XOXO: From Love and Anxiety in Real TimeThe Maine Label: 8123/Photo Finish Released: 07.09.21 Review by Sam Devotta | July 9, 2021 at 12:00 AM
“Everything is exactly as it should be”
I know what you’re thinking: There’s no such thing as a perfect album. And maybe there isn’t but for me, The Maine’s XOXO: From Love and Anxiety in Real Time can’t get anything less than a perfect score. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Maine always knows exactly what I need to hear.
With huge changes in their personal lives (weddings, babies, moving out of state), not to mention a pandemic, The Maine had more than enough fodder to inspire them for their eighth full-length and they rose to the challenge. XOXO is both like and unlike everything else they’ve ever released. Each member is in fine form, each song is full of catchy guitar riffs, sexy basslines, balanced percussion, and, of course, lyrics that sound like they were inspired by your innermost thoughts.
If you’ve been a fan of The Maine for a while, you’ll know they don’t stick to a generic sound. Each album gives them a chance to explore, to bring in new inspirations and try something different, while still delivering the pop rock-infused anthems they’re known for. Accordingly, there are some surprises on the album. “Dirty, Pretty, Beautiful” feels like “Am I Pretty?” turned all the way up with a splash of synths, while still maintaining a guitar-heavy sound. “High Forever” is bouncier than I expected, a groovy little treat among (emotionally) weighty songs like “April 7th”—a tender ballad about a life-changing relationship—and “If Your Light Goes Out”, a tune bursting with hope in the face of a tough situation.
Like the eponymous tracks from Lovely Little Lonely, the semi-titular track “Love in Real Time” offers a short boppy refrain—a chance for us to pause and reflect, while the corresponding track “Anxiety in Real Time” leads us slowly towards a conclusion. The repeated line “all in my head” sums up one of the overall themes: Learning how to get out of our heads, handle our daily anxieties, and truly be free to be ourselves. That same sentiment is explored on their most recent single “Pretender” with vocalist John O’Callaghan urging us: “You don’t have to hide yourself…show me the real you”.
Lest you think XOXO is too outside the box, there are plenty of callbacks for longtime listeners; there’s the throwback to “Black Butterflies and Deja Vu” in “Sticky” (“and I’ve finally found those letters lost under my tongue”) or a cheeky allusion to their 2007 EP in “Lips” (“let’s talk about the way, the way we talk”).
And then you have the closing track “Face Towards the Sun” which is 100% classic The Maine, destined to be revered the same way “(Un)lost” is. It’s the type of song that takes your breath away, the words filling up your chest and brain until you have no choice but to let your feelings out. It’s the song that, to me, feels the closest to what it’s like to see The Maine live—full of love and a sense of community and the permission to be completely, utterly, entirely yourself. I think we could all use The Maine’s particular brand of positivity these days.
Buy it, Stream it, or Skip it? The Maine has once again delivered an album that perfectly sums up what it means to be human…do yourself a favor and buy it.