Things Change
New West Records

Raleigh, North Carolina songwriter and American Aquarium frontman BJ Barham started finding his way around a gritty folk-rock anthem 12 or so years ago, growing into his craft and his voice on stages all over the nation and patiently watching the buzz accumulate. Recharged with a new backing lineup on the aptly titled Things Change, American Aquarium barrels through the album’s top half with something between punk abandon and Springsteen working-class poetics (most fully realized on the undeniable, bracing “Tough Folks”) before settling into a potent alt-country growl towards the home stretch. Unafraid to risk telling some uncomfortable truths about his past missteps and even spit a little political fire in “shut up & sing” times, Barham & Co. lay a lot on the line and come away winners. — MIKE ETHAN MESSICK