Review Summary: Mae's sophomore album is an alternative rock adventure that tells a story while delivering consistently high-quality music. The band is showcased in this album, though certain sides of their songs were not given quite enough track time.
Dave Elkins - Vocals, Guitar
Jacob Marshall - Drums
Mark Padgett - Bass
Rob Sweitzer - Keyboards
Zach Gehring - Guitar
Mae is one of those bands that really deserves alot more mainstream attention than they get. They're accessible, catchy (though the hooks are not as empty as most pop-punk), and extremely talented. There is no screaming, which most radio stations seem to shy away from, but the music on "The Everglow", Mae's 2005 sophomore release, carries some fairly heavy guitars, at least for an alternative rock album.
The joy of Mae lies in their ability to deliver an adequately coherent storyline through a roller-coaster ride of an album which explores nearly every corner of alt-rock and indie to this point. The band is clearly trying their hardest, which sometimes works to their disadvantage, but despite some longwinded tracks and over-pretentious lyrics, "The Everglow" is a wonderful album that for the most part succeeds in the mission it set out to accomplish.
One can clearly get an idea of Mae's ambitous presentation with the opening moments of the album. "Prelude" is an 8-measure repeating piano track in which the "narrator" of the album informs you that you are listening to "The Everglow, by Mae" and suggests that you read the booklet lyrics and look at the watercolor pictures as you listen to "your journey". The setup is much like the book-cassette stories you used to read when you were in kindergarten, and is most likely intentionally so, as the whole album has sort of a whimsical-yet-epic feel to it.
The first real song, "We're So Far Away", is what really sets the stage for the journey to come. This song is quite possible the best piano song ever written, with Dave Elkins crooning out a retrospective look at the story to come over an absolutely gorgeous piano piece with synthesizers coming in at the emotional climax of the song. It's an absolutely perfect song, and nearly brought tears to my eyes when I first heard it (something that doesn't happen often).
The next track, "Someone Else's Arms", is where the guitars finally come in. I've never been a fan of this song, although it has some nice vocals and a maddeningly hard-to-follow rythmn guitar. Immediately following is "Suspension", apparently a single even though I have never heard it on radiowaves. Again, lovely vocals and a driving guitar (which becomes the pattern for the better part of the album). "Suspension" is a noticeable step up from "Someone Else's Arms" in terms of songwriting, and the album keeps getting better with the following track, "This is the Countdown". The predictable thing to do would have been to insert cheesy clock noises into this track, but instead Mae have chosen to switch between 5/4 time for the verses and then a more standard 4/4 in the soaring chorus. "Countdown" is definitely a highlight for the CD, but stands in the foreboding shadow of the next track.
Up until "Painless", all the songs have been in major keys, giving them a fairly happy-go-lucky feel (which IMO gets annoying after awhile... but maybe I'm too emo rocker lol). "Painless" shatters that trend as the story takes an appropriately more depressing turn. A palm-muted guitar soaked in echo and delay begins the song only to be interrupted by the Mae-standard Dropped-D guitar backed up by subtle keyboards. "Painless" is an absolutely stunning and complex track and remains one of my favorite from the Everglow. If you want an introduction to mae, I highly reccomind downloading this song.
The intense "Painless" gives way to the soothingly piano-driven "The Ocean", which features one of the best vocal performances on the CD. Next is the disappointingly boring "Breakdown", which seems to drag on forever and is by far the weakest song on The Everglow.
"Mistakes We Knew We Were Making" features a simple yet utterly satisfying chorus of "la la la dee daa"s which really show off the subtle goodness of Mae vocals. However, the song is weighed down by a repetitive outro which could have been replaced by a third chorus. "Cover Me" is probably the strangest song on the CD and is another one of my favorites. It starts deceptively soft but then explodes into a forebodingly dark (at least for this album) chorus. The bridge is what really makes "Cover Me" spectacular. Piano and palm-muted guitar begin softly and then are gradually joined by more guitar and synthesizer with each repetition (a trick that Mae uses several times on the album to great effect). "Cover Me" is an amazing song and is most definitely a reccomended download.
The title track of The Everglow is the shortest, but features the most epic-sounding chorus. You can heard this song on Mae's Myspace *pretends not to have a Myspace* Immediately following the climactic title track is "Ready And Waiting To Fall", by far the most powerful song lyrically on the album. "Anything" another highlight with a fantastic lead guitar part and beautiful lyrics. The disc closes with "The Sun and Moon", another piano ballad which erupts into a spectacular finish that bleeds into "Epilogue", which is basically "prelude" with a different message from the narrator.
While nearly every song on The Everglow is amazing, there are some problems with the album as a whole. As you'll notice as you listen to the CD, every song is a guitar-driven anthem except for the opening and closing tracks (that's excluding "prelude" and "epilogue"). Mae set out to create an epic-sounding album but failed to realize that an epic album needs downs as well as ups. Thus, The Everglow ends up sounding repetitive, which is a shame since the quality of some of the songs is lost to the constant loud-ness of the CD. Clocking in at over an hour long, the relentless emotion of the guitar songs makes listening to this album all the way through somewhat of a chore which could have been easily remedied by throwing some high-quality ballads into the mix. A positive effect to this unfortunate oversight is that both piano ballads are all the better because of their scarcity.
Misgivings aside, The Everglow is an indespensible part of any music lover's collection. Due to its accessibility, anyone but the most diehard metalheads should be able to enjoy it, provided they can deal with a tender love story (which I have intentionally left open to interpretation to any readers ;-P). 4 is about the harshest score I could have given this album. Highly reccomended.