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Mike Mains Album Review

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Mile Mains & the Branches, Calm Down Everything Is Fine.

The pressure on a singer-songwriter is likely never more intense than in that brief period that bridges a highly-acclaimed debut album and the recording of an artist’s sophomore effort.  As  difficult a task as that normally is, it’s virtually impossible when you’re trying to channel your inner-Boss. Fortunately, Shannon Mains reminded her husband that he needed to focus on being the first Mike Mains instead of the next Springsteen. The result: A damn good release from a talented performer.

Mains was working on the successor to his popular debut, Home, when he found himself constantly listening to Springsteen’s 1978 classic Darkness On The Edge of Town. Fortunately, with a bit of urging from his wife, he eschewed the Bruce influence and focused on his own strengths as a writer. The result, like Darkness, was a more mature and diverse offering than its predecessor, but the Springsteen comparisons end there.

Calm Down Everything Is Fine is a rock masterpiece that just oozes cool Indie Rock swagger while still offering superb pop hooks. The album is impeccably produced, courtesy of Matt Hoopes of Relient K; featuring nicely layered guitars and keyboards and highlighted by Mains’ distinctive vocals which are a perfect voice for today’s Alternative Rock landscape. I was pleasantly surprised by the prominence of Nate Wethy’s bass throughout the album, as well. The bass lines are fantastic and never lost in the mix.

The opening track, “Played It Safe” is a creative, yet dark ode to pessimism. But, it’s immediately juxtaposed with an optimistic future hit, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” It’s just one of a handful of masterful sequencing touches on the album. Another example is the transition between “Noises” and “Slow Down.” The former is a pop punk anthem-in-the-waiting. I love the vocals but this one is all about the slick layered guitar and memorable riffs that absolutely demand your attention. “Slow Down” is a perfectly placed ballad that offers a chance to catch your breath and admire Mains’ more tender side.

Shannon Mains makes a mark in more ways than as a creative adviser, as we hear her tight harmonies nicely slipped into several songs, as well as a few shining moments on the keyboard.  Other strong offerings include the rocking “In The Night” and the stark and haunting “Where Love Dies.”

If there’s any downside to the album, it’s that Mains’ vocals at times feel occasionally restrained.  He lets loose at times and sounds superb, but more often than not he seems a bit reined in. Make no mistake, the vocals are catchy and provocative, and it might just be my impression, but I suspect there’s a more edgy, gravelly sound to him that’s even more appealing.

But, I’m being a bit nit-picky. This diverse offering is a must listen for fans of Pop, Alt-Rock, Indie-Rock and Pop-Punk. It’s good stuff, and an album likely to re-appear on these pages in our year-end Album of the Year listings.  Check it out below and let me know what you think.

If you only download one song: Noises – Calm Down, Everything Is Fine

Good for fans of Young The Giant, A Silent Film and Sum 41.

Rock On!
Cretin