LP Review; Mayday Parade: “Sunnyland”

“Never Sure” starts with an instrumental feature that places focus on a motive set by the string section. This motive works within an up and down nature as the percussion section sets the foundation of the work through a solid groove. This groove remains consistent through the same format for a few more seconds before the characteristic vocals of the band enter. When the vocalist enters for the first time on this track, the instrumentation drops to allow the vocals to hold the limelight. It is heard that the vocalist is giving the audience a gentle melodic line that follows a linear motive that spans only slightly around the medium part of the vocalist’s range, which will add some dimension when listening to the work as a whole.  As the band approaches the chorus of the selection, it is heard that instrumentalists begin to dig into their own musical ideas slightly, which helps allow them to simplify their texture while giving the audience a chorus that is simple yet overly pleasing to the ear. Following the chorus, the band spins back into the same make for the second verse. Throughout the second verse, the vocalist spends the bulk of his time in the upper part of his range. This will help to contrast the original verse, while providing the audience with a whole new set of tone colors to attach to. Following another run of the chorus, the band drops in instrumentation to allow only the minimal motives to shine as the vocalist gives a low lyrical idea. This sits with the audience temporarily before the band begins to layer vocals in a canon effect to give the audience an overlapped sensation of different vocal ideas at once. This eventually leads the audience to a resolved mixture of one vocalist and the instrumental harmonies, this seamlessly takes the listeners back to the chorus, which will eventually take them to the end. This was a strong first track for the album because when listening to it, it sounds as if it just belongs in the Mayday Parade family, and it is a catchy tune.

“It’s Hard To Be Religious When Certain People Are Never Incinerated By Bolts of Lightning” starts with a large hit from the instrumental ensemble that is immediately followed by vocals. This tactic gets the ball rolling on the track quickly, which will startle the audience in the best way. The vocalist, from here, begins to give the audience a static but also dynamic vocal idea by switching up his range only here and there. During this moment, the instrumental section is giving the listeners a grand instrumental part, which lies right next to the vocal line instead of playing the backseat. The instrumental part throughout the first verse only repeats itself over and over, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, for it gets the groove of the piece solid while the vocalist is able to bend his lyrical idea; however, the audience may become bored of the same exact thing over and over. When the band finally lands on the chorus of the work, it is heard that the instrumental ensemble switches to a groove center that pulls intent form the half-time feel. This allows the texture to diminish while the band is still able to produce a cool and memorable sound. This is even more significant, for the previous section was packed full of instrumental content, so this huge shift will make for a nice sense of contrast as well as balance out the symmetry of the work. Before moving to the second verse, the band providing a small transitional passage that feature the instrumental section almost in isolation with slight interjections by the vocalist. This moved the listeners to a quick second verse before the memorable chorus comes back to light. Following the second chorus, the instrumentation drops to only chords to fulfil the harmonies as sustained vocals are heard at a distance. This alters the mood of the selection slightly as the lead vocalist gives the audience a gentle melodic line before crashing into an instrumental feature, which will eventually spin into a third verse that pulls influence from the chorus, which makes for a perfect end to this piece.

“Piece of Your Heart” starts with a simple string motive that works through a motion that mimics a step up, followed by a few steps down, musically speaking. This motive works in harmony for a few seconds before a single cymbal timbre is heard. Immediately following that strike, the vocalist enters with the main content of the first verse. Throughout the first verse, the instrumentation is minimal, for they are just holding the pulse of the selection steady as the vocals are put in the forefront. The vocal line holds true to the band’s characteristic melodies, for it simply glides overtop the instrumentals that are set. Before the band moves to the chorus, the instrumentation messes with its texture while allowing the vocals to shine in isolation at times, for they begin to provide split seconds of silence here and there. Following the silence, the band gives the audience new instrumental tone colors such as piano and acoustic guitar. This addition will increase the spectrum of influences pulled for this track as well as stretch the depth of the selection. When the band falls into the chorus of the work, it is almost unexpected, for it isn’t some over the top instrumental who-rah; rather, it gives the audience a simple resolution through a gentle, pleasing idea. They are able to give the audience such an event by providing slight juxtapositions between vocal types as well as the limiting of instrumentation. As the band begins to work towards the end of the track, the instrumentation remains minimal as clapping is added to the mix. This clapping now upholds the pulse of the work while proving a new “it” factor for the track. This will help the track stick out while providing a new sense of reality, for it feels as if you are listening to this song live when listening to it on your own. Following this section, the band switches back to the chorus, which starts out in its simple state; however, the band eventually evolves the intensity to give their audience a larger rendition of the gentle chorus that they’ve come to relax with.

