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Sky's The Limit - Sky's The Limit Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 7.5
Musicianship 7.5
Lyrics 6.75
Production 4
Creativity 8.5
Lasting Value 8
Reviewer Tilt 7.5
Final Verdict: 71%
Member Ratings
Vocals 8
Musicianship 8
Lyrics 7
Production 5
Creativity 8.5
Lasting Value 8
Reviewer Tilt 8
Average: 75%

Sky's The Limit - Sky's The Limit

Reviewed by: Sean Rizzo (09/27/11)
Sky's The Limit - Sky's The Limit
Record Label: Spartan Records
Release Date: October 5, 2010

Mae has been one of my two favorite bands for about five years now. Much like Circa Survive has, Mae was able to reshape their talent into a new sound for each album, proving themselves in different fields. This is undoubtedly beneficial for everyone, but because there weren't very many demos released in between albums, fans were left guessing when it came to how their songwriting has altered over time. When I first came across the knowledge that Mae vocalist Dave Elkins' high school project, Sky's The Limit, released their album through a label, I immediately thought it would follow the above pattern. I hoped that I would be able to grace it with new things to say and new comparisons to make, as if Mae had come back and released another album already. Sky's The Limit breaks that pattern. Instead, it is best thought of as a genuine precursor to Mae; an underdeveloped form. So, I am slightly disappointed and forced to take a different approach.

It's unclear just how much influence Dave Elkins had on the songwriting process in each of these tracks compared to the rest of the band, but all Mae fans will immediately recognize that a lot of what was written in Sky's The Limit traveled along with him when he helped create Mae. I'll get straight to the point. For those of you craving the Destination: Beautiful era of Mae (this is for you, DrStrong), Sky's The Limit is just about perfect, with the most direct and obvious connection being an earlier incarnation of "Skyline Drive". That said, it's not without some very major differences. The bulk of the listener's attention will go to the decently executed, high-pitched vocals of Dave's younger years, the twinkly guitar, piano, and xylophone melodies, and the fast-paced drumming that made Destination: Beautiful unique. Songs like "Under These Palm Trees" drive this point home, with consistent light and airy melodies and Dave's soft and soothing highs both behind and in front of them, creating what can only be described as emo with a penchant for pop, and not unlike what The Appleseed Cast did with Low Level Owl: Volumes 1 & 2. Additionally, Dave's lyrical style is the same as what it was on Mae's debut, probably somewhat indicative of his age when Sky's The Limit existed. However, about a third of Sky's The Limit's offering has major similarities to Singularity, with tracks like "Empyrean" filled with them. Although it's missing the straightforward chord progressions and a lot of the catchiness, the rawness and simplicity of the louder guitars give it that distinct pounding feeling that some of us loved and others hated.

The drumming on Sky's The Limit has a certain alarming characteristic worthy of note. Unfortunately, masters of Sky's The Limit's album were not able to be recovered for this release, which is why the production is so poor. Because of that, Spartan Records had to spruce up what they could with some very rough recordings to make something that is at least clear and listenable. While the musical authenticity of the album shines through because of the coarse production, a deeply painful side effect is that the drums are quite difficult to notice, especially during one of the smashing guitar riffs that dot the landscape of every song. It really is a shame, as there are some exceptional moments of drum kit prowess (the opening of "Arizona" is likely the best example) that lack the attention-inhibiting guitar haze. It evokes some wonder and a little confusion as I attempt to journey past the fog in search of more pleasing fills. Although it's no fault of Spartan Records' valiant attempt at salvaging a good, crisp sound, the overall production on the album is quite bad.

I'll make special recognition of this album's version of "Skyline Drive", as it has always been close to my heart lyrically. For the Mae fans in the audience, your inner fandom may trick you into thinking the two versions of "Skyline Drive" will parallel with the original and re-written versions of "Embers and Envelopes", with each having its own distinct feel and beauty. There's really no easy way to say it, especially in my case, but this older version doesn't come anywhere near up to par. It is a mere skeleton of what became the finished track on Destination: Beautiful. The basic melodies are obviously still there, but most of the harmonies are gone, which doesn't leave much to stand up to Dave's less experienced vocals and the generally bad production mentioned previously.

While it is no doubt an enjoyable listen, what's more intriguing is that Sky's The Limit gives us a replayable musical window into Mae's past. For most bands, this is typically reserved only for interviews, live performances, or the occasional resurfacing of old demos. It is indeed a rare thing to come upon a full album backed by a label and up for sale, rather than a handful of unproduced tracks that surfaced in the deep, dark corners of the internet. As a result, we are blessed with another chapter in Mae's inception and musical progression, as well as where their artistic influences lie. This release may not pick up as many new fans for Mae as hoped for, but for the unsatisfied fans of years past it will go a long way.

