Mae- (M)orning

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mae surprised everyone back in 2007 when they left long time label Tooth and Nail for Capitol Records. Long time fans were unsure of how the transition to such a major label would impact the band, and while the resulting effort Singularity was solid it wasn’t considered by many to be their best effort. The group would end up leaving Capitol and establishing their own label Cell Records (which is receiving distribution from Tooth and Nail), and from there they began a campaign to release three separate EP’s that would help to raise money for charity. The first of these efforts (M)orning was originally released as a limited edition but has been re-released in stores with a DVD that chronicles the band’s charity efforts. And if you’ve enjoyed this group in the past, chances are that you will find this release to be their most varied effort to date.

While Mae has always been considered to be a very mellow band, the material on (M)orning contains some of the softest songs that they have written to date. There is a lot of emphasis placed on light instrumental arrangements, and the song “Two Birds” is the perfect example of this as it is an instrumental only song that features some flute and piano mixed in with the guitar work. This type of arrangement showcases that the group is beginning to head into some interesting acoustic directions that are fairly experimental and different from the traditional indie rock that they are known for. Although (M)orning may not have the commercially oriented hooks that Singularity did, it is a much more varied and unique effort that is sure to help Mae further stand out from many of their competitors.

Vocalist Dave Elkins has a very melodic singing voice and the material on (M)orning gives him ample chances to showcase the softer side of his voice. On the group’s last effort Elkins adopted a very powerful style that gave his singing a lot of atmosphere and energy, but for this release he has taken on a much softer and fragile style. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he sounds whiny though, but rather that he is using a different range of his voice than some listeners may be used to. Overall, this direction works quite well and even though Elkins’ vocals are not as varied as before they still fit perfectly with the instrumentals and are sure to please listeners.

I really like the direction that Mae is heading on this release and it seems likely that their experimentation will pay off in the end as it will make them easily distinguishable from many of the other acts out there. If you picked this release up when it was available before the DVD isn’t necessarily enough to warrant another purchase (though it is a nice inclusion and gives you an insight into the values that this band has) but if you missed out on (M)orning the first time definitely consider giving it a shot. While long time fans may have worried that the group was heading off in a more mainstream pop direction a few years ago, this EP proves that they still have plenty of creativity left and know how to make it work to their advantage.

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