Photo Credit: Guadalupe Bustos
Hailing from Tempe, Arizona the fivesome consisting of John O’Callaghan (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Jared Monaco (lead guitar), Garrett Nickelsen (bass guitar), Kennedy Bock (rhythm guitar) and Patrick Kirch (drums), recently released their eighth studio album titled XOXO: From Love and Anxiety in Real Time. Leaning into their pop side a little bit more, the punchy, hypnotic beats unlock a new side of the band that many want to hear more from. O’Callaghan describes the concept of the album to be a “real-time dive into the duality of love and anxiety in [his] life. They are such opposing feelings, but they coexist all the time in [his] head.”
The opening track and first single of the album, “Sticky” details someone getting stuck in the singer’s head (while the groovy sound of the song gets stuck in yours). Slick guitar riffs and pop melodies give listeners a first taste into the new direction that The Maine has taken. “Lips” follows the same formula and “Love in Real Time” makes a sonic switch into something slightly slower and more drum focused. This is also the first song to make up the title of XOXO and represents the first half of the album. In this section, the instrumentals take over and capture the rush of falling in love for the first time as well as encouraging people to enjoy the moment and the rush of feelings and emotions that accompany falling in love.
The second half of the album focuses on anxiety, with the song “Anxiety in Real Time” being the focal point. During this half, The Maine strips themselves back to let the lyrics speak for themselves more than on the previous tracks. Phrases like “Now I’m thinking about the things that I should have said // Can’t stop thinking about the nights that I still regret,” stand out in an accurate depiction of anxiety and capture the feeling of knowing that your worries are all in your head, but still not being able to stop those feelings from washing over you. A cacophony of sound builds at the end of the titular track before giving way to the hopeful “Face Towards the Sun.” “Pretender” examines wanting to know someone behind the facade they put up, and “If Your Light Goes Out” is an inspirational, if not cheesy, song about knowing that everything will be okay in the end.
As an eighth-studio album, The Maine show us all why they’ve remained a crowd favorite for over 10 years. Concept-wise, they present familiar topics in a new way – showing how the ever-present emotions of love and anxiety feed off each other and become inescapable from daily life. Each individual track becomes lyrically repetitive by its end and would work better when being played at a live show instead of through headphones. O’Callaghan’s vocals glide over the album providing a guide through the bombastic soundscape created on the majority of the songs. While The Maine does not reinvent alternative-pop, XOXO: From Love and Anxiety in Real Time is a welcome addition to their ever-growing discography.