29th Jan2015

The Best Pop Album of 2014…That You Didn’t Know Existed

by Will

Oooh, let’s see if that linkbaity headline does the trick.


To say I’m a fan of boybands would be an understatement. I’m more like a curator of boyband culture. I once took a class trip to Paris just so that I could get the European releases of the Backstreet Boys albums. Yeah, it’s like that. Sure, I know all the words to the *NSYNC hits, but then my knowledge gets pretty obscure. Ever heard of Natural (they played their own instruments) or Take 5 (their 2000 album Against All Odds is one of the best pop offerings of the 21st century)? I have, and I’ve got all of their albums. Besides the catchy tunes, I’ve always been fascinated  by the behind the scenes nature of boybands. Most of the popular ones are the work of impresario/Ponzi scheme architect Lou Pearlman. When he went to jail, it was truly the end of an era. One group, however, let us take a look inside their formation, and gave us a taste of what it was like to be in a popular Lou Pearlman group. That group was O-Town.


Created on the ABC reality show Making the Band (yes, it existed before Puffy used it to create Da Band and Danity Kane on MTV), O-Town was a boyband comprised of Ashley Parker Angel, Erik-Michael Estrada, Jacob Underwood, Trevor Penick, and Dan Miller. The show followed their American Idol-style auditions to the group member selection. Over the course of 3 seasons, we witnessed the rise and fall of an American boyband. We were there when they released their first, self-titled album (the highs!) and we were also there when the guys watched as *NSYNC sued Lou Pearlman, causing them to worry about their own contracts (the lows!). We were also there when they released their first single, “Liquid Dreams” – yes, it’s about nocturnal emissions, yet got heavy airplay on radio. God bless America! During the third season of Making the Band, the group’s second CD, O2, came out, and nobody seemed to care. The boyband thing still had a little life left in it, but fans just weren’t feeling O-Town’s wet dreams anymore. So, they went their separate ways. Until last year. With the exception of Ashley, the rest of the guys reunited and recorded Lines & Circles – the best pop album of 2014 that you didn’t even know existed.

O-Town 2014

As much as I follow boybands, I didn’t even know this album existed. I knew it was in the works, but I had no idea it was “in the wild”. Quietly released on August 24th, 2014, Lines & Circles is a short, intimate affair. At 10 tracks, it clocks in around 37 minutes – giving you just enough, but leaving you wanting more. While the album kicks off with the funky “Chasin’ After You”, it really hits its stride on the powerful ballad “Skydive”. Though O-Town’s legacy will probably always be “All Or Nothing”, I feel like “Skydive” is the most earnest song the group has ever performed. Easily the best track on the album. Next up, you’ve got the synth-heavy “Rewind” which sounds like it could’ve been from Taylor Swift’s 1989 sessions. Then, we have “Playing With Fire”, which sounds like a fun summer song, and sounds like something you’d hear from One Direction. “I Won’t Lose” is a nice acoustic ballad, and it should really be released as a single. “Right Kinda Wrong” feels kinda dated, like it wouldn’t have been out of place on *NSYNC’s Celebrity album. “Buried Alive” is an acoustic bluesy track which showcases each of the guys’ voices without all of the production layered over them. “Got To Go” is the Journey-ist song on the album. “Sometimes Love Ain’t Enough” sounds like the spiritual successor to “All Or Nothing”, both in theme and arrangement. The album wraps up with the breathy title track, “Lines & Circles”, which doesn’t really sound like an album capper. Instead, you’re wondering “What’s next?” I guess that’s a better note on which to go out than having the listener going “Please end already!” In all, it’s a great listen, from beginning to end. I can’t remember last time I felt that way about an album. Sure, Swift’s 1989 came close, but I felt that album had more filler tracks than this one. Prior to listening to Lines & Circles, 1989 was my pick for pop album of 2014. Now, however, I’ve got to change my vote. But don’t take my word for it – listen to the whole thing below!

And if the Spotify links didn’t work for you, here’s the video to “Skydive”: