By Lindsey Gonzalez
When I tell someone that I listen to The Maine, the response I usually get sounds a lot like this: “I love them! I used to listen to them in high school!” I smile, allowing myself to reminisce as this person lists his or her favorite songs from Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, noting only classics like “Girls Do What They Want” and “Everything I Ask For.” As we continue to discuss the band’s progression, delving into some of our favorite tracks off Black and White, I ask if this person has heard anything from Pioneer or Forever Halloween. The conversation stalls for a bit, as I realize this individual has no idea what I am talking about. I sigh and explain, “Yes, The Maine has continued releasing albums since you left high school.”
The more I find myself having these conversations with self-proclaimed fans, the more disheartened I am that only a number of listeners stuck around after graduation. Longtime fans, like myself, have had the pleasure of growing up with the band and hearing their sound evolve. When they broke away from their record label in 2011 to release Pioneer, the band embarked on a journey of self-discovery, experimenting with their sound and straying from the pop-rock genre that established them. The divergence continued while writing Forever Halloween, which remains the band’s darkest and most rustic sound to date.
On March 31, The Maine released their fifth studio album, American Candy. The happy-go-lucky melodies in this album are a sweet treat to longtime listeners, who embarked on a journey with the band four years ago and have finally returned home. It is an homage to the band’s pop-rock roots with a lighthearted message, groovy tunes, and a plethora of catchy one-liners that listeners first clung to in songs like “The Way We Talk,” “We All Roll Along,” and “Right Girl.”
This time around, the lyrics in the album are more complex. While the music remains irresistibly catchy, the words delve into ideas of self-searching, self-assertion, and finding peace in feeling lost. The combination of this familiarly joyful sound and mature lyrical theme prove The Maine have grown as musicians and are able to produce consistently impressive music.
The opening track, “Miles Away,” sets the pace for the rest of the album. Punchy lyrics like “I feel so alive” set the tone for the record as one that is relentlessly upbeat and embracing life. The fast-paced rhythm and classic guitar riffs from Jared Monaco remind fans of throwing their fists in the air and declaring the lyrics to summer anthems like “Inside of You.” The methodical build to bold shouts of “take a trip miles away” by John O’Callaghan fires up listeners as they celebrate the nostalgic tune.
Not only do these songs conjure memories of listening to The Maine’s old hits, but they also resemble the sounds of ‘90s alternative rock bands like Third Eye Blind. The album’s first single, “English Girls,” is one example, as it is irresistibly strummy. When it was first released, fans instantly gravitated toward the danceable melody and repetitive lyrics. The song marks one of the first times O’Callaghan has written about a personal experience, relating a particularly memorable story from an overseas tour. The humorous anecdote set to an infectious rhythm is much like the simple yet electric effect of songs like “I Must Be Dreaming” and “This Is The End.”
Immediately following this quintessential jam, is the album’s only ballad, “24 Floors.” Initially, the lack of transition is a bit jarring, but the subtle piano accompaniment establishes a serene quality, slowly sinking listeners into the drama of the song. This is the most somber track, as it relays the thoughts of an individual contemplating suicide. The lyrics are beautifully vivid, probably the best on the album, reinforcing the overall message with a sense of urgency in lines like “Every moment’s relevant / Bittersweet and delicate.”
From there, the album picks up once more, quickly transitioning into the sugary sweet “Diet Soda Society” in order to maintain its positive tone. This song flows into another upbeat track called “Am I Pretty?”, which contains one of the best sound-bites on the album. The strong melodies in “Am I Pretty?” build to the repeated phrase “There’s beauty and grace in the flaws of your face / All candor and style in the crook of your smile.” The emphasis on this catchy one-liner reinforces the album’s positive message and optimistic tone, while showcasing a technique at which the band continually excels.
The final song, “Another Night On Mars,” is the best way The Maine could have chosen to finish the album. It opens with the growing clatter of cymbals and fingers running across piano keys and plucking at guitar strings. The cacophony of sounds builds until it is cut off by O’Callaghan’s voice. The lyrics are rather simple, but perfect for the endless chant into which the song develops. This final dose of nostalgia takes listeners back to “We’ll All Be…,” the closing track on Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. The familiar tune comforts longtime fans, as they throw their hands in the air and sing, “What’s another night on Mars? / With friends like ours / Anywhere is home.”
While many were worried about the direction The Maine would choose to take following the release of Forever Halloween, the decision to go back to their roots has undoubtedly served them well. The album reminds fans why they first fell in love with The Maine. The mature lyrics set against familiar tunes showcase just how much the band has grown over the past eight years. American Candy could not be sweeter.