Sounds like … progressive power pop touched with emo, with fair comparisons to Jimmy Eat World, Sanctus Real, Smashing Pumpkins, Sunny Day Real Estate, and The Juliana Theory.At a glance … although the themes aren't specific, they still depict a journey of faith on this beautiful and mesmerizing recording that's elevated by the band's impressive talents.Track Listing PrologueWe're So Far AwaySomeone Else's ArmsSuspensionThis Is the CountdownPainlessThe OceanBreakdownMistakes We Knew We Were MakingCover MeThe EverglowReady and Waiting to FallAnythingThe Sun and the Moon Epilogue

This progressive power pop band got its start within Christian music, but soon developed a following with the indie rock club scene. Before long, they made considerable ripples in the mainstream market, helping their latest album debut at the top of the Billboard Christian albums chart. And no, we're not talking about Switchfoot.

Mae, hailing from Norfolk, Virginia, probably couldn't have anticipated the swift and strong response to their music. Their 2003 debut Destination: Beautiful has sold more than 70,000 copies with very little marketing and radio play—not too shabby for a fledgling band fresh out of college. But now comes The Everglow, a bonafide concept album and one of the year's most pleasant musical surprises. They were good before, but who knew they were this good?

Incidentally, Mae stands for Multi-sensory Aesthetic Experience. The band's founders are keen on the idea of tapping into the sensation of music—how do our experiences and senses generate emotional responses through art and sound? They seem to have touched on something special here, with an exquisite sound and a booklet of artwork intended to complement the songs. Yet it's hard to peg why Mae tickles the senses so. We've heard similar-styled power pop bands before, nor is this the first to enhance the music with artwork. But Mae would be rich if they could bottle and sell whatever it is they've got.

Imagine Jimmy Eat World without the punk or Sanctus Real with more intricate musicianship. Some have characterized Mae as emo, but they're far more melodic and not as hard as most bands in that genre—like Sunny Day Real Estate and The Juliana Theory with stronger pop sensibilities. Glistening piano and keyboards intertwine with guitar solos and dense power chords, all grounded by a confident rhythm section that's not afraid to let fly some atypical patterns and fills. It doesn't hurt to have Ken Andrews (Pete Yorn, Blink 182) producing either, and lead vocalist Dave Elkins sounds better this time blending into the overall mix. This is an exceptionally good band, with all five members playing and embellishing with distinction throughout.

p>The Everglow goes one step further by connecting artwork to the songs for an experience somewhat reminiscent of the Agapeland storybook records from the '70s and '80s. The Everglow's watercolor sketches—a style reminiscent of Maurice Sendak's art in Where the Wild Things Are—evoke childhood innocence in their simplicity, yet there's enough there to draw on the emotions of adults. There's also a charming audio prologue and epilogue that encourages listeners to follow along with the lyrics and pictures for the hour-long journey.