Mae – Singularity
Release Date: August 14, 2007
Record Label: Capitol Records
What is Mae?
That’s the domain I came across when doing prep work for my review of the band’s Capitol Records debut (and third album overall), Singularity. It got me thinking, what is Mae? Opinions on the band are split down the middle on our message board. Some believe they are one of the best at creating lush pop songs with a tinge of indie while others dismiss them as “Disney-rock” (did I just create a new genre?). So what does Singularity tell us about Mae?
To begin, the five members of Mae (vocalist/guitarist Dave Elkins, guitarist Zach Gehring, keyboardist Rob Sweitzer, bassist Mark Padgett, drummer Jacob Marshall) hopped a plane to Los Angeles to record with mega-producer Howard Benson (Saosin, Relient K, All-American Rejects, My Chemical Romance). What we get are twelve clean-cut tracks made for the radio. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The production on Singularity is top notch. Whether or not this translates into hits and album sales is yet to be determined, but tracks like “Brink Of Disaster” could make a nice splash in the mainstream.
The aforementioned track kicks off Singularity with a brisk cymbal clash and thick synth from Sweitzer. The chorus is huge, showing off Elkins decent vocal range. “Sometimes I Can’t Make It Alone”, the first single, is definitely catchy, featuring big guitars from Elkins and Gehring. These two tracks are definitely built for the radio, and show a little different side of Mae.
The first ballad comes in the form of “Just Let Go,” which definitely channels 2005’s The Everglow. Lyrically, it covers a lot of the same topics The Everglow covered, such as finding love, etc, etc. In the end though, this song does nothing for me. “Waiting” is a fun song, as it rocks harder than the previous songs. Dare I say the intro reminds me a bit of Motion City Soundtrack? I do dare. Bound to be a fan favorite, “Waiting” is one of the harder songs Mae have ever written.
“Sic Semper Tyrannis” explodes with energy from the get-go, showing a liveliness in Mae that I haven’t heard in a while. Elkins sings with a confidence not heard on many Mae tracks. Unfortunately, “Release Me” halts the momentum of the album, as it is another tired ballad we have heard from this band too many times. While some may defend this song as something beautiful and peaceful, I’ll refer to it as a snoozer. Thankfully, “Telescopes” and “Rocket” awake me from my slumber with the high impact of guitars and dreamy rhythm courtesy of Marshall and Padgett.
Singularity closes with the aptly named “Reflections.” It’s a slower paced song, but it doesn’t fall into the same tired formula heard on “Just Let Go” and “Release Me.” Elkins sings earnestly over soaring guitars and Marshall’s steady playing. “Reflections” could easily be mistaken as a track from Destination:Beautiful, and that is a good thing.
Singularity shows a little different side of the band throughout. While the band still touches on ballads (albeit formulaic), musically this album is far more rock than previous releases. This is clearly apparent on tracks such as “Waiting,” “Telescopes,” and “Rocket.” And while lyrically, it could be a lot better (“Crazy 8’s” and “On Top” could have used some work), Elkins definitely shines vocally. He doesn’t have the best voice, but he sings with more confidence than ever before.
One of my biggest complaints about The Everglow was that it was too safe of a record, and while Singularity is no daredevil, the band definitely branches out a little more musically this time around. So while the record has its flaws, Singularity definitely exceeded my expectations and Mae have released a quality pop-rock record that their fans will no doubt love.
For weeks this album was teetering between high 60s and low 70s for me, and the last few listens have clicked with me for some reasons. I know I'll get shit from Mae supporters (who'll think I've rated this too low) to Mae haters (who'll think I've rated this too high). Regardless, judge the album for yourself once you hear it, but I hope my review can give you some insight on the album before then.
Normally, Mae's sound wouldn't be my thing, but I really got into The Everglow when it came out two years ago. This probably won't make my best-of lists at the end of this year, but I'm sure I'll enjoy it.
Although ... last time I saw them live, they didn't impress me. I still enjoy their songs though. Nice review, Drew. I like how it grew on you.