 “Is Nowhere” starts with a progressive motive that is led solely by the percussion section. This initial percussion moment brings the heat with a more alternative genre approach, when comparing it to their previous tracks. This remains solo for only a few moments before the string section joins in. When the strings join the mix, they provide chords that stretch the ears of the listeners, for the music being played sounds eerie, which is something Mayday Parade rarely brings to the table. They are able to give the audience such an instance by providing a harmonically dense texture while keeping up with the initial progressive tempo. The vocals finally add into the picture not too long after the audience becomes accustomed to the overall sound of this work. When they enter, it is heard that the vocals ride over top the elaborate instrumental line; however, it is important to note that there are moments where it sounds as if the vocalist and the instrumentalists are fighting, for the two aren’t working perfectly together throughout the first verse. Right before the band crashes into the chorus of the work, the instrumentals and the vocals align perfectly, which gives the audience a final sense of “awe” when they lose that musical tension. The chorus is led by a half-time groove that allows the instrumentalists to dig into their individual parts as the lead singer is giving his vocal line everything he’s got. This makes for an over the top experience, for it completely contrasts the first verse of the selection, which will make this chorus all the more pleasing. As the band returns to the verse format, it is heard that the instrumentation drops to allow the vocals to shine in almost isolation before building to lead the audience back to the memorable chorus. Following the second chorus, the band spins into a third verse that utilizes instrumentals that feel as if they belong in a track where a major breakdown will be present. Actually, the band begins to layer their instrumental lines accordingly, which would make the listeners think that a breakdown will be the end result, and instead of slamming into an over the top musical experience, all of the instrumentation drops out to allow the vocals to reign in total isolation. This will take the audience seamlessly back to the chorus of the work, which will eventually run until it fades into a gentle melodic idea that takes the listeners to the end. This is a foreseen favorite from the album, for it brings Mayday Parade fans a dash of innovative musical nuances, which spices up their original sound.

 “Take My Breath Away” starts with a string motive that resonates on an acoustic guitar. This new tone color brings the audience to a different mood: one that would bring them to a more relaxed state. The motive itself is quite dynamic, for it moves along a stretched rise and fall while approaching such distances, musically speaking, with ease. This motive becomes the foundation of the work, which is heard as it remains consistent as the characteristic vocals soon add over top it. When the vocals enter, it is heard that the vocalist is using a more dynamic vocal line because he is working throughout a larger scale of notes. However, the majority of the content is sung through the medium portion of his range, which will be beneficial for this selection because that’s where his voice produces the most comforting tones. When the band arrives to the chorus, they add in gentle chordal features with dashes of suspended cymbal here and there to activate some of the texture, but for the most part the instrumentation remains minimalistic to allow the audience to focus on the vocals. After that, the band takes the audience through another similar verse and chorus. Following the second chorus, the vocalist begins to raise where the majority of his vocals derive from, for a lot of them are riding in the higher portion of his range. This allows the instrumentation to play with a bit more presence as they work to finish the selection.

 “Stay the Same” starts with another string motive that mimics a step up and step down technique, musically speaking. This holds firm by itself for only a few seconds to allow the instrumentalists to provide some harmony before the vocals quickly join over top. When the vocals enter, it can be said that the vocal line just takes off, for the vocals seem to blend perfectly with the simple string motive riding underneath it. The timbre of the vocal line sounds very similar to that of the previous track, which isn’t a bad thing, but it may startle some with how alike they are. After the vocals have had a moment to get comfy, the percussion section joins to establish and maintain the steady pulse of the work. When the band reaches the chorus of the work, the tempo increases slightly to allow the instrumentalists to have a slightly more progressive melodic idea while the vocals still reign over top the musical picture. As the band returns to the verse format of the work, it is heard, faintly, that the band includes small, single note motives here and there that adds a little dimension when the audience is least expecting it. These motives will help to keep the similar verse sounding fresh before more of the instrumentation becomes present. From here, the band moves back to their bumping chorus, which holds firm until the band spins into a guitar feature that eventually takes the audience to a larger third verse where the instrumentals and the vocals are holding the same amount of balance. This will result in a larger moment compared to the rest of the track, which will make the last run of the chorus even more powerful than before.

 “How Do You Like Me Now” starts with another string motive that sounds like it would be heard on an old radio, for the sound quality of it resonates in a more grumbled state. Underneath this quicker motive, the band is providing a sustained note that is growing in volume as well as altering pitch slightly to increase the musical tension as it grows to the louder dynamic levels. As the tone reaches its full potential, the entire instrumental ensemble comes together to give a full instrumental feature befor spinning into the first verse of the track. The first verse takes influence from the new wave genre of music, for there are a few nuances that are being heard here and there that make this piece different right from the beginning. They don’t scream at the audience as some major instrumental moments; rather, they add depth to the work while enhancing the vocals that are present. This remains strong throughout the entire verse before the band crashes into an over the top chorus that drives through another half-time groove, which juxtaposes the tempo of the verses to a tee. The second verse of the selection is a tad more progressive, for it utilizes more members of the instrumental section, which will transition nicely into the full-scored chorus of the work. Following the second run of the chorus, the band moves to a small instrumental feature that takes the audience to an isolated vocal moment before returning to the catchy chorus. As the track is beginning to reach the end, the band varies the tail end of the chorus slightly to give the audience a tad musical punch to wrap things up.

 “Where You Are” starts with an instrumental feature that focuses on the gentle nature of the acoustic guitar as well as the piano. As the guitar sets the pulse of the work through its consistent strumming to form its musical idea, the piano gives the audience a simple melodic idea that resonates only using a few rising and falling notes. After this is set, the vocalist enters with a lyrical idea that is sounding in the lower part of his voice. This is strong for this moment, for the chords that are the foundation for his line, fall in the mixed tonal center, so his lower vocals just seep in perfectly. As the vocalist takes the audience through the first verse, he switches to the falsetto portion of his voice to give the audience a huge amount of contrast while still painting this overly soft, musical idea. When the band makes it to the chorus of the work, it is heard that the vocalist uses more of his full voice to give a more prominent sense of emotion. The second verse is driven by more dominant vocals, which will startle the audience, for that is the complete opposite from the first verse. However, this is strong for the artist, for it gives the audience a chance to hear the emotion in his voice, not just through the words that are being voiced. From here, the band goes for another run of the chorus, which is followed by a somber interlude that includes the repetition of the title of the track over and over before landing on a third verse that gives the audience a monochromatic vocal line until it flares out at the very end. When the vocal line diverts from its monochromatic nature, the vocalist digs into his vocals to build up to him almost yelling “I don’t know where you are” in isolation to finish the track.

“If I Were You” starts with a progressive instrumental feature that starts with its focus on the string section. The string section is by its lonesome only momentarily before the percussion section joins in with the same urgency to create the groove of the work. This beginning interlude pulls influence from the pop punk genre of music, for it is something you’d hear when spinning into a track that would make everyone want to run in a circle pit, which is completely uncharacteristic for Mayday Parade. When the vocals enter in soon after, the instrumentals simplify their melodic ideas while still providing an upbeat tempo. This allows the characteristic vocals of the band to shine in a way that is best suited for the band itself. The vocals take the audience on a natural lyrical idea, musically speaking, by providing a well-balanced melodic line throughout the first verse as well as the chorus. When moving to the second verse of the work, it is heard that the band keeps their more progressive instrumental lines present, which surprisingly works well with the vocals that remained the same from the previous verse. These two work well together to crash into the chorus of the work for a second time. After the second run of the chorus, the band gives a few moments to allow the instrumentals to shine in isolation before the vocalist gives a small nod to a third verse. This nod is faked out by a huge guitar solo that spans the octaves of the instrument. The guitar solo is short-lived before the band moves back to the chorus, which is repeated with slight additions of instrumental nuances and strategic silence to help keep the audience engaged until the very end.

 “Satellite” starts with an instrumental feature that resonates completely different than everything else presented on this album. To further, here at the beginning, the band gives a faint percussion motive that is setting and maintaining the pulse of the work; meanwhile, the band is also providing a small, single note motive that sounds as if it is being played on a children’s toy (child bells, tiny piano, etc.) The vocalist joins the mix not long after this new sound has had time to sit with the audience. When he does enter, it is heard that his vocals sit nicely with this motive, for he rarely moves from a fixed set of notes, which will mesh nicely with the thicker instrumental part. When the band reaches the chorus of the work, it feels as if the band just takes a step up, for it sounds as if the chorus is the very next step in progression when moving from the initial sound of the track to that of the chorus. When following the series of steps, it makes sense that the second verse sounds as if it is the next step up from the chorus; meaning, the beginning motive is now presented in a more mature nature, while the vocals are remaining relatively the same, which keeps the track constant. The band returns to the chorus of the work; however, when they do so, even more of the instrumentation is involved to allow the vocalist to expand on his vocal range in order to give a more dynamic lyrical line. Following the second run of the chorus, the band falls into an instrumental feature that gives the guitarist some more of the limelight through another guitar solo. This one rides in the higher part of the range of the instrument, which meshes well with the tonal center used throughout the track. From here, the band takes the listeners back to the chorus of the work, where the band wraps things up.

