Mayday Parade – ‘Sunnyland’

By Yasmin Brown

When bands release outstanding debut albums, there’s always a concern that they’ll spend the rest of their careers struggling to top it. If you ask any fan of Mayday Parade what their favourite album is, they will in all likelihood respond with ‘A Lesson In Romantics’, the band’s very first album released in 2005. Since then, Mayday Parade have been working hard to create music that resonates with their fans like their debut did, and while they have undoubtedly released some incredible tracks over the past 13 years, no album has had the potential to speak to fans quite like ‘A Lesson In Romantics’. That is until now.

Sonically and thematically ‘Sunnyland’ is a jumbled mess of ideas. It takes elements from ‘Black Lines’, the ‘Valdosta’ EP and everything in between, and yet somehow it works. It’s angst and anger, it’s heartbreak and longing, and as the tracks progress, it evokes an empathetic response wherein you, too, feel those emotions along with the band. While it prevents the album from flowing particularly well, it does manage to reflect humanity and the instability of life.

Opening track ‘Never Sure’ kicks off the album with an unexpected bang and does nothing to prepare the listener for what’s to come, as it falsely sets the tone for what you might expect to be an entirely upbeat album, particularly with the sharp and sudden transition into ‘It’s Hard to Be Religious’. As with many of the band’s more angry tracks – which on ‘Sunnyland’ also includes ‘How Do You Like Me Now’ – the latter feels lacklustre, with lyrics like “what a selfish prick you’ve become” feeling inauthentic and forced. Authenticity does, however, follow in  ‘Piece of Your Heart’, a heart wrenching, stripped back track accompanied only by acoustic guitar and piano addressing what it’s like to be loved, but for that love to not be enough.

If ‘Piece of Your Heart’ tugs at your heart strings, then ‘Looks Red, Tastes Blue’ rips your heart out and stomps on it without remorse as it takes big, powerful riffs and combines them with hard-to-swallow lyrics about grief and mourning. Anyone that’s ever lost someone will relate to the simple yet powerful lyric, “I can’t breathe without you”, solidifying our pre-existing notion that no one addresses loss quite like Mayday Parade.

These sad (and often acoustic) tracks – which also include ‘Take My Breath Away’, ‘Always Leaving’ and ‘Where You Are’ – remind us just how striking Mayday’s music can be. The implementation of strings and other twinkling, ethereal sounds are simultaneously sad and soothing; comforting reminders that we’re not alone in our pain.

The two most impactful tracks on the record are without question ‘Is Nowhere’ – showcasing a slightly heavier, more mature and more complex Mayday Parade – and ‘Stay the Same’, a motivational and uplifting anthem that combines sounds from ‘A Lesson in Romantics’ and their last album, ‘Black Lines’. There are, of course, other stand out tracks, but it is these two in particular that make a lasting impression and having you humming along, long after they have finished playing.

Collectively, the album is hopeless and even a little pathetic at times, but that’s what makes it so realistic and relatable. Life doesn’t always work itself out, and closing track ‘Sunnyland’ – another acoustic track that lingers on longing – highlights this fact. Sometimes you lose something that you don’t ever see yourself getting back, and this track is ambiguous enough that it can be applied to almost any situation, making it a track written for the fans to make their own.

In an album that takes influence from a number of genres, one thing remains consistent throughout and that’s the way Derek’s sweet vocals evoke an emotion that many vocalists never achieve. We may never have another ‘A Lesson In Romantics’, but maybe with this new avenue, one where they finally appear to be following their hearts, we simply don’t need one.

YASMIN BROWN

Three more album reviews for you

LIVE: Halestorm / Avatar @ Brixton Academy, London

Hellions - 'Rue'

LIVE: Knuckle Puck / Tiny Moving Parts / Movements @ Electric Ballroom, Camden