- Wednesday, August 01, 2007
0. Last Transmission (hidden track)
- Brink of Disaster
- Crazy 8's
- Sometimes I Can't Make It Alone
- Just Let Go
- On Top
- Sic Semper Tyrannis
- Release Me
- Last Transmission II
Things are certainly on the up-and-up for the Multi-sensory Aesthetic Experience known as Mae. Despite very little promotion or airplay in their first five years, the modern rock band has still developed a strong enough following through the Internet, word of mouth, and major tours (The Fray, Relient K, Vans Warped) to upgrade from the smaller Tooth & Nail label to the big leagues of Capitol. Suddenly, Mae is on the fast track to prominence with their third original release Singularity, which Alternative Press has declared one of the most anticipated albums of 2007.
Anticipation is indeed high after an album as remarkable as The Everglow, with its accessible sound and seeker-friendly lyrics that place the listener on something of a spiritual journey. Singularity is not nearly as grandiose a concept album. But it still relies on thick modern rock with a strong sense of melody (which has always been Mae's strongest suit), and there's still a sense of depth that seems to linger below the surface.
Yet something's changed, and it's not easy to pinpoint the specifics. Howard Benson (P.O.D., My Chemical Romance) steps into the producer's role, and though the guitars seem more primed this time around, it's very much in line with the band's approach. If anything, Rob Sweitzer's keyboards seem slightly less elegant, downplaying the piano and ambient synth patches in favor of the Moog synth sound that's back in style thanks to bands like The Killers or Franz Ferdinand. Mae still overflows with skilled musicianship all around, from Jacob Marshall's surefooted drumming to Dave Elkins' warm vocals vaguely reminiscent of Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional). As far as emo-ish indie rock bands go, you won't find many better than this one.
The hindrance lies somewhere in the songwriting rather than the sound itself. What happened to the hooks that made The Everglow so instantly unforgettable? Where are the stylish riffs that helped vary Destination: Beautiful from song to song? Like Destination, Singularity gets better with repeat listens, but more out of familiarity than the discovery of nuance. Though the songs here are catchy and occasionally complex, they're more straightforward, missing some of the anthemic qualities that characterized Mae's best material. And at times the songs feel too labored when melodies try too hard to be different. The clunky use of the title in the chorus of "Sometimes I Can't Make It Alone" (the album's first single) is less dissonant than it is a mouthful of words without a compelling melodic foothold.
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