Tooth and Nail
“What did you say? A cute, quirky, provoking emo record? An emo record that doesn’t plunder everything that’s gone before it, but doesn’t drown in obtuse ‘original’ intentions either? And it’s a debut?”
Well yes. The above conversation is the one that I had with myself when I first slipped destination:beautiful into the CD player. And this album has only gotten better with repeated listens. The awe is gradually being replaced with intimate familiarity as I follow the many strands on display, which leads me to make the following point about mae’s debut (yes, it’s a debut) LP: it’s incredibly full-bodied and layered, but the listening experience feels simple and fresh.
mae are an emo band in the least derogatory sense of the word (if emo can even be used positively any more), but they’re a pop band, too. They’re a little reminiscent of Sunday’s Best, like on the opener, “Embers and Envelopes”, which is one of the most straight-up songs on the album. Elsewhere they weave sunny synth lines and programmed drums into emopop gems. “Soundtrack for Our Movie” is a burst of punky pop energy, suggestive of the upbeat moments on Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity. And, “On Sun” incorporates some perfectly-placed drum-machinery and a piano coda, both of which are real shiver moments — the kind that make you think, “Wow, this is amazing!” (Because it is.)
Sure, some of it’s gushingly high school-esque, but, at the same time, it’s proof that overwrought adolescent emotion (and who can say that overwrought adolescent emotion something that we ever really “grow out of”?) can be laid down well on tape. Besides, there’s enough musical and thematic maturity on display here to silence any cries of “cry-baby emo kids!” that might be thrown mae’s way.
mae are a band who’ve got it utterly right — their synthesizing of so much into an album that feels uncluttered and intuitive is nothing short of breathtaking. destination:beautiful is one of the best emo-pop-rock records I’ve ever heard, and one of the few essential releases of 2003 to date.