I think it’s safe to say that American Heartbreak is one of the most hotly-anticipated albums this year. A large portion of the country music world has been counting the days until May 20th since Zach Bryan revealed the album’s release date back in January. However, at this point, I think Zach is just as excited about this new record as anyone else.
Zach Bryan has every right to be stoked for this album to drop. It’s his first studio album as well as his Warner Records debut. Even with his dedicated and ever-growing following, this is a huge milestone for him. However, it doesn’t seem as though he had the weight of the release on his mind when constructing the massive tracklist. Instead, he was focused on giving his fans what they’ve come to expect from him: his heart and soul.
In a press release, Zach Bryan said, “This album to me is all the trials we face day-in and day out and I wrote all the stories on it hoping someone, somewhere might relate or some kid might pick up an instrument and replicate it in an effort to be an artist.”
About the songs Zach Bryan chose for the album, he explained, “Some songs are sad, some are happy, some are hopeful, and some are hopeless, all of them mean something different to me and I pray they mean something to someone else.”
Does Zach Bryan Live Up to the Hype on This Album?
The short answer here is yes. He does. I was torn going into this record. Like all of you, I had heard all of the samples, snippets, and singles leading up to it as well as his previous albums. So, I already knew that American Heartbreak would contain a collection of bangers. However, I was worried that Zach Bryan would add a few filler songs on an album this long.
After giving American Heartbreak a couple of spins, I can say that there is a shocking lack of filler. It turns out that Zach Bryan was just sitting on multiple albums’ worth of top-notch tunes and put them out all at once. Sure, I like some songs better than others. However, I think removing any of these tracks would make the record feel less than complete instead of tightening up the overall package.
The length of the record might test the limits of some attention spans. However, listening to American Heartbreak was like watching a good movie in that I was so engrossed in the stories that the album’s extended runtime passed quickly.
He’ll pull you in with the first track and hold your attention until the end. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll feel everything in between. American Heartbreak is a journey.
The Studio Can’t Tame Zach Bryan
Zach Bryan’s fiercely independent spirit is on full display with this album. He recorded it in a studio with pros around him but, that doesn’t mean that American Heartbreak came out mirror polished and overproduced. While it does sound a little crisper than his self-released material, this record is still delightfully rough around the edges. It’s clear that, along with writing all of the songs on the record, he held onto creative control throughout the process.
In short, if you’re a fan of Zach Bryan, American Heartbreak is going to give you everything you wanted and then some.
Standout Songs from American Heartbreak
Most of the time, I’ll pick three or four standout tracks from an album and talk about them here. However, I’m going to have to approach this one differently. Like I said before, Zach Bryan packed this album with killer songs and there are too many of them to narrow down to just a handful. After some serious consideration, I got the list down to 10 and we’ll dive deeper into a few of those that really struck me.
- Heavy Eyes
- Cold Damn Vampires
- Oklahoma City
- Whiskey Fever
- The Good I’ll Do
- Someday (Maggie’s)
- Poems and Closing Time
- If She Wants a Cowboy
- Open the Gates
- This Road I Know
The Good I’ll Do
Zach Bryan delivered a few surprises on this album. “The Good I’ll Do” made me do a double-take the first time I heard it. Now, I really like Zach’s voice, but he rarely flexes his full range. The way he effortlessly slips into his higher register throughout this track is enough to give you chills.
Open the Gates
Most of the time, Zach Bryan’s songs sound like they came from his life. To hear most of his songs is to read another page of a poet’s autobiography. With “Open the Gates” Zach spins a yarn about bull riding, generational curses, and the hubris of man. It’s one hell of a song and shows that he doesn’t have to live a story to tell it convincingly.
This Road I Know
Zach Bryan closed his album with a poem called “This Road I Know.” It’s a simple track, he recites the poem over some airy fingerstyle guitar and appropriate ambient sound. His words paint a picture of a surreal homecoming at the end of a long journey. It is the only track on the album that I immediately restarted after the first listen. Between the descriptive language he uses and the emotion in his voice, it’s hard not to get lost in the recitation.
Final Verdict on the New Zach Bryan Album
Put simply, Zach Bryan just released his best album to date. When it comes time to talk about year-end lists and Album of the Year, this one will be in the conversation, without a doubt. While I had some reservations about American Heartbreak going in, I also had high expectations. Those expectations were met, and often exceeded, several times throughout this record.
American Heartbreak hurts so good. It was well worth the wait.