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I’ve had a pretty… funky relationship with The Maine.
My early memories of them are of me – in my admittedly youthful stupidity – throwing a water bottle at their guitarist on-stage during their New Found Glory support slot at Melbourne’s Festival Hall in 2012. Since then I’ve been a fairly casual listener, listening to mainly the singles here and there and not really being all that involved in them. I really liked ‘Black & White’ and found myself after some time loving it. However, I for the life of me could not get into a single utter second of ‘Pioneer’, their third record. That album nearly altogether put me off this band and when ‘Forever Halloween’ dropped I didn’t even listen to it in full!
I went along like this stupidly for quite some time until ‘American Candy’ dropped in 2015, an album that I absolutely fell in love with. It was in the weeks following that review that I revisited the band’s discography to see if that record had changed my tastes at all. And what would you know? It had! I began to love and adore everything The Maine had ever released. In particular, I slowly found myself drawn to ‘Forever Halloween’ much more strongly than any of The Maine’s other albums. This became their magnum opus in my eyes. Nothing could top that album and the sheer brilliance I had come to realise it was. The songwriting on that album is just impeccable. Whether it’s ‘Fucked Up Kids’ beautiful intro and outro that feel both worlds apart or the simple yet powerful chord progressions on ‘Vanilla‘.
So as the release date for ‘Lovely, Little, Lonely’ drew nearer and nearer, I grew worried they wouldn’t be able to surpass the work they’d created on both ‘Forever Halloween’ and ‘American Candy’ and that the love I had for those records would hold me back and overshadow this new one.
God. I have never been so wrong in my life!
‘Lovely, Little, Lonely’ is a fucking marvel of artistic expression and aesthetic. Split into three titular sections, part one is “Lovely”, which begins with the brightly lit and lush chords of ‘Don’t Come Down’ that introduces the tone for this record and perfectly sets the scene. It’s uplifting and lively yet rapt in emotion and nostalgia. It’s personal and specific yet so honest and real that you instantly connect with the music and make the song your own. As the beautiful sounds and immersive melodies of this opening song drop away into ‘Bad Behavior’, you’re once again thrown into The Maine’s world of danceable beats and catchy melodies that all together tell a story that feels both autobiographical and perfectly romantic. You’re dancing and singing all the while the imagery from the song plays over and over in your head as vivid as a memory.
Here’s where we get our first break as such in the form of instrumental interlude ‘Lovely’. It’s a short and stripped back track that bridges the gap between ‘Bad Behavior’ and the next fully realized song. ‘Black Butterflies and Déjà Vu’ is probably the fastest song on the record yet it still feels controlled and affirmed in its rhythm as it launches through the first verse before grinding to a halt for its chorus. This shift in dynamics is what the core of good songwriting is all about!
This moment feels tender and honest as John O’Callaghan sings to us on finding himself speechless in the presence of such strong emotions. If you know O’Callaghan and you know what he’s all about, you would know this is actually such a huge thing. He prides himself on eloquence and inspiration, using romantically human lexicon on his Twitter to convey a lot of inspirational messages and thoughts. So to hear him sing so softly and fragile that he’s just “hoping for the right words” is a kick in the gut. But the bridge’s build up into the biggest chorus on the song is sung in such a way that you can’t help but feel all of those emotions piling on once more as you think of all the times you’ve failed to say what you’ve needed to in the moments where it really mattered.
This ends the first part of their latest record, “Lovely” as ‘Black Butterflies and Déjà Vu’ finishes with no seamless transition into the next. Whereas “Lovely” was hallmarked with a more alternative rock, pop-rock style on its three non-instrumental songs, the next part, “Little” can be seen as a look into the band’s indie-rock side.
Beginning with ‘Taxi’, this part of the record is both upbeat and jubilant in its themes and sound. The aforementioned ‘Taxi’ features brightly lit yet soft timbre acoustic guitars. The percussion and rhythm feel reserved and laid back whilst the dynamic gently and gradually builds progression by progression until it hit its final choruses which although fulfilled and fully realized are still stripped back from the previous tracks heard earlier. It’s once more wrapped in nostalgia and a love for the old yet this feels far more hopeful of the present and the future.
