With his sophomore effort Heartbreak Weather, Irish singer/songwriter Niall Horan delves into the highs and lows of the titular heartache that comes in the wake of a breakup. Unlike his debut, which was rooted in folk-influenced rock sounds, this set frees Horan with polished production and mainstream-friendly shine, a breezy guitar-based pop sound similar to contemporary work by Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, and his former One Direction bandmate Harry Styles. Heartbreak Weather is a big leap forward for Horan, confident ("Nice to Meet Ya"), mature ("Bend the Rules"), and even a little seductive ("Small Talk"). Despite the often dour and forlorn lyrical content, the songs are full-blooded and more energetic than the average breakup album. On the driving "Black and White," Horan declares, "I promise that I'll love you for the rest of my life," as the drum beats pulse and guitars soar. Later, on "Cross Your Mind," Horan allows himself to be played, resigned to admit, "Leaving me in pieces, but I swear it's worth it every time/Love the way you hurt me, and it doesn't even cross your mind" atop a slick bass groove and disco handclaps. During one particular moment of confusion and yearning, he tries to fill the hole in his heart on the sweeping "Arms of a Stranger," the most beautiful track on the album. It's jarring to enjoy these thoroughly pleasant-sounding songs while Horan is in so much pain, but the juxtaposition makes for a deeper listening experience. As his ex-1D crew continue their own solo careers, Horan maintains his position near the top of the pack with yet another relatable collection of emotive vignettes about everyday love.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung