Album Review: The Maine — ‘You Are OK’

Posted: by The Editor

You are a million different little things. You are the sunrise. You are the fall of the moon. A little love. A little anxiety. A skeleton of bones. A mess of ideas in your head. You are not what they say you are. You are so much more. You are humility. You are grace. You are a surprise, but never once a disappointment. You are glitter. You are gloom. Introverted, fucked up, and fragile -A fraction of a half. You deserve to feel wanted, and young, and respected, and wild, and complex, and adored, and so on. You are a million different little things. Just like me. But above all these little things, you are the greatest thing you’ll ever know… You are you, and YOU ARE OK.”

    That is the unofficial intro to The Maine’s newest release, You Are OK. With lead singer, John O’Callaghan’s spoken-word poem, it reminds everyone just how all-consuming, relative, and comforting the group’s presence represents in the scene each and every time they return. Every inhale of breath, every scratchy word uttered, every wade of each sentence’s thought, O’Callaghan always has a way of making it feel like it’s The Maine’s world, and we’re just living in it. In whole, the Arizona-natives have had a knack for cultivating an entire life around their records. From color palettes, to the rising and waning of energy, to independent but touching narratives, to slick aesthetic personas -The group’s track record for successfully reinventing themselves through their newest art is not one to be messed with. As the You Are OK era loomed, it was evident that the group was gearing up for another world-building album cycle. This time, unlike the records before that focused on inner-conflicts of love, loss, lust, and life’s biggest heartbreaks, the You Are OK era was bright. It was yellow. It was reassuring. It was fixated on finding peace within oneself instead. It represented the entire mental health journey one takes when searching for the calm inside the raging storm of your psyche. It was raw. It was comforting. And, when the record finally dropped, it proved all that and more -You Are Ok was healing.

    The newest addition to The Maine’s discography doesn’t just touch but completely, and confidently, stands on the ground of addressing mental health head-on. Going beyond the subtle and varying degrees of tunes and lyrics that reference mental health in their past work, the group made it their mission to center an entire record’s theme around the subject. You Are Ok pushes their craft and talents beyond their usual boundaries to strongly convey a message about mental health and healing that they have never done before. Blending this message together with an almost untouchable landscape of pop-rock, emo, and rustic undertones, the group connects with the symbolism of the album just as cohesively as they do with their fans.

One of the most surprising but pleasant transitions The Maine took on with their new sound is in adding a string section that not only elevates the funky guitar solos and tempo changes but somehow, finally, accurately, translates the group’s mammoth presence into their music. With this and their take on mental health, it’s not shocking to see songs like “Slip the Noose” and “Broken Parts” feel almost like a comforting anthem to anyone who struggles with anxiety, depression, and isolation.

“Slip the Noose” is actually You Are OK’s opener, beginning with a harmonic blend of the group’s vocals before tapering off to a heavier beat. The guitar rhythms that feverishly riff off the melody is the perfect accessory to lyrics like “I was on the verge of breaking down then you came around and not a second too late” that only acts as the blossoming of the album’s mental health journey. The next two tracks, “Numb Without You” and “My Best Habit” were the singles off the record and rely heavily on O’Callaghan’s go-to pessimistic lyrical style over upbeat, loud, pop melodies. They’re fun and worthy of shouting, but it is the moody strings in “Numb Without You,” and the windows-down musicality of “My Best Habit” that really make these two tracks shine.

It seems that the record conveniently placed those tracks at the beginning of the record because the rest of the album never finds its way back to the frustrating and darker themes represented within them. Instead, You Are OK goes on to radiate positivity and healing from oneself and others as the lyrical content and sound swells with lighter and happier feelings.

“Heaven We’re Already Here” is a definite stand-out as the song clashes together rougher percussions and grittier instrumentals. It is an absolute powerful of a track that only gets louder and more rambunctious as it goes on. Much heavier than The Maine’s past work, it was a joyous surprise to hear something so unchained work so well within the album’s sound especially underneath lyrics full of fresh beginnings like, “daylight isn’t far away, my friend, and we all will be born again.

“Broken Parts,” on the other hand, embraces the fact that one must come to terms with their bitterness and learn to shape themselves from that feeling. It’s a bit slower than the rest of the record, but its sonic-landscape and moody atmosphere helps everyone to view this song as a message of hope. We’re all broken. We all feel alone, sometimes. But it isn’t permanent. It’s never too late to help oneself and find that inner peace that fits within all our broken parts. It is a powerful track of accepting all the ugliness we might feel inside and renewing ourselves from it.

The closer, “Flowers on the Grave” is a mournful but peaceful, acoustic grievance that will have anyone misty-eyed during its 9-minute duration. It is an exquisite closing track that ties together every single theme addressed throughout the record. It is difficult to describe the song without feeling as though it hasn’t been done justice. It deserves to be heard. It deserves to be absorbed. It’s not brash or assuming. It’s a familiar hand rubbing circles on one’s back as it coaxes the listener into exploring how life is not designed to be planned but to be lived. It has a self-reflective melody that feels just as personal to the audience as it does to O’Callaghan, himself, especially when he states that there are “flowers on the grave of the child I used to be” before continuing in reassurance that “everything is temporary, even the sorrow you carry.” The track encapsulates everything needed when reflecting on one’s past before looking forward to the future of their personal growth. “Flowers on the Grave” does kick-up halfway through with the strings and drums springing to life, but its message never wavers.

Through it all, You Are OK dabbles in a bit of everything when it comes to its genre. Even though The Maine relies on upbeat alt-rock as their sweet spot, the record turns towards calmer tracks like “Forevermore” that sounds like one is sitting in on the studio session of the acoustic song’s creation, and even takes the listener on a trip through pop with the ever-so-peppy “Tears Won’t Cry (SHINJI)” that gives the record more diversity than expected.

But, for the most part, You Are OK acts as a journey. It explores isolation, mental health, self-discovery, and reflection in 10 tracks that feel as honest and authentic a group can achieve within their art. The album, from its birth, had an integral message that set out to impact every single person it touched. You Are OK, in its essence, is a constant reminder that life is never easy, and, at times, can feel completely debilitating, but it always, always gets better.

Because, maybe music doesn’t necessarily save lives, but it helps. It encourages. It helps the lives of those who make music. It helps the lives of those who play it. It helps the lives of those who listen and find a piece of themselves within the art. Music is important because it is healing, and The Maine’s You Are OK is a healing album.

Appreciate it. Sing it. Shout it. Be inspired by it. Be it. Love it. Because, The Maine is back, and you are okay.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Hope Ankney

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