They may have been around for more than 18 years, but Little Big Town has really been on a roll since scoring their first No. 1 country song--and first Grammy--with 2012's "Pontoon." The quartet notched the same double slay with 2014's "Girl Crush," and are halfway there to doing it again with current hit "Better Man," the chart-topping first single off their seventh studio album, The Breaker. Written by Taylor Swift--who, even though she has gone pop, still knows how to compose a killer country tune--"Better Man" is a bittersweet beauty of a breakup song where to "know why we had to say goodbye like the back of my hand" doesn't help in the middle of the night.
Rebounding from the Pharrell Williams-produced detour of 2016 -- the mini-LP Wanderlust, which seemed to be commercially abandoned as soon as it was released -- Little Big Town get back to basics on The Breaker, the de facto sequel to their 2014 blockbuster Pain Killer. That album was anchored on "Girl Crush," a smoldering slow-burner that crossed over into the pop charts because it sounded more Southern Californian than Southern, and the same could be said for The Breaker. Here, the quartet double down on soft rock and supple harmonies, sounding like a 21st century revival of Fleetwood Mac, albeit one without the roiling internal tension.
The eighth album by Little Big Town comes so quickly on the heels of their last, 2016's Wanderlust, that it feels like a bit of a course correction, and a reassurance to the Nashville fans that nurtured the Alabama country group since the early '00s. That previous album was a marked shift for the quartet, an unapologetic pop record featuring production from The Neptunes and a little help from Justin Timberlake. The Breaker sets them back comfortably into the world of modern country, a place that avoids any concept of the future.
Shortly after 2014's "Girl Crush" provided Little Big Town with their first taste of pop crossover stardom, the country group quietly released Wanderlust, a left-of-center Pharrell collaboration that drew from funk, R&B and dance music. Less than a year later, the vocal quartet is back with The Breaker, a back-to-basics country record that returns the spotlight to the group's unmatched ability to transform subtle Nashville lyricism into major pop drama - this time with no small assist from songwriters like Taylor Swift and industry scribes like Lori McKenna and Natalie Hemby. Produced by Jay Joyce, who helmed 2014's Pain Killer, the group's Fleetwood Mac power harmonies return front and center, forming the emotional backbone of tearjerkers like "When Someone Stops Loving You" and "Better Man," the Hot Country chart-topping showcase for lead singer Karen Fairchild.