June 11, 2013

The Maine - Forever Halloween (Album Review)

I think I can safely say, in my opinion, this is The Maine's best album to date. I've been a casual listener of this band since their early EPs when the band was lumped into the "neon" punk trend of what seems like forever ago (around 2007-2008ish). They then progressed past that label on their first major label album Black & White. After some interesting label drama they self released their album Pioneer. I honestly didn't listen to Pioneer much, but I could tell the band was continuing to improve in most areas. With Forever Halloween the group has written an album I think I will listen to quite a bit.

Lyrically and musically the band has done a pretty good job this time around. The album for the most part sounds like an alternative soft/rock vibe with just a dash of (for a lack of a better word) emo. It has the rock element but it never gets too heavy or loud. The opening track is really good and might be close to my favorite track on the album. I think it's a great way to start the album and it's a really catchy tune. I also really like the chorus lyrics. A song like "Happy" sounds like it could have found a happy place on mid-late nineties alternative rock radio. It's a pretty catchy tune. It's followed by the folky "Birthday In Los Angeles" which is fairly standard in sound but vocalist John O'Callaghan does a nice job of keeping the song interesting. "Sad Songs" reminds me a lot of Everclear. It's a song that sticks out to me on the album. "These For Words" is a piano ballad. I think it sounds pretty good and I really like the way the piano was recorded and how it sounds with the vocals.

Production wise I think Brendan Benson did a good job. The bands performance is captured nicely and everything sounds crisp and well done. I also notice just a few hints of a more vintage sound with the recording technique of the album. I think after listening to this album I feel like the instruments feel fair and balanced in the mix. There are a few spots where I personally might have mixed the drums louder but I'm really just nitpicking for the sake of it.

This album also continues the trend of odd album artwork for The Maine. Their last album Pioneer featured a bearded man with lipstick. Forever Halloween has fitting artwork of a person covered in black and white paint and made to look like a skeleton. I think people will either like or hate the artwork. I find it fitting for the album.

Overall I like the style and sound of the album. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it is done nicely and has a good majority of catchy songs. Some fans may be thrown off by the vibe of the album and how it doesn't rock very hard most of the time. I tend to like the relaxed vibe of the album. If you're looking for a return to the sound of Can't Stop, Won't Stop you won't find it here. The Maine is a band that has evolved so much from their earlier recordings. I honestly didn't think the band who released Can't Stop, Won't Stop in 2008 would ever release an album like Forever Halloween in 2013. I kind of assumed the neon trend would come and go, like most of the bands, and when it was over those bands would all end up breaking up. The Maine has found a way to stay together, maintain relevancy, and evolve. They've shed the old snakeskin and the future is looking good for the group.

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