So now you show up when you’re alone again
But we haven’t changed, but now you’re interested
And maybe you’re here because you wanna come home
But what if you’re just afraid to be alone

I guess I don’t know how
You’d want it back now
I thought you got yourself a way out
How do I prove it to myself you’re ready now
God I want to

Now you want me
But what if your heart’s a liar

Cause if you change your mind again
I’ll burn like a wildfire
Like a wildfire.”

Marianas Trench, Astoria 

Goddammit, Marianas Trench did it again. These guys are insane!!!

Once again they created a symphonic pop epic, one that is in sync with their than their past releases. When I first heard it I wasn’t sure what to think it felt a little too busy, a little too overambitious, but then I find myself unable to listen to anything else. I am helpless, but to succumb to their beautiful, unique brand of emo-colored power pop.

I can’t get these songs out of my head. So, I guess they win.

Initially, I didn’t like the 6-minute title track opener (not as much as much as I adore “Ever After,” anyway, which might be one of my top 10 favorite songs of the decade). This one felt a little more all over the place, and it gets dark and stark and incrementally deeper as it tries for hook after hook within each perfectly measured verse. But when I returned to the album for the second time I felt more attached and invested to this sprawling sound. I realized this is their scene setter – and all that busyness and highs and lows and climatic moments are a precursor of what’s to come.

The entire record is smoothed over and tied together with the incredible performance of Josh Ramsay. His high notes in “Wildfire” during the chorus are the pinnacle of this, as his the piano performance on “Forget Me Not.” The instrumental outro on that, dubbed “And Straight on til Morning” in what I hope is a beautiful reference to Peter Pan, is as perfect a cinematic display as you could hope to find. “One Love” deserves to be played on all the radio stations. The whole thing shines with beautiful pop production that seems to sample from all decades and genres. Remember, Ramsay is the guy who helped write “Call Me Maybe,” as he not-so-subtley references in the single I wished was on this album.

This band is consistently fun to listen to, and I think that’s why I love them so much. You instantly know an M.Trench song, and then you relish the toe-tapping that comes after. Pretty much everyone I have suggested them to winds up hooked on their sing-a-along choruses, tongue-in-cheek humor and goth-pop attire. They’re sort of an anti-hero, in some ways — not quite radio friendly, not quite DIY or stripped down enough for the pop punk scene, but they’re definitely rock and roll, even under the handclaps and woodblocks and harmonized bridges.

Lyrically, “Astoria” is blunt and brash and hopeful.  The wordplay on this album is so interesting and invented (“From fable to fumble, from stable to stumble, nevermore/I’ll say goodbye to my demons and all my break-evens, ever yours”) and I find myself wondering what the hell he’s talking about while still knowing exactly where he’s coming from. Marianas Trench has this really cliche, awkward feel to them sometimes (See the impossible-to-ignore hook of “Burning Up” and the strange, self-deprecating Michael Jackson reference of “Shut Up and Kiss Me“) but that’s part of the charm. They embrace it, own it, this kind of dirty-under-the-surface style. Even when the word choices feel sampled or clumsy, they at least fit the rhyme scheme perfectly, creating this off-kilter, less-than-perfect pop anthem, and it becomes a real strength. What they lack in trendiness they make up for in edge. As with “Ever After,” this record strives for concept album territory, but it’s a little fuzzy around the edges. I’m still not clear what “Astoria” is or what it stands for – a town? An enclave? A spaceship full of synthesizers and Pro Tools? Whatever it is, it sounds very romantic. There’s a lot of romance on this album, come to think of it, a lot of relived regrets and aspiring in the face of the defeated unknown, and hope for the future.

Listening to this album would feel like a guilty pleasure if 1) I didn’t believe in such a thing, 2) It wasn’t so damn good to listen to in the first place.

“I’ll see whatever doesn’t make me stronger kills me
But it’s going to be a long year till the hospital might find hope in me

Let the melody save me, Astoria
The quid pro quos that we’ll compose from esoteric to common prose….

Marianas Trench, Astoria