Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mae: The (M)orning EP

Mae's current project is a completely different mode of song writing, production, and distribution than the traditional EP/full-length record/single we're used to. The gist is this: one song a month, which you can listen to for free on the website, then buy for a dollar. Three times this year--in the (m)orning, the (a)fternoon, and the (e)vening (ie, spring, summer, and fall)--the songs will be compiled onto an EP, along with a bit of extra material.

The other cool thing is that the proceeds from these music sales are donated to causes. And happily they're not political causes, which Mae must have identified as being far too divisive to drive sales. They're causes that actually do good things, like Habitat for Humanity and textbooks for children.

If all this sounds like it might have been an "apology tour" for Singularity, you're not the only one thinking that.

The place where Mae succeeds the most on (M)orning is in its evocation of a mood. The morning is related to hope, awakening, and--probably most importantly to the band--rebirth. We're reminded of those motifs constantly throughout the EP, not only lyrically but aurally, when birds start chirping at every turn.

Those birds are more pleasant than they might seem at first, but the album does teeter on the edge of "gimmicky" through gapless playback and weird sound effects that often end the tracks. But if that's the album's greatest flaw--and it is on (M)orning--then things could be a lot worse.

Mae combines music that sounds like it could have been at home on Singularity in the first two "monthly" tracks, "The House That Fire Built" and "Boomerang"--though they're both a lot better than just about anything from Singularity. "A Melody, The Memory" and "Night/Day" are classic Mae, combining Destination: Beautiful and Everglow cues. "Two Birds" is a curious flute-laden instrumental track that would have been out of place on any of the earlier albums, but inexplicably works in the middle of the morning.

But the track that I'm most excited about, especially if it represents a new direction for Mae, is "The Fisherman Song (We All Need Love)". Right away, it recalls the Beatles ("All You Need is Love") in its title, and that's never a bad thing. It starts off innocently enough with acoustic guitars that provide background to a musician struggling at night to write a song. As the song progresses, the man meets a (possibly crazy) fisherman who gives him some jumpy punk rock inspiration. And finally, in the epic-electric guitar finale, he finishes his song, presumably right as the sun rises ("when the light came on").

I think this is a song that you can interpret however you need to, in the vein of the best of the songs from The Everglow. You can just listen to it as a story, or it can be a metaphor about reaching out and helping people, simply because it's the right thing to do. Or, if you're spiritually-minded, I think this works as a song about Jesus too. The choice of the mysterious inspirational figure as a fisherman I don't think is random. Neither is the fact that he extols the virtues of "faith" and "hope" before declaring "the greatest of these is love."

That's a message that echoes throughout the EP: "we all need love." It's an exultantly positive message, which we Mae fans all needed after Singularity. Is this new EP better than The Everglow? Even as "close to as good as" The Everglow? Probably not. But it's nearly as good as Destination: Beautiful, and more importantly, it's a positive direction for Mae's music, one that should leave fans optimistically awaiting the (A)fternoon.

Currently listening: "Here Comes the Sun", the Beatles

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