We then slide right back into the world of the old with ‘Do You Remember (The Other Half of 23)’. By the name alone you can tell this one is all about looking back on life as a wayward youth. Yet there’s a certain way that the music translates this theme in a totally different way. The guitars are bright and chirpy with staccato riffs and picking patterns whilst the drums are sporadic and actively moving. This song is a look back on everything that’s lead you to where you are now and for that reason and that reason alone, you wouldn’t change a thing. It’s a nostalgic appreciation for what got you to the present. Even your mistakes. Which blends beautifully into the themes for ‘Little’ and ‘The Sound of Reverie’.
These two songs, particularly the latter, serve as a continuum from the previous tracks and builds upon the nostalgic references yet only this time, O’Callaghan enforces the idea that though we must celebrate the past and what is has led to, the past will mean nothing if we do not also celebrate the present. The song as such finds itself being one of the most upbeat and joyful on the whole record. And if it’s one thing The Maine do well it’s nailing the vibe between music and lyrics.
‘Lost In Nostalgia’ and ‘I Only Wanna Talk To You’ slowly unwind things as we enter the final leg of the record: “Lonely”. These two feel far more somber and delicate with the first chorus of the latter feeling like the musical equivalent of porcelain yet still spaced and spread out. And it makes perfect sense for it be this way.
Whereas this album has been so caught up in the idyllic past and present, ‘I Only Wanna Talk To You’ wallows in the uncertainty of the future and the existential fear that this can bring. When I heard this track for the very first time, my mind drifted to the thoughts of all the friends I’ve lost in my life and that when you lose someone, all you really wanna do is to talk to them. But…you can’t. And a future where they are absent is almost terrifying. As O’Callaghan puts it perfectly: “I will speak in cursive, about the way it was”. The screeching guitar lines that echo throughout the space of the song and the dual tracked drums reminiscent of ‘Wonderwall’ give this track a sad, melancholic feel that isn’t as on the nose as a sappy piano ballad.
As the sounds of ‘I Only Wanna Talk To You’ bleed into ‘Lonely’, you feel yourself drifting into that sound of reverie The Maine talked about before, as its ambient and bare bones approach of an interlude slowly drift you into your own “lovely, little loneliness”.
Then it hits.
The album finally culminates in an epic and emotional four-minutes and twenty-two seconds of music otherwise known as ‘How Do You Feel?’. It’s melodic and powerful and on some levels, it’s what you can expect from an album’s closing song. A big song with a big chorus with a catchy and emotional hook in some major key (D, if you want to be specific). But this song works in all its glory because of what comes before it. The build-up of this record’s sounds and themes about the past, the present and the future and all the pain and joy that comes with those things all climax with this finale about introspection and honesty that sums up the past thirty minutes perfectly.
‘Lovely, Little, Lonely’ is the most cohesive record The Maine have ever written. The core reason that this record gets a perfect score from me is that this record just feels so goddamned alive. It moves and it bends and it twists and turns yet it’s so well-connected in the way each song flows that it feels not like a connection of songs as a playlist but instead feels like one big body of work, going through different movements. Whether it’s just pads and samples that connect some of the songs or if it’s a percussive beat that carries itself throughout; or even if it’s just simply the pairing of two songs that work in succession thematically and sonically – this album is seamlessly beautiful.
This is the culmination of everything The Maine have done and ever will do. Every song they’ve ever written. Every show they’ve ever played. Every country they have traversed. Every person they’ve met and ever will meet. In the notes and the rhythms and the melodies of this record, you can hear and feel all those things and more. This is an album for the ages and an album that will define their career. You can separate their career into two distinct epochs: before ‘Lovely, Little, Lonely’ and after ‘Lovely, Little, Lonely’. It’s catchy, emotional, honest, upbeats and anthemic. It made me dance, laugh, cry, smile and scream and most of it all it made me feel something. This album has moved me. I hope it moves you too and that you also can agree with my score and what I’ve written here. If not, then that’s totally fine. All I’ll say is that ‘Lovely, Little, Lonely’ represents everything I have ever loved abut music and will continue to love.
Bravo, The Maine. Bravo.
1. Don’t Come Down
2. Bad Behaviour
4. Black Butterflies And Déjà Vu
6. Do You Remember? (The Other Half Of 23)
8. The Sound Of Reverie
9. Lost In Nostalgia
10. I Only Wanna Talk To You
12. How Do You Feel?
‘Lovely, Little, Lonely’ is out now!