Review Summary: Not groundbreaking, but enjoyable poppy rock from the Virginian band's third effort.Singularity- the quality of being one of a kind.
Sorry, Mae, you picked the wrong album title. It is safe to say that this album is truly the antithesis of its album title. There is nothing new here. Mae fits right inside a niche perfectly crafted for radio hits and certain success in today’s teenage music scene. Yes, I said perfectly crafted. The correct album title here is certainly not Duplicity
, implying that it is inferior to other works. Maybe Singularity
fits in the matter that Mae are one of few that produce an enjoyable album with this sound.
The third full-length album from the band finds a more confident, sleeker sound. The production is flawless, always bringing out the important melodies and instruments when needed, ranging from standard guitar riffs to what really makes the album enjoyable, catchy synth and confident vocals, due to the band’s move from Tooth and Nail to Capitol. Opening track “Brink of Disaster” brings in bombastic synth and great vocal range from vocalist Dave Elkins, showing the best side of the album. While not the fastest, it feels one of the most aggressive songs and biggest songs on the album, all aided by the excellent production. The first half of the album continues along this line of sound, Jimmy Eat World on Futures with a synth, without the same success as the opening track. Even the lead single “Sometimes I Can’t Make It Alone” isn’t quite as catchy. Still, those songs are enjoyable listens, although not very original. “Sic Semper Tyrannis”, somewhat of a halfway point on the album, brings the catchiness back, with better guitars and fantastic vocal harmonies in the chorus singing “All hands on deck we’re going down.” The song title translates to “death to tyrants” and was Virginia’s motto as well as the Union’s 22nd regiment of colored troops in the Civil War. That regiment lost 217 men in the last year of the war, a connection to the song’s lyrics dealing with death.
The second half of the album changes sound, specifically in the guitar style. Delay pedals and chorus effects take place of the distortion. “Release Me” begins with just that guitar, a fitting introduction the sound. However, this sound capitulates on “Rocket”, which slowly brews down from the intensity on “Telescopes” into an awesome riff that might fit on a Failure album. The spacey atmosphere is mastered with vocal effects and heavy emphasis on the toms on the drum kit. Later in the song, the synth perfectly compliments the new guitar sound in a variation on the main melody. Overall, the second half of the album is much more sublime than the first, a bit more like their previous work. Here, it works because it is not a full album of the sound. Of the band’s softer side, album closer “Reflections” represents the band at its best. Splashy cymbals, reverberated guitars, and a creative bassline set the stage for some low key vocals. The song never climaxes, and instead tapers off into strange ambience.
There are two basic problems with Singularity
. The first of which is a problem plaguing many mainstream bands these days, and that is unoriginality and lack of variety. While different sounds are represented on this album, they still get old fast. It makes for only a few standout tracks and makes the rest of the album rather tepid. The styles have all been done before, and done better. The lyrics are the worst part of the album, mostly vague and tiptoeing the line between cliché and original. Lines like “We’re chasing heaven as it fades into black” are great but then Elkins sings “I will not slow down until I make it back into your arms” and it throws the lyrics into a balance beam between greatness and mediocrity. The standouts from the album are fantastic, however, and it shows that Mae could extend their sound. Unfortunately, as with The Everglow, Singularity is a safe record, afraid to think outside the box. For now they’re content with fine-tuning the interior of it.