The Everglow: An Album Review

Ben Bock | Student of Redeemer 

"Hello, and welcome to The Everglow by Mae." Although I've listened through this CD dozens of times since discovering it in 2010, it continues to impress me. With their combination of accessible, clever alternative rock and creative conceptual directions, Mae knows how to write music.

When you pop The Everglow into your Sony Walkman (obviously), you are immediately greeted with an audiobook introduction of sorts. A kind female voice lets you know when to turn the page of the booklet accompanying the CD. The first true song, "We're So Far Away," acts as a retrospective look at the past 2 years of their personal journeys. We’re taken along as they’re whisked from country to country in support of their first release, Destination: Beautiful. Almost melancholic, Dave Elkins reflects while Rob Sweitzer beautifully accompanies him on piano, knowing exactly where he fits in the heart-wrenching piano ballad. However, as the track ends it becomes clear (insert excitement/giddiness here); this is a true-blue rock album. Track 2, "Someone Else's Arms," makes it’s clear that Mae knows how to build tension and utilize it effectively, sometimes to the listener's surprise. As they utilize some out-of-key chords in the chorus, the music student's ear perks up; stay tuned, there's more where that came from.

As the album progresses, each piece delves into different facets of rock. They are all individual enough that the listener's interest never falters. “Suspension” is probably the most pop-oriented among the group of songs, discussing new love and it's inexplicable effects. “Painless” and “The Ocean” both honestly examine themes of pain and longing in very different musical settings. However, not much can prepare you for "Mistake We Knew We Were Making."

Apart from the creative use of time signature changes throughout the song, the lyrical content is staggering. Discussing abortion is hands down one of the most difficult subjects a wordsmith can tackle. I believe Dave Elkins executes an excellently crafted story regarding the topic while staying realistic. We view a couple who find themselves in such a situation. We see how they deal with the experience and the resulting emotional ramifications involved when another life enters the picture. As a lyricist, he explores this situation with care. It’s clear he knows that sometimes life and love isn't as black and white as we'd like it to be. Wrapping up the album, "The Everglow" and "Anything" discuss love, hope and humanity’s artistic potential in powerful rock settings. Finally, it comes to a close in the gradually building, creatively layered "The Sun And The Moon".

Uncharacteristic of a rock record, the piano/keyboard features prominently. Various bells, pads and other effects are heard underpinning songs in unexpected ways, expanding the horizon of what Mae can do. Jacob Marshall’s drumming shows that keeping a beat can be done in style. He develops unique patterns that fit with each instrument as they have their turn in the spotlight. In turn, Zach Gehring's guitar arrangements are very diverse. Power-chords are used seldomly and as rhythmic devices instead of a cookie-cutter way to present the current harmonic setting. Using interesting chord shapes and catchy melodic lines, it’s easy to hear that a lot of effort and thought went into crafting them. The bass lines throughout the album show that not all bassists are lazy. Mark Padgett demonstrates the power that a creative bass line can have. Acting as an essential harmonic piece in each song, he shows that rhythm instruments can be extremely powerful. On top of it all, Dave Elkins' almost breathy vocal style fits perfectly over quieter songs like “The Ocean” and “The Sun and the Moon.” At the same time, he works just as well cutting through anything Mae’s instrumentation can throw at him.

The storybook type aesthetic for the album fits very well with the overarching themes and storyline in general. It shows us that as we grow into ourselves, we are still children at heart. We should be stepping into new experiences and difficult decisions with somewhat of a fresh, objective view. At the same time we need to be utilizing moral lessons we’ve learned, whether they be through kings, queens and dragons, or life, love and God.

Recommended for fans of: Relient K, Anberlin, Copeland, and The Rocket Summer.