Today, Friday the 9th of July 2021, the power pop/pop punk band, The Maine, released their latest album in their already extensive discography titled “XOXO: From Love & Anxiety in Real Time”. The album consists of ten tracks, four of which were singles, paired with bright colours and solid block shapes which really come through when you listen to it.
Now, personally, I adore The Maine even though the more power pop/neon side of pop punk isn’t exactly my kind of thing. Yeah, yeah you can attack me for not liking All Time Low much here if you want. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it, or that I don’t like it, I just favour it a lot less than other styles within the genre. That being said, The Maine is one of my favourite bands. They’re just so authentically themselves with their artistry and I’m pleased to say XOXO was no different.
TRACK BY TRACK
Sticky (single, heard before today) – I’m not sure if this was the first single the band released beforehand, to be honest I don’t remember the order they were released in at all. However, I have been listening to them for a long time, and Sticky is by far my favourite from the four singles. It’s catchy and upbeat, really set the tone for the album even though I think it really stands out on it’s own compared to the rest of the songs. I don’t have a lot to say, not because it isn’t one of my favourites but because I do not remember my first reaction at all.
Lips (single, heard before today) – When I first heard Lips just as a single I love, love, loved it. That hasn’t changed at all, but when listening to the album as a collective piece I found I paid attention to it the least. Maybe that’s because everything else following was so new and I’ll be so interested to see how my opinion grows.
Love In Real Time – I took notes as I heard the album for the first time and in them I have written “omg, the fade in was immaculate, the vibe, the flow, the length.” Something XOXO does so well is the transitions and fade outs and Love In Real Time is the first moment I was like OH MY, because really it was lovely. The length is under 2 minutes, however it matches the song perfectly.
High Forever – The transition into this was also notable, as well as the difference that kind of sent me back to other power pop type vibes, that sets it apart from the songs before. Lyrically, there was something to be said about all the repetition, along with the constant empthis of falling in contrast to being high.
April 7th (single, heard before today) – Personally, this was not a song I loved. I like it a lot, I understand it’s place and I wouldn’t take it away at all. April 7th I think is just a song I can’t connect with at this point, but it’s lovey tone makes me want to someday. I will say the change from High Forever to April 7th was somewhat jarring of a difference, though that could exactly be the point. I would have loved a longer fade out, but maybe that’s me being picky.
If Your Light Goes Out – From notes: “oo it’s pretty, the drums are nice, oh wait is that an acoustic guitar??? Oh damn the acoustic, bass and production combo!!” If Your Light Goes Out is notably one of my favourites from this album. It’s a really hopeful song which fits it’s delicate pretty tone so nicely. I loved the way the song fades off to just the acoustic.
Pretender (single, heard before today) – In this we’re back with the delicate, fairy like tonality, something I find very fitting for their brand and the band. It kinda contrasts the lyrical context, I really like the content, kinda has that authentic og era of pop punk this band came from, along with being really catchy.
Dirty, Pretty, Beautiful – The opening, I like the voicemail type. The vocals are super cool, the harmonies add so much, the textured layering is stunning, like there’s a lot going on but also not at the same time. It does follow a similar format as the other songs, the fairy-ness of their production which makes sense if you listen to it ahhh. The fuzzy at the end reminds me of something by Waterparks actually. I think this was also a notable favourite.
Anxiety In Real Time – The transition was nice here too, the vocals are a forefront aspect compared to some of the other songs. In my notes I wrote that it reminds me of the 1975 somewhat, but still The Maine. Lyrically its relatable as someone with an anxiety diagnosis, though it is broad. The tone of the guitar is a nice change from the others. It feels very long, but I think that’s kind of a point and the static was great.
Face Towards The Sun – This, this is probably one of my tops from this whole album. The intro, again, was stunning and then suddenly oh the drums! “So upbeat damn, very pop punk esc.” This really feels like summer to me, where the rest of the album, to me, encapsulates spring. It feels like spring fading into summer finally as this is the last track. I again made another note on the drums apparently. Hopeful again which is nice to leave off with. Reminds me of the beach at sunset in a true moment of happiness. The soft fade out for the ending of the album is nice.
XOXO: From Love & Anxiety in Real Time as a whole is just spring to me. The format flowed through the whole thing with small moments of “ohh that change’, so it is very cohesive. It feels like something you would listen to all at once and together like it was actually written to be a piece of art rather than some songs put together in one place. I think opening with Sticky was great because I had been listening to it for months already and so the album felt knowable. However, I don’t think another single (Lips) should have been track two. It kind of made me want it to hurry up, also I think Lips would fit somewhere else, maybe between Anxiety In Real Time and Face Towards The Sun. That was the only song that felt misplaced to me. The colour scheme was very fitting. The Maine has always been a warm toned band but never I would say as bright, and for some of the production you could say the same. I’m not that knowledgeable about producing so I really can’t critique it that well, but I loved the layering that just overlayed everything. The Maine is one of those neon/power pop era bands that truly is not doing it like anyone else and have always been “them” compared to a lot of others in that style of this genre. The Album really goes to show that too, I would never mistake them for All Time Low, Boys Like Girls, or State Champs. I love that they never fell under that intense wave and era of “Sad Boi, Tumblr” pop punk and started to become another The Story so Far or Neck Deep as many other bands did.
Honestly, it is a lovely album, by a band I love, even if I don’t favour this style/branch of pop punk as much. I really think I’ll listen to this so much in spring and summer. It just makes me want to drive on the coastline with the windows rolled down and the wind in my hair. It feels yellow and orange and red.
Overall, XOXO would be an 8/10 for me. The two points off just because this isn’t my go to style, for myself personally, and more exciting textures and intense ups and downs are something I look for in music. Don’t take that as me saying the flow or the cohesiveness is bad at all because I did like it!! A lot!! Just not a personal preference. 8/10 is not at all a bad rating for me either, in fact that’s still incredibly high. I enjoyed this album a lot, it was exactly what I pictured in a good way, and it makes me feel warm and comfortable 🙂