“I’m a sinking ship, I’m a cut that won’t heal right, let’s be honest.”
The kings of emo are back, and we’ve all been dying to hear what they’ve come up with. Mayday Parade have been going strong for a decade now, and with their fifth album, which dropped last week, of course they’ve still got us all talking. idobi writers Hannah Pierangelo and Alex Mayes sat down for a mini listening party of the new release Black Lines. Here’s Hannah to tell you all about what they thought!
Black Lines is difficult to get a grip on, because it’s so emphatically different from anything Mayday Parade has ever done. It’s nothing like the kind of “happy heartache” pop-rock a listener might come to expect.
Alex quit listening to Mayday Parade after A Lesson In Romantics. “This [is] the first stuff I’ve heard from them since ALIR that got my attention,” he says.
Though I’ve been following the band since the very beginning, I have to say that I’ve been slightly disappointed with the material lately. Their self-titled release probably ranks up there with A Lesson in Romantics for me, but the last album, Monsters in the Closet, wasn’t the most thrilling. I didn’t know how to even approach the new record and was nervous to hear it.
“I noticed right off the bat that Black Lines is really aggressive. That was definitely not what I was expecting from Mayday. Probably ever,” I said. Alex agrees, noting that he never would have guessed the band had it in them. “I felt that they were trying too hard to get outside their comfort zone a few times,” he adds.
This album takes on a gritty, angry tone, which is completely new territory for Mayday. It came completely out of left field for me. Opening with “One of Them Will Destroy The Other” really pushes this record into a darker, fiercer tone from the start. The guest vocals from Dan Lambton of Real Friends are great and I loved hearing Derek and Dan together on this track. I think it’s one of the best on the record.
Though the new sound is arresting, it’s unapologetic, and it’s commendable that the band ventured so far out of their comfort zone on this release. Perhaps the downfall of Black Lines though, is that Mayday Parade has tried to move into an already overpopulated area of music.
The album relies on just a couple of slower, softer tracks like “Letting Go,” “Narrow,” and “Look Up and See Infinity, Look Down and See Nothing” to break up the intensity. “‘Letting Go’ is probably my favorite track on the album,” Alex says. “I like where it sits on the track listing and hearing some harmonies reminded me of older Mayday. It could be a solid single for them, and I think it could translate well into an all acoustic song.”
“Hollow” comes across as being one of the most forceful songs on the album. It twists fuzzy, grungy guitars into a bitter anthem that vocalist Derek Sanders practically screams out. The track feels like a forced attempt at aggressive rock that the band wasn’t quite able to pull off. Contrasted with the more melodic, and in my opinion more successful attempts, on “One of Them Will Destroy The Other” and “Keep in Mind, Transmogrification Is A New Technology,” it seems that “Hollow” comes off as just that–hollow.
It’s heartbreaking to finally get my hands on a new Mayday album and not be wholly enthralled with it. Monsters was the beginning of my disappointment, but Black Lines seems to seal the deal. To my horror, I wonder, Have I outgrown Mayday Parade?
It isn’t until “One of Us,” the final song on the album, that we get a sense of familiarity from the band. This is the anthemic kind of pop-rock that made fans fall in love with Mayday Parade in the first place and I was glad to see it wasn’t entirely missing on Black Lines. It’s the most nostalgic track for me because it is so reminiscent of the band’s earlier material. The lyrics even seem to be directed at their loyal fanbase, “You’re one of us / here’s exactly what you’ll need to make it through / good times and hard times / we’re here to fight for you.” Alex and I both agree, these lines seems like they’d make a great motto for the band.
One of the bigger things that this album was missing was the harmonies that Mayday Parade were known for. Sanders handles solo vocal duties like a champ, but it sounds like something is missing without the harmonies. “I do miss the dual vocals a lot,” Alex says. “Derek has really stepped up as the solo vocalist, but I still miss that call and response.” I agreed, “The dual vocals were definitely one of the my favorite things about the band. It made them stand out in the past. I guess maybe they’re trying to stand out in a different way now.”
Despite a valiant effort toward a new sound, Mayday Parade have created an almost dissonant release with Black Lines. Though it excels at disrupting any expectations held, it’s a record that’s hard to listen to without skipping songs, much less on repeat. With only one song, maybe three if you count “Letting Go” and “Until You’re Big Enough”, that sound even remotely like what Mayday Parade have come to mean to me, it’s really difficult to connect with the album. We can’t get attached to this.
Hannah’s final verdict: 7/10 Stream It: It’s worth hearing because this is totally different for Mayday Parade.
Alex’s final verdict: 6/10 Stream It: Check it out to see where Mayday Parade is headed, just don’t expect this to sound like anything you’ve heard from them before.