Review: The Maine – ‘lovely little lonely’
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It was my first time in New York City alone. I went to the Museum of Modern Art to finally see The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, but what ended up leaving a lasting impression was a quote on a piece of fabric by Louise Bourgeois reading, “I had a flashback of something that never existed.”
Have you ever felt nostalgic for a moment that hasn’t happened yet? Or felt deja vu in a totally new situation because you’ve been dreaming of it for so long? Or finally found the art that was profound enough to describe what had long left you speechless? The Maine’s new album Lovely Little Lonely creates this enthralling atmosphere that I have found allows for a unique exploration of emotions – whether felt personally or through a sort of empathy for yourself in alternate universes where you made different decisions.
For their last album, American Candy, The Maine quite literally disappeared, into the woods and off of social media, so when the album dropped it fell on unprepared ears with pleasant surprise. This album cycle was quite the opposite with transparent access to the writing and recording process chronicled in a cinematic web series titled Miserable Youth. The series doesn’t shy away from displaying both the highs and lows of creation in a group dynamic – from moments of “serendipity” when the key is the same for songs back to back, to being days behind schedule and missing the right gear.
The environment to create in was obviously important to the band, as they decided to build a temporary studio in an Airbnb on an ocean cliff side of Gualala, California. As a big believer in surroundings myself I decided to head to the beach to fully experience Lovely Little Lonely.
“Here’s to now and to nothing else” lyrically begins the album on a classic warm and youthful jam “Don’t Come Down”. The first single, “Bad Behavior”, is just as enticing in content and exhibits the impression listening to Third Eye Blind has while making music. The Maine didn’t hesitate to embrace both pop and rock styles without commitment to either, the result is infections but still dynamic.
Like walking into the ocean itself, the album starts off shallow and warm but with immersion the tide pulls you into darker, chilling depths. Like the incessant waves, the songs all flow together like one body only crashing to hit you with words that may sting a little; “And in the backseat when you asked me ‘Is the sadness everlasting?’ I pulled you closer, looked at you and said ‘Love, I think it is’” admits lead singer John O’Callaghan on “Taxi”. Other lyrics read like poetry, “just another lovesick afternoon / black butterflies and déjà vu”. The instrumentals on the entire record are patient but full of passion. More than ever before, each member has to use their talent to not only be heard but felt. The drumming in particular on this record by Pat Kirch is more methodical than ever, constantly changing speed and sound to guide the listener while the guitars work to set the overall mood.
The three tracks “Lovely” “Little” and “Lonely” are moments of total submersion, not in a drowning way but more of a lucid dream. It’s on these mostly instrumental shorter tracks and in “Lost In Nostalgia” that an influence from The 1975 is evident.
For me, “I Only Want To Talk To You” was the song that really pulled me under. It’s lyrics are universal enough to fulfil anyone’s ‘indirect tweet to crush’ needs but specific enough to bring you to tears on a late night drive. Between John’s vocal inflections that make you feel like you’re overhearing a confessional voicemail and the dreamy acoustics it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. It’s a song that makes me ache for human connection, for a want to experience love and being loved in return even if it means pain. You have time to process all of this while “Lonely” slowly washes in, featuring the sound water that is both invigoration and soothing. The track could have been Explosions In The Sky long, so much so that I queued “Your Hand In Mine” to play right after so I’d have more time to give myself closure.
By “How Do You Feel?” you come up for air, surfaced on the shore. “How do you feel? What’s your condition? You are alive but are you living? Give me your voice and I’ll give it a listen, Are you complete or is something missing?”. It feels profound to end this record with questions. It’s challenging, as all good art, friends, and moments of growth are. For some it may be as straightforward as a prompt to evaluate whether or not they are settling in life or in a job or relationship; for others it could be an allusive request to evaluate mental health. Either way, I hope if you started the record numb or became that somewhere along the way, I hope you emerge feeling and tingling and electric and alive with a realization of your own potential.
Lovely Little Lonely is an experience. It can fill a venue to energize a live crowd or shrink down to the 4 walls of your room to meet you right where you’re at. These songs might soundtrack moments in your life, some beautiful others heartbreaking, but they won’t let you go through them alone.
– Hannah Hines