Imagine your perfect summer day: the sun’s warmth, the thrill of adventure. Now, capture that feeling in sound and you’ve got Zach Bryan’s new self-titled album. Blending summer’s joy, friendship, growth, and heartache, Bryan’s essence is intricately entwined within the fabric of each song. Acting as singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer, he has poured his heart and soul into this collection. The result? An album that speaks to the human experience, regardless of your typical musical taste. It’s a journey through life’s seasons. Extending beyond just a standard melody; the album is a shared narrative, connecting us all through his stories. Zach Bryan’s vulnerability shines as he not only mirrors our joys and sorrows but also crafts a reflective mirror, compelling us to deeply reflect ourselves.
If you had asked me a couple of years ago, many of his fans today would not have been able to tell you who Zach Bryan was. Back in 2021, he was serving in the Navy, releasing the occasional DIY track in his spare time. Bryan first found success on Twitter of all places, sharing videos of himself playing heartfelt melodies in outdoorsy settings. By the time 2022 rolled around, he had a major label release and a top 10 song under his belt. It didn’t take long before Bryan developed a cult-like following and had beloved fans rooting for him to make more music–guilty.
The album starts off strong with a poem, “Fear and Fridays.” The bone-chillingly deep track sets the tone for the next 15 songs. Zach’s soft voice singing, “I do not and will not fear tomorrow because I feel as though today has been enough” truly pierced my soul. I may have also shed a few tears. He pushes the idea of living and loving for today without the fear of what’s to come—to completely and fully live in the moment.
The next track on the album is where the music hits. Sampling the American national anthem, Bryan shares his roots with listeners. Divulging details about his life, his work, and the journeys throughout, he gives us more of an upbeat tune to vibe with. However, the next few songs stay true to Zach’s singer-songwriter style that his audience has grown to love.
Encompassing more than just your typical heartbreak anthems, Bryan also touches on themes of friendship. On “El Dorado,” Zach describes a breakup of a different kind—losing touch with someone you once considered a best friend. I can say it’s just as heartbreaking as the classic breakup songs out there. The song reminisces about a friendship that has ended and Bryan’s desire to reconnect. If you’ve ever gone through a bestie breakup, the repeated line, “In El Dorado, hell if I know if you’re still alive” just hits different. Towards the end of the song, it becomes clear that Zach is singing about his “favorite old devil dog” from his time serving in the Navy and it just makes the song that much more gut-wrenching.
“Tourniquet” is the next song that just broke me in just a few seconds. Listening to him sing “You’ve been stabbed in the back and the rest of your body, Won’t you tell me where you’re bleedin’ from?” definitely made me feel some type of way frankly, I’m just jealous that he’s not one of my besties to dive into a deep conversation with. The imagery Zach gives us of “bandaging [their] body, bones, and bad day”’ suggests a comprehensive effort to address not only physical but also emotional wounds. The lyrics emphasize the deep connection between the two friends, acknowledging the sort of love that’s only present in a friendship.
The album ends off on a very patriotic note. Zach always finds a way to incorporate his hometown pride into his music. He’s done this in his previous album with “Oklahoma Smokeshow” and now with “Oklahoman Son.” He shares that he feels himself fully when he’s back home in Oklahoma and how you can never hide where you’re from.
The album features some highly anticipated collaborations, including “Spotless” with The Lumineers, “I Remember Everything” with Kacey Musgraves, “Holy Roller” with Sierra Ferrell, and “Hey Driver” with The War and Treaty.
The first feature that appears is the fifth track on the album, “Hey Driver (feat. The War and Treaty)” and it completely slapped me across the face. Powerful is the only word to describe this song. It is a beautiful melody about a person who is feeling lost, disconnected, and searching for a sense of belonging, trying to find a place where the only things that matter in life are the small things. Throughout the song, there’s a mixture of emotions, with references to conflicts with God, feelings of loneliness, missed connections with loved ones, and a general weariness with the challenges of life. Zach, Mike, and Tanya express a desire to escape from the complexities of the world and to find a place where things are more straightforward and authentic. This song is truly a masterpiece, elevated by the compelling and strong vocals of both Zach and The War and Treaty.
Another feature that stuck out to me was “I Remember Everything (feat. Kacey Musgraves)”. Growing up, I was a sucker for everything by Lana Del Rey, and as soon as I listened to this song I was convinced that it was written in her font. This song is Lana Del Rey coded and every single lyric digs a knife into your heart the longer you listen. “I wish I didn’t, but I do, remember every moment on the nights with you”… I’m not crying, you are. Kacey sings, “It burns like hell when two souls meet” and she captures the intense and passionate nature of a connection between two individuals that cannot be denied. It’s screaming love. Poised to end up at #1 after only 1 week out is not a surprise.
This album is more than just a collection of songs; it’s an emotional journey that touches on themes of living in the moment, the power of friendship, the gut-wrenching feeling of loss, and the connection between music and memories. From the deep introspection of “Fear and Fridays” to the heartwarming odes of “Tourniquet” and the soulful collaborations that enrich the experience, this album is a masterpiece that captures the essence of the human experience. With his creative prowess and heartfelt expression, Zach Bryan has meticulously forged an album that serves as an indelible reminder that the language of music, irrespective of its genre, possesses the power to bind us together through shared emotions and storytelling.
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