Here’s a serious throwback. Tonight I was browsing through Spotify seeking something familiar and fresh, I remember Mae existed, and I remembered once, I really enjoyed them. “Destination: Beautiful” always held up a little higher to my mind, but today I figured I’d give their second LP,  “The Everglow,” a try. I think this album was given to me as a gift on my 16th birthday after my junior prom, and I probably haven’t listened to it in full since maybe my first year of college. Upon revisiting, most of it floated by OK, and I found it listenable and charming. I remembered all the words, I remembered the brightness, but nothing struck me in any fresh way until the closer kicked in.

Carrying a song with piano, strings and vocal harmonies is a delicate thing to pull off, mostly because it is delicate. It is easy to make an impression if you are loud. It is easy to make an impression if you are catchy and hook filled. When you are subtle, when there is space, your decisions must be ever more careful. Which is what makes the stellar verses and simple construction of “The Sun and the Moon” shine even brighter. While I am fairly certain those synthy-sounding strings were not recorded live in studio, the movement they provide is the kind of touch that elevated Mae upon other emo counterparts of the age (is Mae emo? I’d put up that argument if I had to but there’s probably a better genre to label).

Musically, it’s the last four minutes where they really make the impression with a post-rock build of sorts, with a transition to guitars picking up the chords and the spine of the song in a dramatic sweep. The piano shifts to a variation on earlier themes for understated fills before (and  a muted silence on the mix, and you end with something grand and memorable from where you started with very few pieces. Lyrically, I love how little this song uses to say what it needs to say, how the weight and the depth are effortlessly phrased. I love how the words end and let the final movement finish the conversation, and I love how grand that gesture seems. Not a bad track to rediscover, and a proper incentive for listening to their releases from later in the decade that, I am sorry to say, I passed over.

“Wasted time.
I cannot say that I was ready for this.
But when worlds collide,
and all that I have is all that I want.
The words seem to flow
and the thoughts they keep running.
And all that I have is yours.
All that I am is yours.

Painted skies.
I’ve seen so many that cannot compare
to your ocean eyes.
The pictures you took
that cover your room,
and it was just like the sun
but more like the moon.
A light that can reach it all.
So now I’m branded for taking the fall.

So when you say forever,
can’t you see
you’ve already captured me.

~The Sun and the Moon 
Mae, The Everglow
(Also, while doing a little Wiki research for this, I discovered Charlotte Martin does the opening/closing narratives on this album. Time to go see what she’s put out since 2005, or just listen to “On Your Shore” and see what it sounds like this far removed from 16.)