If there’s anything to take away from this rollercoaster of a year, it’s the music. Artists of all genres have either taken a creative hiatus or channeled their creativity into their craft amid worldwide COVID-19 lockdowns, civil unrest and a monumental U.S. presidential election.
Artist Ashton Irwin has used this period of isolation and self-reflection to his advantage. As the drummer for the band 5 Seconds of Summer (also known as 5SOS), Irwin has toured all around the world since he was 19 years old. 5SOS released their fourth studio album “CALM” in March of this year and were quarantined separately at their homes in Los Angeles, reflecting how the pandemic has affected artists and their ability to bring their music to the fans.
Irwin’s case is unique because nobody, especially fans, expected a solo album from him. One day last month, he tweeted a link to a website that featured a logo with his name and a newsletter sign-up. Next thing you know, he was announcing his debut single and a solo album to follow. “Superbloom” was released on October 23 and contains 10 songs at a runtime of 44 minutes.
In an interview with The Line of Best Fit, Irwin talks about converting his LA studio into a recording studio and writing the entire album over the span of six months. He’s influenced by the heavy guitars of bands like My Bloody Valentine and Stone Temple Pilots, while also taking bits and pieces from artists like George Harrison and Sufjan Stevens. These artists don’t seem like they should align, but upon listening to “Superbloom,” it becomes clear where Irwin took inspiration from.
The lyrics of every song on the album and the subject matters covered in them are incredibly personal. 5SOS music is personal as well, but it’s clear that Irwin was able to tap into areas in his life that he hadn’t expressed within songwriting before. For example, his first single “Skinny Skinny” discusses body dysmorphia and eating disorders. He also touches on depression, addiction, grief, alcoholism and hope.
As someone who’s been a fan of 5SOS for just over 7 years, I am extremely impressed with Irwin’s ability to be so vulnerable right out of the gate. His vocals are featured on just a handful of 5SOS songs, so it’s refreshing to hear the full range of his voice and how much raw emotion he can portray when given the chance.
Overall, “Superbloom” has undoubtedly become a standout album that I didn’t have on my 2020 Bingo card. Irwin lets fans into his mind and every part of himself in such a welcoming way, especially in times like these. If you’re looking for an alternative/rock album by an artist who truly appreciates the process of making music, I’d recommend “Superbloom” over and over. And if you’re unsure of where to start, I’d listen to his family-focused single “SCAR,” the upbeat and funky “Perfect Lie” and the narrative-like “Greyhound.”