Sound — 7
The Maine are a rare example of genuine growth in a pop act. After forming in 2007, the Arizona five-piece steadily moved up from their sparkly emo-pop roots to the '70s influenced grooves that covered the majority of 2014's "Forever Halloween." Each album that The Maine has released over the last 8 years has been a solid transition with growth in songwriting and musicianship, leading listeners to the most recent release, "American Candy." While 2011's "Pioneer" and the aforementioned "Forever Halloween" saw the band take paths to more aggressive songwriting with darker and rawer tones; "American Candy" takes a comfortable step back into a softer, more pop-oriented realm. And although "American Candy" certainly is not the expansive record that listeners may have expected after The Maine's last couple releases, it certainly does no harm to the group either.
The album opens with "Miles Away," a track that plays with shimmery, echoing guitars, complimenting the thick and punchy bass throughout the verses and bright chorus. Tracks such as "(Un) Lost," "Same Suit, Different Tie," and, "Am I Pretty?" all follow a similar formula, filling the album with inoffensive and pleasant summer-friendly pop tunes. But "American Candy" really shines on tracks that bring back the attributes of The Maine's previous releases. "My Hair" showcases a beach-ready groove with attractive, clean guitar leads that could have been found on "Forever Halloween." The albums lead single "English Girls" relies on a catchy slide-based lead guitar that adds flavour to the otherwise standard pop feel to the track, reminiscent to "Pioneer"'s "Like We Did." The album is most effective as it approaches its end, with the title track "American Candy" - a '90s alt-rock inspired number - and the charming, Beatles-y "Another Night on Mars."
Lyrics — 6
One of the key factors in distinguishing The Maine from many of their contemporaries is lead singer/songwriter John O'Callaghan's voice. Raspy and chill, O'Callaghan's vocals help to add character and substance to many of the tracks on "American Candy" that would fall short with another singer at the helm. Lyrically though, it seems as though O'Callaghan has not quite decided as to the kind of writer he wants to be. "24 Floors" discusses feelings of depression, "American Candy" sounds like vague commentary, while "My Hair" is void of metaphor of altogether, literally encouraging listeners to grow their hair out before they go bald. The jumping of lyrical themes is certainly not a serious issue, but it does damage any sense of lyrical cohesion, leaving "American Candy" a somewhat confusing journey for listeners.
Overall Impression — 6
"American Candy" is an all-around decent album. Inoffensive, charming, and summer-ready, it is safe to say that the majority of The Maine's core fan group will find themselves very much at home with the album. Most of all, "American Candy" seems very much to sound like a reflection of where The Maine are in their career. After spending years growing and pushing forward with their sound and songwriting approach, "American Candy" sounds like a group that is very content with where they are at. While comfort is a reasonable goal, it does not always contribute to the strongest writing. And for a band like The Maine, it sounds as though some of the best work they can produce comes after being pushed and challenged to grow.