Saturday, May 25, 2024
HomeMusicAlbum Review- Wyatt Flores – “Half Life”

Album Review- Wyatt Flores – “Half Life”

photo: Matthew Paskert

We live in a fortunate moment when it’s not just dance crazes and catchy one-off singles that are finding virality in the zeitgeist and resonating deeply with young people. This is also the fate that has graced its fortune upon some of the most earnest and involved songwriting of our generation, especially in the country realm.

There’s no shortage of songwriters who’ve seen tracks go silly viral on Tik-Tok or other platforms. But Wyatt Flores has been able to take this attention and energy, and translate it into the real world in the form of connections with long-term and attentive fans on the road.

In fact, the Flores phenomenon has become so big, one of the fears is that like so much of this music, it has become overheated, with Flores taking some time off recently to focus on mental health and recalibrate his perspective on life. Imposter syndrome is especially severe when you’ve gone from singer-songwriter nights to sold out venues across the United States in seemingly no time.

The success might be positive and assuring, but the music is strongly sentimental and dour, especially on Wyatt’s latest release, the eight-song Half Life. Officially sold as an EP (Flores still doesn’t have a debut LP), it deals with very heavy subject matter and doesn’t let up, and doesn’t find a more lighthearted or even really a strongly up-tempo moment to allow the audience to catch its breath.

This is sad bastard singer-songwriter music with country instrumentation, yet produced with pop rock sensibilities that allow the songs to cut across a wide range of appeal. This is why the popularity of Wyatt continues to soar, especially among young listeners who relate strongly to the this material.

Three deaths of individuals close to Wyatt is what inspired the opening track “Running Out of Time,” which reminds the audience of the finite nature of life, and to get taking advantage of it before it’s too late. Though on the surface the album presents as depressive and melancholy coffee shop music, at the heart of many of these songs is still a country structure and sound. “Wish I Could Stay” is a fiddle and steel waltz-timed country heartbreaker, even if Wyatt’s voice doesn’t convey the natural twang you’re used to hearing from the guys from Oklahoma.

The breakup song “If I Don’t See You Again” is another waltz-timed dancehall song, with writing that conveys wisdom beyond Wyatt’s 22 years. When he delivers the line “I believe in God, but he don’t believe in me” in the haunting sixth track, it’s hard not to feel the depths of depression that Wyatt has gone down in his short time on Earth, or be awed by his ability to convey this vein of emotion through his music.

But for the hardcore country listeners out there, they’ll hear the “ooh ooh’s” of “I Believe In God,” or the Millennial whoops and hand claps in the album’s hit single “Milwaukee” and wonder aloud, “Is this music really for me?” With a strong knack for melody, Wyatt’s music finds an infectiousness that belies the depth of the writing, and may make some overlook the country instrumentation, making them believe they’re listening to pop music.

All Wyatt Flores can do is follow his muse, and use the way his voice cracks when he moves from the falsetto to bring the emotion out of his performances in a way his audience can feel intimately. For sure, perhaps a little more grit or twang, or losing the “oohs” and “whoops” could dress these songs up as more country or rootsy. But this also runs the risk of taking an important ingredient out that has allowed such virality to grace Wyatt’s efforts.

It’s Wyatt’s version of The Fray’s 2006 single ”How To Save a Life” that has emerged as the most popular song on this 8-song EP. Despite being a rather obvious cover from a rock act, it does fit well with both the theme of Half Life, as well as the range and timbre of Wyatt’s voice.

You’re fair to worry if all of the EPs and singles ahead of a proper album release will resulted on one of those 36-song album monstrosities where most of the tracks have been released before when the debut does come. And despite Half Life doing well to develop a cohesive theme in the eight songs, you still feel like defining exactly what Wyatt Flores is remains a bit elusive. Will he break as truly a country artist, or veer farther into sweet-sounding melodic sensibilities more indicative of Noah Kahan roots rock?

It’s all a possibility for Wyatt who is still only 22, and utilizing a host of influences with confidence is perhaps why he’s become so intriguing to such a wide audience, including parents who can enjoy this music with their young adult children, or at least approve of this music above other options.

Half Life might be marked by ruminations on the inherent mortality of carbon-based life we all must reckon with, but the future is bright and sky is the limit of where Wyatt Flores can take this music, and the re-introduction of meaning and depth in songwriting along with it.


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