Alternative rock band, The Maine, has been around the block for eight years now representing their hometown of, you guessed it: Tempe, Arizona. If you’ve been following this quintet comprised of John O’Callaghan (vocals), Garrett Nickelsen (bass), Pat Kirch (drums), Kennedy Brock (guitar/vocals), and Jared Monaco (guitar), then you should already know not to take everything at face value, including the band’s name. They have released five studio albums, the latest titled American Candy, which like their previous albums Pioneer (2011) and Forever Halloween (2013), is a sonic exploration through uncharted waves of frequency.
With every new album release, the group’s instrumentation, as well as lyrics, continues to mature. The generic pop-punk band that released Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop in 2007, has now developed into an alternative rock and roll hybrid reminiscent of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, The 1975, and Weezer. From full resonating percussion, piercing guitar riffs, and reverb-washed background vocals, American Candy’s composition is the epitome of emotion, complementing O’Callaghan’s diction.
The album opens with the upbeat single, “Miles Away,” which symbolically drives you away from reality, sending you on a head-on collision with syncopated guitars, making you physically want to put your windows down and joyride. The feel-good vibes progress with youth-fueled sing-a-longs “My Hair” and “English Girls” until the raw emotion of my favorite track, “24 Floors,” inverts the mood and delves into a dark, depression-filled disposition. O’Callaghan and his conscience battle for prominence, while the dark timbre of guitars gently trail behind the vocals in a beautifully menacing call and response.
“Diet Soda Society” and “Am I Pretty?” continue on the eerie path of self-consciousness except are juxtaposed by uplifting guitar chords, whistling melodies, and catchy one-liners like, “There’s beauty and grace in the flaws of your face,” that will undoubtedly stick in your head immediately after listening. The outlook on superficiality in society and the reversal of stereotypical gender roles in “Am I Pretty?” are also noteworthy themes to ponder.
Enlisting the skills of Pioneer producer Colby Wedgeworth in Joshua Tree was a great decision made by the ensemble. The remaining three songs that conclude the album contain the best production and use of spatial location overall. “(Un)lost” utilizes the perfect textures and overtones within the mix, allowing for all of the timbres to fit in their own spatial pocket. “American Candy” contains a reverbed, sonorous snare that begs to be resonated from line array speakers, and “Another Night On Mars” is so well produced that it transports the listener to an intimate dive bar performance by The Maine.