If it's November and you're a One Directioner it can only mean one thing...time for another album. Four is the band's fourth album in four years, each released just in time for optimal holiday-season gift-giving. It's their fourth well-crafted, packed-with-great-pop-songs album in a row. Despite rumors flying about possible collaborations with everyone from John Legend to Pharrell to Good Charlotte, the band mostly worked with the same production team from Midnight Memories (Julian Bunetta and John Ryan) to craft an album that sounds perfectly up to date, but also just different enough from the usual chart-fodder to sound distinctive. Though the group and its team generally do a fine job with ballads, the tracks on Four with a little more life in them are the standouts. "Girl Almighty" is an odd mixture of "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," Paul Simon, and Bollywood pop that doesn't sound like anything else on the charts, a couple tracks ("Stockholm Syndrome," "Fireproof") follow HAIM's lead and mix Fleetwood Mac-inspired vocal harmonies and sweetly slick '80s pop in a very pleasant way, and a handful more continue the group's odd but welcome fascination with '80s pop/rock, especially the very, very Journey-sounding "Steal My Girl." "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," too, feels like it time-traveled from the airwaves of an AOR station in 1984, where it was happily sandwiched between cuts by Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams. These tracks sound so good they can't help but overshadow the ballads that make up the rest of the record. It's becoming more clear with each record that in their current incarnation, the guys in One D are way better at the fun songs than they are at the ballads. The lads sound very convincing as carefree party boys or slightly melancholic crooners, and luckily on Four the scales are tipped heavily in favor of the kind of songs they do best, with the majority of them sounding like good-time hits that will go a long way toward warming up a cold November night. ~ Tim Sendra
Rolling Stone - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he album is saturated with retro vibes. These songs split the difference between big, splashy Eighties pop rock and more elegant Seventies flavors..."
Spin - "The production is denser than these guys have ever had, with layers of synths, guitars, and more handclaps than you've heard since the days of acid house, and vocals deployed in clever arrangements ....The most consistent-sounding Direction album yet."
Entertainment Weekly - "Power chords and shout-alongs abound, with the quintet emoting about love over organic-sounding drums and strings."