Sound — 7
After impressing the world with their wonderful musicianship, thoughtful lyrics, and genre-defying music over the last decade or so, Zac Brown Band has released their latest album, "Jekyll + Hyde." Generally, it is no surprise that the Zac Brown Band is tight. Instrumentally, the band plays tastefully in every song, and each song is truly a unique composition of their own design (except "Dress Blues," which is a cover by Jason Isbell).
That being said, there are two songs that, in my opinion, get ruined by the addition of unnecessary electronica elements. Those songs are "Beautiful Thing" and "Tomorrow Never Comes." I love when artists experiment, but it really sounds like the band tried to make club hits with those two songs. Listen for yourself, it is very hard to describe otherwise. The rest of the album is generally poppy and makes you want to dance. There is less focus on jamming and time changes, and more of a focus on the song that you can sing along to. Most of them are quite wonderful.
There are some very interesting features of this album. "Loving You Easy" is a '70s style pop track. "Castaway" is the token island song of the album. "Heavy Is the Head" rocks hard along with "Junkyard." The cover "Dress Blues," the ballad "Bittersweet," and "I'll Be Your Man" tear at the heartstrings. Oh yeah, and there is a big band jazz song called "Mango Tree." It is a bit of a shock at first, but very well done nonetheless.
Overall, there is still a lot of musicianship and quality on this album, but the album does not really have a focus and it is really disappointing to see the band tread into club music territory. I still respect them as outstanding musicians and respect their decision to try new things.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics are thoughtful and emotional as always. As Zac Brown Band matures, they make use of more and more vocal layering. These beautiful harmonies add to the emotion of the song. My favourite "call and response" section of "Castaway." The harmonies are tasteful and very enjoyable on the big band track "Mango Tree." Zac Brown, for those of you who do not know, is a versatile vocalist. He can do interchange between rock, soul, R&B, and country. His range is not the greatest, but his tone is incredible. He complements every style he attempts on this album with conviction.
Overall Impression — 7
I am a progressive rock fanatic. As such, I give full kudos to Zac Brown Band for continuing to innovate and push the barriers of country music. Up until now, I have never seen a country band cover so many genres. They have been and will always be amazing musicians. As someone who got hooked on Zac Brown Band's southern rock jams such as "Who Knows," this album is a big step away from their roots. The country, southern rock, and focus on instruments is replaced by more simplified song structures, use of electronic beats (in a couple songs), more rock, while still incorporating lots of experimentation in the music. I know this album will grow on me as the other albums have, but this album does have a direction. That is where it misses the mark.
The most impressive songs are "Castaway," "Dress Blues," and "Junkyard." I love the venture into even newer territory, but I hate the electronic elements added in "Beautiful Drug" and "Tomorrow Never Comes." Those would be amazing without the added garbage. ZBB is too talented to sink down to that level. Lastly, if this album was stolen/lost, I would certainly buy it again because it is a great summer album, and I'm sure it will be pinnacle in the career of this ever-evolving band.