Twenty-year-old Hayley Reardon is growing up. Since her last album, Wayfindings, was released in 2014, the young singer-songwriter has graduated high school, fallen in love, and gone away to college. Plus, she just released her first completely independent album, Good, thanks to a successful, fan-funded Kickstarter campaign. This folk-pop artist has grown up since her last release but wanted to create this album before she grew up too much more: there was a rush to complete this before she grew further as a songwriting major in college, living in a new state.
The Boston-raised, Nashville-transplated Reardon has grown and now has songs that deal with relationships, letting go of the past, and the rat race. Being grown up, she even drops a swear in the chorus of “The High Road,” about a partner who is not direct and basically a hot mess. She may have had some heartbreaks, since she tries to escape thinking of an ex on the slow and soft “Ghost.” The rest of the album stays pretty positive. She describes the nicest guy of all time on “Good;” I mean, who lovingly folds their neighbor’s laundry? On “Fourth Grade,” we learn that Reardon really idealizes fourth grade while giving fourth graders a reality check on their idealization of being older. It turns out that Reardon has done youth programs at schools and camps in the past. While she’s growing up, she’s still looking out for the younger kids. She has big plans for the future and her soon-to-be long-distance relationship on “When I Get to Tennessee.” I hope she was able to realize those plans, like buying a bike with a basket and making friends with a banjo player. There is a banjo on “The Going” – did a friendship blossom in the studio? Inquiring minds want to know.
Reardon is still creating folk-pop, but it has a slight country twang thanks to a pedal steel and the aforementioned banjo on a couple of songs. Maybe it was the move to Nashville that inspired it, maybe Reardon was just heading down that folksy road that leads into country territory anyway. Her voice sounds so much more mature than her years, going from low and raspy to high and clear. The folkiness hits its peak on the acoustic “Work More” with Reardon’s voice commanding attention.
Reardon is at her best with the slow, sentimental stuff: “Ghost” and “The Going” have a haunting quality to them. Most of the songs are slow and sentimental, that’s why the faster songs stick out like sore thumbs. “Paper Mache” is a head scratcher in that it doesn’t sound anything like the rest of the album. It sounds just like a John Mayer song, complete with a funky guitar and some keys. It really doesn’t sound like a Hayley Reardon song and sounds odd mixed in with the rest of the album, especially being such an upbeat song stuck in between the slower, folksy “Ghost” and “The Going.” “The High Road” gets upbeat as well and has ‘80s inspiration with synth, a big ol’ electric strum, and percussion that may include both cymbals and sleigh bells. They’re not bad songs, “Paper” would be great on a John Mayer album, but they don’t belong with the others and it’s jarring.
Good is good, but it could be better if it was more cohesive. Reardon has a lot of talent and maturity, so it will be interesting to see where she goes from here as she continues to grow and gets her songwriting degree. She’s got a devoted fan base, as evidenced by the Kickstarter campaign, so hopefully she will be able to continue releasing albums and focusing on those folksy, slow, sentimental songs.