The Maine deliver sonic warmth on their summery eighth record
It's hard to believe that the Maine have been releasing music for over a decade. With the release of their eighth studio album, XOXO: From Love & Anxiety In Real Time, the group only further prove that they hardly ever miss when it comes to their music. As long as they've been around, one thing has remained the same: The group are always authentically themselves.
“The most important thing for us is staying true to who we are,” guitarist Jared Monaco told The Honey Pop. “It hasn’t always made things easy, but at the end of the day, at least we know we can stand behind the things we’ve created. It’s also led us down some really interesting roads and I think helped us find a unique voice.”
That uniqueness is present throughout this summer-infused album. As the phrase XOXO: From Love & Anxiety In Real Time suggests, the album touches on many different feelings across the emotional spectrum. It's quite literally a manifestation of both the love and the anxiety seen throughout the world in the past year while in quarantine.
From the bouncy energy of lead single “Sticky” to the pounding drums in “Face Towards The Sun,” XOXO embodies summertime in every way. It will have you wishing the season was twice as long just so you can play through the record as many times as possible. Fear not, though. Once the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, you can rest easy knowing that playing this 10-track album will instantly transport you back to warmer times.
“Sticky,” the first single from this new era of the Maine, brought the summer energy in March. The poppy, guitar-led track proves its title right (“Sticky, just like the song in my head”). It's lighthearted and fun, with witty references to Neil Diamond's “Sweet Caroline.”
Coming in hot with a strong guitar riff and banging beat is “Lips.” The song is all about the titular subject, saying that “Lips do more than just kiss.” Even with the punchy instrumentals, lead singer John O’Callaghan’s vocals hold their own. The track is reminiscent of the vocal stylings of indie-pop band COIN combined with the musicality of the 1975’s “Girls.”
One-half of the album title, “Love In Real Time,” is a dreamy, synth-infused offering. It has just the right meld of lo-fi and stylized vocals, perfect for both blasting at full volume and playing in the background while you’re studying. Its counterpart ballad, “Anxiety In Real Time,” comes toward the end of the record. If “Love In Real Time” is a summer day at the beach, “Anxiety In Real Time” is a cloudy night. It casts the uncertain emotions anxiety can cause into the spotlight. Using layered vocal tracks to mimic those emotions, the song is evocative and passionate.
While “Love In Real Time” is under two minutes, “Anxiety In Real Time” clocks in at over four. This relates to the feeling that good times fly by too quickly, whereas anxiety feels like it lasts forever. Like day and night, the two songs share thematic similarities but overall pair nicely together. “Love In Real Time” is the song you dance around to at 2 a.m. before collapsing into your bed to listen to “Anxiety In Real Time.”
After “Love In Real Time” comes “High Forever.” The staccato beat and thumping bassline emphasize the gritty low vocals and make the song feel like an anthemic march, telling listeners to “stay high forever.” In contrast, “April 7th” is a smooth and idealistic love song with shimmery guitar riffs and synths. It's a love letter to O’Callahan’s wife, Megan, who he met a decade ago but only really “saw” and fell in love with on April 7, 2017, he says.
“If Your Light Goes Out” is another emotional plea about anxiety and self-assurance. (“So tell me, where do you go when the hope runs out for a little while?/But you know if you wait for the world, it’ll only let you down.”) It ties into “Pretender,” a powerful track about feeling stuck in your head and pretending you're someone you aren’t. (“Show me the real you/You don’t have to hide yourself/Pretender.”)
Starting off as more stripped-back before kicking into gear, “Dirty, Pretty, Beautiful” is another track sonically in line with the alt-pop stylings of the 1975. A bouncy beat elevates the track from good to a complete jam.
Closing out the record is the most summer-infused track of them all. “Face Towards The Sun” is loud, proud and deserves to be played at max in your car. As it suggests, you need to “turn toward the sun” and forget your worries about the future. Calming down at the bridge, reassuring chants remind you that “everything is exactly as it should be” before kicking right back into the high-intensity instrumental. “Face Towards The Sun” is the perfect end to an album filled with emotion, serving as a reminder that no matter what, everything is OK.
Fans can tune into the band's worldwide livestream on July 11 at 7 p.m. PST. Tickets for the show are available here.