Review Summary: (y)awn
Afternoon is the peak time of productivity for the human civilization. The same cannot be said for Mae.
is the second release in Mae’s series of concept EPs, appropriately placed between early 2009’s (m)orning
and late 2010’s (e)vening
, while far from perfect, showed a band that was willing to experiment. It yielded successful results more often than not, while showing Mae’s knack for creating charming acoustic/piano ballads. (e)vening
, on the other hand, is an instrumental and conceptual triumph. Unlike those efforts, (a)fternoon
does very little to entice the listener or remain true to its theme.
The vast majority of the album is directionless and long-winded, with songs that overstay the welcome warranted by their initial appeal. For example, “Over & Over” commences with tight rhythmic guitar strumming and poppy vocals from lead vocalist Dave Elkins. However, the song continues to repeat itself and meander while bringing absolutely nothing new to the table. Admittedly, the section that trades off between heavy guitars and brief drum fills sounds pretty cool, but it is overshadowed by its own excessive length. Songs like “The Fight Song” and “Communication” are even worse off, with easily forgettable hooks and extremely basic riffs that never really break pace. With few exceptions, Mae continues in this manner from start to finish on (a)fternoon
, and the complete lack of interesting song structures doom whatever creativity they might have had brewing.
When one analyzes the lyrics, there isn’t much to get excited about either. Elkin’s writing on (m)orning
sounds lazy, utilizing lines like, “So here we are waiting for June, I hear that we're humming different tunes…
” and “All that I've wanted is standing in front of me.
” The first quote seems like a desperation rhyme and the second one seems like it could be a cheesy romantic comedy quote; you know, one of those sometimes what you wanted was right in front of you the whole time
type of lines. Either way, the lyrics are not to blame for (m)oring
’s failures…they just simply don’t do anything to make it better.
To give credit where it is due, though, Mae does
manage to accomplish some interesting things instrumentally. “Good (A)fternoon” is an intriguing opener, with its offbeat drum/synthesizer interchange and its sudden shift to tranquil-sounding acoustic guitars. It even includes the sound of footsteps, as somebody walks into what appears to be a train/transportation station of some kind. Eventually, the voices of other people in the station begin to overlap and echo, creating an ambient atmosphere that fades into the second track. “Falling Into You” is an absolute hidden gem amidst the other material on this album, with a beautiful acoustic atmosphere that is accentuated by uplifting violins in the background. It is clearly the highlight of (a)fternoon
, and the rest of the EP is a major letdown by comparison.
However, these few redeeming qualities do not come close to fulfilling the EP’s potential, let alone the potential of the band. The entire thing feels forced, like perhaps Mae was grasping at straws to effectively convey the whole afternoon
idea. “Falling Into You” actually does this perfectly (and there are some other scattered moments of brilliance), but the rest of the time the band is unable to accomplish its goal. Chalk (a)fternoon
up as a failed experiment that leaves an unsatisfying hole in the middle of Mae’s otherwise superb trio of EPs.