Recommended If You LikeA combination of Mae's Destination: Beautiful and Singularity, The Appleseed Cast, hints of Yellowcard, stripped down pop-punk

External LinksBuy it on Bandcamp
 
Displaying posts 1 - 14 of 14.
03:12 PM on 09/27/11
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Lions and Elm
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Interesting choice for a review.
04:23 PM on 09/27/11
#3
Sean Rizzo
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Interesting choice for a review.
How so?
04:40 PM on 09/27/11
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Lions and Elm
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It's so after the release, and it isn't an incredibly important or influential release. I mean, I understand your thoughts, it just seems somewhat like a waste of time that you could spend writing a more necessary review.
04:43 PM on 09/27/11
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Sean Rizzo
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It's so after the release, and it isn't an incredibly important or influential release. I mean, I understand your thoughts, it just seems somewhat like a waste of time that you could spend writing a more necessary review.
I think it's also important to cover things that haven't been covered, not just new things. That and I need stuff to write about while I wait for the few new releases I have to come to me. A lot of what I'm interested in as far as new releases go is getting covered by other staff.
04:57 PM on 09/27/11
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Lions and Elm
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I think it's also important to cover things that haven't been covered, not just new things. That and I need stuff to write about while I wait for the few new releases I have to come to me. A lot of what I'm interested in as far as new releases go is getting covered by other staff.
Gotcha.
06:39 PM on 09/27/11
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DJWildefire
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Band name is too terrible to warrant a listen.
08:45 PM on 09/27/11
#8
brandonisstupid
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Nice review, Sean. Glad to see this very undder-rated record get some attention. Although, the production of it leaves much to be desired I still really enjoy it. However, I was surprised to see you compare it to Singularity. That's been the one and only release Dave Elkins' release that I never really got into.



P.S. Sky's The Limit is a great band name.
05:24 AM on 09/28/11
#9
Sean Rizzo
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Nice review, Sean. Glad to see this very undder-rated record get some attention. Although, the production of it leaves much to be desired I still really enjoy it. However, I was surprised to see you compare it to Singularity. That's been the one and only release Dave Elkins' release that I never really got into.



P.S. Sky's The Limit is a great band name.
Thank you! Like I said in the review, there are some big similarities there but D:B definitely takes the cake. What didn't you like about singularity? That album has always suffered from horrendous amounts of overcomparison.

And Jeff, I had no idea you were so closed-minded. =P
11:58 AM on 09/28/11
xqueenofheartsx
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Gotta give Sean some credit. Mae was and continues to be an important band to a lot of people and they definitely left their mark on the scene. It's always interesting to witness the evolution of an artist and this release is one of those rare times when you can go back in time and really experience where things started.
12:33 PM on 09/28/11
brandonisstupid
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Thank you! Like I said in the review, there are some big similarities there but D:B definitely takes the cake. What didn't you like about singularity? That album has always suffered from horrendous amounts of overcomparison.

And Jeff, I had no idea you were so closed-minded. =P

I don't know if it was pressure from their label to have more of a mainstream rock sound or if it was just too much of a Pearl Jam/ Nirvana grunge influence, but to me it felt like they were completely throwing out their emo/indie rock sound that they had become known for. I don't mean that in the sense that I think they sold out, because I believe a band should be able to do whatever they want with their music, but I don't think they pulled it off very well and I don't think that sound was truly what they were/are. Just look at their EP's after Singularity. To me it was more of a progression from their first two albums and they sound much better than Singularity does. For the record, I do think Singularity has a two or three that are up to par with the rest of Mae's material. But it isn't one of those records I can listen to from front to back without skipping any tracks like the rest of their discography.
01:53 PM on 09/28/11
Sean Rizzo
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I don't know if it was pressure from their label to have more of a mainstream rock sound or if it was just too much of a Pearl Jam/ Nirvana grunge influence, but to me it felt like they were completely throwing out their emo/indie rock sound that they had become known for. I don't mean that in the sense that I think they sold out, because I believe a band should be able to do whatever they want with their music, but I don't think they pulled it off very well and I don't think that sound was truly what they were/are. Just look at their EP's after Singularity. To me it was more of a progression from their first two albums and they sound much better than Singularity does. For the record, I do think Singularity has a two or three that are up to par with the rest of Mae's material. But it isn't one of those records I can listen to from front to back without skipping any tracks like the rest of their discography.
I agree about the general lack of continuity with Singularity but I genuinely enjoyed the twist of grunge or however you would describe it. I suppose we'd have to look for interviews to find out if the record came out the way the wanted it.
06:17 PM on 09/28/11
brandonisstupid
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I agree about the general lack of continuity with Singularity but I genuinely enjoyed the twist of grunge or however you would describe it. I suppose we'd have to look for interviews to find out if the record came out the way the wanted it.

Yeah it would be interesting to see what they think of Singularity know, because once bands release a new record they are so biased towards it. I do remember seeing Dave say that a big reason they decided to go independent was for both freedom from a label and also the ability to produce their records the way they want to. Everybody knows that Howard Benson is a great producer, but for whatever reason Dave and him did not collaborate well in my opinion. At least not as well as you would like to see two talented individuals interact. But you have to give credit to Dave, he did a fantastic job producing on all the other Mae records, so maybe he just doesn't work well with another producer. Maybe i'm biased cause i've met Dave on a few occasions and i'm from the same area, but I don't think he got enough credit for his production of the Mae records.
07:37 PM on 09/28/11
DJWildefire
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In addition to the band name being terrible, I also don't care for Mae. Enough reason for me not to check this out.

Would have to question the sanity of anyone who considers Sky's the Limit a "great band name"
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