Old Dominion seemingly came out of nowhere in 2015 when they released their superb debut album Meat and Candy. In reality the band were well-known on the Nashville scene as songwriters in their own right and they originally formed to showcase the songs they’d individually written. Following the release of two EPs (one in 2012 and one in 2014), Old Dominion signed a deal with RCA Nashville to release Meat and Candy. That album spawned two number one hits – Break Up With Him and Song for Another Time – as well as Top 5 smash Snapback. Two years on from that album, Old Dominion are back with their second album Happy Endings.
Thanks to the success of Meat and Candy, Old Dominion are in a very different situation as they release Happy Endings. Expectations are higher and the album’s lead single No Such Thing as a Broken Heart is well on its way to being the band’s biggest hit to date. Thankfully Old Dominion don’t disappoint and they deliver an album that is more cohesive than its predecessor whilst being sonically more adventurous.
The album opens with No Such Thing as a Broken Heart, which plays very much to Old Dominion’s strengths. The track has a catchy melody that slowly works its way into your conscious and before you know it you’re humming it even when the song isn’t playing. That’s the magic of the band really; they don’t hit you square in the face, preferring to slowly seduce your ears with their music.
After the uptempo feel of No Such Thing as a Broken Heart, the band gets soulful on the midtempo Shoe Shopping, which is a metaphor for trying to convince somewhere to get them a chance in the world of dating. Not Everything’s About You opens with striking harmonies before continuing the mellow feel started with Shoe Shopping. It’s one of the strongest songs on the record as the band explores moving on from a relationship and shifting their focus from a former lover.
Another highlight is A Girl is a Gun, which incorporates a rockier edge than the other songs on the record. It could easily be a single for the band and it’s perfect for the current radio landscape.
Elsewhere on the record Hotel Key is a funky uptempo number that I can’t wait to see the band perform, Written in the Sand is a wonderfully romantic ballad that ponders the future of a relationship, and Stars in the City features the unmistakeable harmony vocals of Little Big Town giving Old Dominion a little Fleetwood Mac vibe. The most traditional Country track on the record is Still Writing Songs About You, which exposes the influences the band have had leading up to this point.
The final track on Happy Endings is Can’t Get You, which was recorded live. When I spoke to frontman Matthew Ramsey recently he explained that the track was originally intended for Meat and Candy but the band couldn’t capture it properly in the studio. After hitting the same stumbling block trying to record it for this album, they decided to include the live version as they felt it was a true representation of the song. It’s a strong track and the energy of the live version ends the album on a high note.
Happy Endings is a better album than Meat and Candy and to my ears it has the potential to be a crossover success for the band. Each of the 12 songs deserves its place on the record and Old Dominion have managed to produce an album of consistent quality that is sure to end up on many ‘best of’ lists by the end of the year. Whether or not the characters in their songs get Happy Endings, it’s looking likely the band will with this fantastic collection.
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Track listing: 1. No Such Thing as a Broken Heart 2. Shoe Shopping 3. Not Everything’s About You 4. Hotel Key 5. Be With Me 6. Written in the Sand 7. So You Go 8. Stars in the City (feat Little Big Town) 9. New York at Night 10. A Girl is a Gun 11. Still Writing Songs About You 12. Can’t Get You (live) Record label: Sony Music Release date: 25th August 2017