Review Summary: An inspirational change of pace for a band with a lot to prove.
Morning time is a promise. If you ever want to see a real life embodiment of hope, all you need to do is watch a sun rise. Something about the skyline’s gradual change from blue-gray to orange feels like an art show put into motion. As the sun climbs over the horizon and spreads its light across your hemisphere, it is essentially spreading hope in your direction as well. It is only fitting then that the soundtrack to morning was created by Mae, a band aspiring for a new start of its own.
Mae had an astronomical rise to success with the highly uplifting The Everglow
, but they fell off the map just as quickly with the critical failure of the follow-up LP Singularity
. In an attempt to regain their footing as artists and musicians, they began an ambitious project: a series of three EP’s, each one a musical component for one of the major phases of the day. They even decided to donate the sales from these EP’s to various charities. Just about every aspect of the band’s new direction was founded on noble grounds, and (m)orning
appropriately kicks off the series with inspiring results.
Gone is the Mae that Singularity
brought into the public eye. (m)orning
features three instrumental tracks, and they help lend a sense of character to the album’s theme as well as the band’s newfound identity. “Good (M)orning” introduces things with a songbird, followed by a metropolitan, borderline-electronic beat. Honestly, the song doesn’t scream morning
like it probably should, but one can’t fault Mae for trying. “Two Birds” is a much more successful endeavor into the world of instrumental tracks, with acoustic guitars, light-hearted piano, and intermittent flutes that all beautifully intertwine to create one of the most breathtaking moments in Mae’s entire discography. On (m)orning, it is clear that Mae is just getting their feet wet in instrumental experimentation, but “Two Birds” is a clear triumph that shows a bright future for the similar projects that they end up tackling on (a)fternoon
The vocal tracks are far more consistent here, although slightly less alluring. “The Fisherman Song” is an eight and a half minute song that was strangely positioned at the front of the album. It features a variety of tempo changes throughout, along with a frequent tradeoff between acoustic and electric guitars. It finally culminates with a chunky solo riff and lead vocalist Elkin’s atmospheric screams of “We all need love!
” “The House That Fire Built” is a similar long track at over seven minutes, with a steady drum beat that drives the early flow of the album. At least thematically, Mae does not hit its stride until the latter portion of (m)orning
though. The EP really comes alive atmospherically after the instrumental “Two Birds”, and the vocal tracks “A Melody, the Memory” and “Night/Day” really follow suit. To be frank, even though the other songs featuring vocals are individually alluring, these two songs are the only ones that feel “on topic.” “A Melody, the Memory” starts gently while steadily increasing the energy, making it feel akin to one’s slow rise in the morning. The song is generally percussion driven, but the inclusion of light piano notes towards the end lends an emotional touch. “Night/Day” is the perfect blend of every instrument used on the album, and Elkins sounds more relaxed and focused than ever in his vocal melodies. “(M)orning Drive” closes out the EP by revisiting the urban aura of the opening minutes, helping to give the EP a cyclical feel.
When all is said and done, (m)orning
is Mae reentering its element. Mae is a band with very high aspirations artistically, and the cookie-cutter pop formulas of Singularity
, while catchy, didn’t do the band justice. The fans knew it, and obviously the band did too. (m)orning
is just the 180-degree turnaround that Mae needed to point themselves back in the right direction. The EP is by no means perfect, as it shows flaws in consistency between the vocal and instrumental tracks, as well as gaps in the theme. But the songs, even if you have to evaluate each one individually, are interesting and entirely original. In the end, (m)orning
proved to be just the fresh start the band needed.