Posted: by The Editor
The Maine has a way of creating a world out of each new era they transition through. They’re a rare breed of band that succeeds at seamlessly cultivating an environment for each record that feels as engaging and fresh as the last. With their newest, the Arizona rockers return to their roots with the first self-titled album of their long career, an intentional choice as they’ve stated the project represents all that the band is and has evolved into over the years. With each track chronicling their collective triumphs and struggles, the record indulges a grittier, more reflective arena for the band.
This is also The Maine’s return to producer Colby Wedgeworth who previously produced 2017’s Lovely Little Lonely, 2015’s American Candy, and 2011’s Pioneer. Wedgeworth’s presence bleeds through the self-titled as the entire project from its aesthetic to its sonic landscape is reminiscent of the highest spirits of Lovely Little Lonely. The brooding rock flare intermixed with darker synths is something that The Maine has toyed with since that record, but The Maine is a commitment to that sound. That’s felt as soon as the electric opener “dose no. 2” bursts onto the scene. The track builds by giving the listener everything they can expect from the record moving forward—buzzing guitars, sticky sweet synths, hearty drums, and infectious hooks. Lead singer John O’Callaghan comes in strong with his charismatic vocals and keeps that frenetic energy going as the album lurches forward with “how to exit a room.” There’s a heat to this song that plays on the best features of The Maine’s craft with its charged guitars and soaring chorus, whereas the next tune “blame” blends their dizzying rock with a synth driven chorus, presenting itself as the perfect sonic blend of what The Maine has grown into over the years.
Following is “leave in five,” a disco-rock romp that soothes the thrilling burn that’s permeated the record so far. Its groovy energy and funky guitars transport one to the dance floor as they move underneath twinkling lights with the song dripping from their lips. Then “the mood i’m in / jsyk” slows everything down. An introspective ballad, its lyricism is like a flittering of thoughts that crosses one’s mind when the noise of the day finally quietens. With lines such as “If l’ve been unapproachable, or I seem too emotional / Life has been a rollercoaster / So it goes / I’ve been avoiding confrontational bullshit conversations / So if forgot to say hello / It’s just the mood I’m in,” it gives an even rawer approach that will resonate with anyone working through a period of burn out.
Heading into the latter half of the album, “i think about you all the time” is a standout for its cohesion between the lyricism and its sound. One of The Maine’s sweet spots in recent album cycles is the exploration of narrative they tackle from written page to studio. With this track, its feverish guitars and rambling lyrics such as “the thought of you is wrapped around my neck / this lonely view is blue and violent” captures the maddening fall one feels when they can’t get someone out of their head. “thoughts i have while lying in bed” follows the same blueprint. The ambient track acts like the liminal space between sleep and awake—a conflict had between logic and feeling while one stares up at the ceiling fan in the dark of the night. Set alongside O’Callaghan’s tender vocals and the band’s moody production, it’s difficult to not feel entranced by the end of its runtime.
“funny how?” is the obligatory sucker-punch that seems to find its way onto every The Maine record. Over the course of their career, the alt-rockers have perfected how to pull at one’s heart strings. Layering lines like, “Even after I’m gone I’ll be with you / On your birthdays and your worst days / And all the in-betweens / Believe me now” overtop a muted soundscape only further solidifies this sentiment. And “cars and caution signs” is a fun-loving, ’80s new wave ride, but it’s the album’s closer “spiraling” that stuns; the track is ambitious in a way that’s foreign to The Maine’s traditional sound, but its flawless execution makes it feel otherwise. Structured around a sticky, sultry tone, the band explores the dream-like mania involved in taking the plunge towards love. If anything, the decision to close the record on a note such as this is a testament to how far The Maine has sonically grown over their career. Just a few years ago, there would be hiccups in releasing a song like this. Now, there’s an air of confidence that the band exudes that makes songs like “spiraling” not only possible but part of their musical repertoire going forward.
The Maine’s self-titled is a midnight record. From its dark aesthetics to its gritty and moody production, the album was meant to be listened to late at night. Whether it’s on a drive chasing the moon through the sky, lying in bed as intrusive thoughts eat your brain, or downing a drink in a dusty bar with friends, this record will be the perfect companion to those moments. Having yet to release a bad album, it doesn’t seem like The Maine is letting up anytime soon as they journey into this new era. They’re only getting stronger. Being the only band from the neon pop-punk era still kicking, their ability to continuously adapt to their ever-changing musical landscape is impressive. And just like how O’Callaghan croons on The Maine’s closer, if they keep this momentum, I think we’ll be “all fucked up” on this band for many years to come.
Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal
The Maine is out now.
Hope Ankney | @hope_ankleknee
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