 “Looks Red, Tastes Blue” starts with a string motive that plays with step-wise motion, musically speaking. This is played by itself only momentarily before the rest of the instrumental ensemble joins in with a loud hit, which is followed by the first vocals of this selection. The vocals that are first heard lay in the lower part of the vocalist’s range, which is nicely balanced with the minimal instrumentals that provide the audience with small motivic ideas to add a glistening moment here and there. Right before the band arrives at the chorus of the work, the vocalist sings a single line in complete isolation followed by a slight grand pause, which leads for the perfect transition to crash into the chorus of the selection. The chorus activates the texture of the instrumentalists, which will enhance the groove of the work immensely as one moves throughout the chorus. As the chorus is about to end, the band includes another slight pause before a single tone evolves to bring the audience to the second verse of the track. The second verse is fairly similar to the first except the vocalist is now utilizing vocals in the higher part of his range, which allows the instrumentals to become a tad more prominent moving throughout the verse. After the second run of the chorus, the band incorporates a dramatic percussion moment that begins to build the suspense of the third verse, which provides a sense of relief when the band lands back on the chorus, which takes the audience to the very end.

“Always Leaving” starts with an instrumental feature that puts focus on the acoustic guitar. This initial motive, although it sounds calm and light, brings the audience in at a quicker pace, which is a different approach for an acoustic piece. This remains in the limelight for some time with additional chordal tones added here and there to give more harmonic foundation before the vocals enter. When the vocals enter, they are heard in the lower register for the vocalist, which sits well with the graceful nature of the instrumental part. As one moves throughout the track, it is hard to distinguish the verses from the chorus, for the band seamlessly moves throughout the work with only small pauses here and there. Towards the middle of the work, the band includes the same motive; however, it resonates through a solo electric guitar, which gives the audience a new tone color to attach to when listening to this piece as a whole. Following this small feature, the band falls back to the gentle nature of the track as the vocalist gives the listeners the content of the second verse. As the band begins to approach the end of the selection, the electronic guitar returns to pass off the limelight to the vocalist, who sounds one more gentle lyrical line before the selection finishes. This was a smart inclusion for the album, for it is a simple but delicate track that adds complete contrast to the mix, and will likely be a stand out for those reasons.

 “Sunnyland” starts with another acoustic guitar feature that is accompanied by block chords filling out the fundamentals underneath. This doesn’t sit alone for very long, for the vocalist soon joins the mix with a lyrical line that gives the audience a nice rise and fall through the natural contour of the vocalist’s voice. As the band is approaching the chorus of the work, the instrumentation simplifies even more to allow the lyrics “take me back to Sunnyland” to resonate beyond belief, so that it’ll rest with the audience. When the band arrives at the chorus, the band picks up the pace slightly; however, the feel of the track remains more on the mellow side, which isn’t a bad thing, for when the vocalist begins to stretch his vocals as well as his range, one will be able to hear the emotions in his voice. As the band falls on the downward slope of the song, they provide a small instrumental interlude that gives the small melodic line more time to stick with the audience before the vocalist gives a third verse before resulting back to the repetition of “take me back to Sunnyland”. As he is repeating that motive over and over, the second vocalist of Mayday Parade begins to sound another lyrical idea in a canon effect, which brings the audience back to a staple technique utilized by this artist. This build drives the audience to the lead vocalist almost yelling his repeated line, which allows the listeners to hear the vulnerability in his voice as he uses that phrase to take the audience to the end of the album. As a whole, this wasn’t a bad last track for the album, for it seems to take the story of this album and wrap it up, so that the audience feels a sense of closure when they listen to the album from top to bottom.

 Final Thoughts: Overall, I would give this album a 4 out of 5 stars. I landed on this score for a few stand out reasons. The first reason as to why I landed on this score is because this album does hold true to the “Mayday Parade” aesthetic, so people searching for another strong Mayday album will appreciate this release. The other reason I landed on this score is because this album isn’t anything groundbreaking, when comparing it to the band’s previous releases “A Lesson in Romantics”, their self-titled, etc.; however, this album brings the audience closer to that style compared to their most recent release before this one, which gives it a slight edge. Overall, if you’re looking for a solid album to just sit and enjoy, this is the one.

*”Sunnyland” was released on June 15, 2018 through Rise Records.

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