Call it what you want: pop-punk, alternative, emo. It hardly matters. The Everglow, the second album by the up-and-coming rock quintet Mae, is as shining an example of power pop as you're likely to find these days. With more cajones and sharper melodies than Jimmy Eat World, this band is poised for world domination, or at least to become icons for earnest, sensitive rock fans.
Something of a concept album, The Everglow features an illustrated booklet, like a children's primer, and an introduction that instructs listeners how to follow along by reading while the CD plays. You can rest assured, though, that the album sounds great even when--perhaps especially--stuck into a car's dashboard and far away from the cute booklet.
It's true that lead vocalist Dave Elkins can sound a bit fey, like the same wounded, painfully honest listeners you envision lining up for this record. But he lays it on the line pretty convincingly, and his high school poetry class musings about lost or damaged love have a brevity and spareness that matches the energetic combination of aggression and sentimentality.
The initial single, "Suspension," is cool, if a little predictable in a mainstream way. But the intricate pop-rock attack of Mae reaches its amazing peak with such "Someone Else's Arms," "This Is the Countdown," "The Ocean" and "Breakdown." Air-raid power chords and tangled, chiming leads create a bed of electric guitar bliss that is impossible to resist.