Mayday Parade
Black Lines

Mayday Parade - Black Lines

Out of all the bands I listen to, Mayday Parade has always been one of the most frustrating. Not because they can’t write pop-punk and pop-rock hits, it’s because the band has always been so close to writing a complete album that turns into one of the genre’s essential listens. After Jason Lancaster departed the band following the release of fan-favorite A Lesson In Romantics, Mayday Parade has had its collection of hits and misses; always close to that career-defining release but just never putting it all together. That all changes with Black Lines.

Mayday Parade’s fifth full-length album enlists producer extraordinaire Mike Sapone to helm the boards and the results are stunning. Black Lines is a reinvention of Mayday Parade and it’s immediately realized on the blistering opener, “One Of Them Will Destroy The Other.” Guitarists Alex Garcia and Brooks Betts unleash a jolt of charging guitar riffs and chords while Derek Sanders’ raw vocals create a sense of urgency never heard before in the Mayday discography. This is only the tip of the iceberg, as tracks like “Just Out of Reach” and “Underneath the Tide” channel early scene staples like Taking Back Sunday and The Early November – with “Tide” being one of the best mid-tempo numbers the band has ever released as its chorus hits like an avalanche (thanks to Jake Bundrick’s heavy hitting behind the kit and Sanders’ aggressive vocal approach). 

The biggest surprise on Black Lines however is a duo of songs that appear early in the tracklist. “Hollow” and “Let’s Be Honest” are undoubtedly the heaviest songs Mayday Parade have ever released, both leaning heavily on a combination of 90s grunge (the former) and melodic alt-rock (the latter). Garcia and Betts unleash a buzzsaw of crunchy guitar work on the fuzzy “Hollow” is masterful while the start-stop nature of “Honest” creates one of the more heartfelt choruses in Mayday’s history. And don’t think the band forgot how to write catchy pop-punk tunes because “Keep In Mind, Transmogrification Is A New Technology” will transmogrify into an insanely infectious ear worm. 

It can’t be stated enough how much emotion and energy Sanders’ improved vocal style brings to each track. Mayday Parade has always been able to write killer ballads, but on Black Lines they are refined and elevated to an even higher level. The slow build of “Letting Go” reaches arena-like heights in its final few minutes. The guitar riffs soar like early Jimmy Eat World while Sanders’ is barely keeping it together. But it’s “Narrow” that’ll claim 2015’s best pop-punk ballad. The first two-thirds of the track are as gentle as can be, Sanders barely singing over a whisper. But “Narrow” reaches and then eclipses the emotional pinnacle with its final third as guitars explode and cymbals crash behind Sanders’ desperate pleading. 

Mayday Parade has had it pretty good as a band over the course of its career, with the band’s last album debuting in the Billboard Top 10. So it would’ve been easy incredibly easy for them to coast on past success and continue writing the same structures. Instead, the quintet went in the opposite direction, got their hands dirty, rebuilt their sound, and released the most surprising album I’ve heard this year. A band I used to meet with skepticism and frustration has turned into a band I’ll now look forward to each future release. It’s not crazy to claim that Black Lines is the band’s most sophisticated and aggressive release ever, thus making it the essential Mayday Parade album and best the genre has to offer in 2015.

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