When Louis Tomlinson first embarked on his post-One Direction solo career he seemed happy to mine dance-pop crossovers, working on club-friendly singles with Steve Aoki and Bebe Rexha. Then, in 2020, his debut solo album ‘Walls’ arrived and presented something of a U-turn – guitar-driven anthems heavily indebted to the Gallagher brothers. That record might have been closer to the music Tomlinson wanted to make, but, at the time, he was still letting himself get caught up in overthinking spirals about authenticity and the need to cement his own artistic niche ASAP.
‘Faith In The Future’, his second solo album, marks a loosening up and letting go of that attitude; its creator instead “following my heart musically and seeing where it gets me”, as he told NME earlier this year. Like ‘Walls’, he wears his love for indie on his sleeve here, but allows himself the space to experiment, no longer trying to emulate his heroes.
This new record is at its best when he does just that. ‘All This Time’ is a slow-burning shimmer – like a sunset fizzling out on a Balearic horizon – with all soft-focus synths and low, hushed vocals, akin to Phoenix’s Thomas Mars singing over one of LCD Soundsystem’s grander pieces. ‘Out Of My System’ flips a switch and replaces those sparkles with shadows, laying out an Arctic Monkeys-influenced prowler that swaggers towards catharsis. “Gotta get it out of my system / Gotta get it off of my chest,” Tomlinson declares. “I lived a lot of my life already / But I gotta get through the rest.” ‘She Is Beauty, We Are World Class’, meanwhile, marries Pet Shop Boys with Ibiza euphoria with electric results.
Tomlinson also makes some bids for future indie disco anthems, not least on the bruised ‘Face The Music’ and ‘Silver Tongues’. The latter opens with a deceptive piano melody that sounds like we’re destined for a maudlin ballad, but quickly evaporates into a bouncy burst of energy that pays tribute to carefree nights with your favourite people. Slow swayers are still represented here, too: Tomlinson is now an expert at those epic, emotional moments, but on this album, they don’t spark the same excitement as his more inventive endeavours.
If ‘Walls’ found Tomlinson still figuring out what this part of his artistic journey should be, ‘Faith In The Future’ feels much more assured. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel of modern guitar music, but is a solid step forward as the musician continues what he’s acknowledged will be “an ever-evolving process”. Album two shows, though, that he’s very much heading the right way.
Release date: November 11, 2022
Record label: BMG