for me. It's a new sound for Post Malone, and while that might leave some of his more rap fans a little heartbroken, it's a great way to transition between genres in future releases easily. 'Enough is Enough' is an excellent old catchy sing-song with a cyclical structure and gives off 'Feeling Whitney' vibes, but with a lot more dramatic when jumping into the chorus. It's a rather summery tune that reflects the pop charts today and his ever-evolving style.
'Green Thumb' and 'Laugh it Off' are beauties to end the album. The primary song is packed with imagery of dying nature, the finger-picked guitar in the background, creating yet again a more folk sound for Malone. The lyric 'she's never coming home' implies a love interest that can not be tied down, despite the subject of the song possibly wanting a more serious relationship. It presents a tumultuous life within a world of causal relationships when real love can never be causal.
'Laugh it Off' has the most building throughout the song, compared to any other on the record. It gives a perfect, hopeful finish to a compilation of very self-exploitive, vulnerable music. The ending lyrics 'smile, smile' say that Malone is still hiding behind a toothy facade and is not just an enigma to his audience but also himself. The album is rounded off with cracking rock guitar and fuzzy feedback, almost Foo Fighters-esque, and proposes that Post Malone has so much more creative brilliance to give (and we hope he does).
The Foo Fighters performing at the 2021 MTV Music Awards, a similar feeling to the end of 'Laugh it Off', via GIPHY
So, do yourself a favor and listen to 'AUSTIN' when possible. This album is perfect for people who were maybe not the biggest fans of Post Malone, but as he explores so many different themes and genres, there is something for every listener. Vulnerability is slowly creeping back into pop music as superficial topics slowly weed their way out. I believe that Malone has set the bar high for artists that want to show their true selves through their music with this spectacularly personal album.