mayday parade: black lines review

Pop punk by definition is "a fusion music genre that combines elements of punk rock with pop music to varying degrees. The music typically combines fast punk tempos, chord changes and loud guitars with pop-influenced melodies and lyrical themes."  Many pop punk bands stay within this definition.  Some lean more on the pop side of the spectrum with little implements of punk and others are the exact opposite.  For the band Mayday Parade they've been all over the pop punk spectrum in their 10 year career and then some.

Formed in Tallahassee, Florida in 2005 by lead vocalist Derek Sanders, fellow lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Jason Lancaster, rhythm guitarist Brooks Betts, drummer and vocalist Jake Bundrick, bassist and backing vocalist Jeremy Lenzo and lead guitarist Alex Garcia, the band was deep rooted in mutual love for music and friendship.  Mayday Parade's self-released EP "Tales Told by Dead Friends" was released in 2006.  Early in their career the band approached a DIY/word of mouth form of marketing.  Members of the band would hand out copies of the EP to people standing in line at local shows as well as at Vans Warped Tour.  This caught the attention of Fearless Records who later signed Mayday Parade to their label and re-released the EP to gain a wider audience.

2007 saw the release of Mayday Parade's debut album "A Lesson in Romantics".  The 12 song album is considered to be the band's best work.  Each track is as catchy and memorable as the last.  Before the album's July release date, lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Jason Lancaster left the band personal reasons.  Lancaster would go on to form the group "Go Radio" followed by a solo career.  Despite Lancaster's departure, the band carried on and would tour extensively in support of their debut album including 2007's Vans Warped Tour and supporting for fellow pop punk bands All Time Low and The Maine.

In 2009 Mayday Parade signed with Atlantic Records and began recording their sophomore album and their first without primary lyricist and vocalist Jason Lancaster.  The end product "Anywhere But Here" didn't live up to expectations and received mix responses from both fans and critics.  The band would later go on record to say they didn't want to upset the record label and did what was told of them.  Guitarist Brooks Betts would further go on to say that "Anywhere But Here" was not the best representation of the band.

Following the release of "Anywhere But Here" the band would tour the next 2 years alongside bands such as You Me at Six, The Academy Is, Set Your Goals and The Dangerous Summer.  Mayday Parade would go on to perform the entire 2010 Vans Warped Tour and headlined the Fearless Friends Tour which included ex-member Jason Lancaster's band Go Radio as support.  Lancaster would join his former bandmates on stage during the tour to play their well known and emotional track "Miserable at Best".  Videos of this occurrence are on YouTube and warmed the hearts of Mayday Parade fans, including myself.  

2011 was a triumphant year for Mayday Parade.  The band re-signed with Fearless Records and released an acoustic EP titled "Valdosta" that included two new songs as well as acoustic interpretations of their earlier work.  The EP was well received for it's musical direction.  Following the release of "Valdosta" Mayday Parade would rent out a beach house in Florida to write songs that would become their third album.  Unlike the experience with recording "Anywhere But Here", the band found themselves doing things their way with as little stress as possible.  With the dynamic production duo Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount who produced the band's debut album, Mayday Parade would create one of their best works to date.

Mayday Parade's self-titled third album was released in October 2011 to wide critical acclaim and a welcome return to Mayday's core emotional signature they're known for while progressing their music to new levels.  Songs like "Oh Well, Oh Well", "You're Dead Wrong", "Stay" and "A Shot Across the Bow" show a maturing band stretching their creative wings.  To this day "Mayday Parade" is one of my most played records that's worth checking out!

2012 saw Mayday Parade performing yet again on Vans Warped Tour to massive crowds as well as touring Japan and co-headlining a tour with The Maine and other tours that included up and coming pop punk acts We Are the In Crowd and Heroes for Hire.  Following the extensive touring Mayday Parade did in support of their self-titled album the band went back in the studio in early 2013 to record their follow-up "Monsters in the Closet".  Released in October of the same year, it was well received but failed to deliver any progression from the band.
Following countless tours in support of their fourth album, the band recorded the album I'm reviewing today.  "Black Lines" was recorded in two months and is a drastic departure from the band's prior work and I say that in a good way.  The album begins with the band's most aggresive song to date "One of Them Will Destroy the Other" featuring vocals from Dan Lambton (singer for the band "Real Friends").  Lead singer Derek Sanders delivers top notch vocals that impressed me as a fan.  Not just on this song, but on the album as a whole.

"Black Lines" is a breath of fresh air to listen to.  The lyrical content is a major step up from what Mayday Parade has written in the past.  "Hollow" is a prime example of this.  "She's a cold-blooded killer.  Go and find who sent her.  Bring me the heart and leave the rest for dead."  While it may not be overly dark subject matter, this is new ground for the band.  "Letting Go" bleeds emotion that's delivered so well by the band.  Songs like "Let's Be Honest" and "Look Up and See Infinity, Look Down and See Nothing" show Mayday Parade going musically where I as a fan never pictured them going.  

With the change up in sound, Mayday Parade haven't gotten rid of their signature catchy tone.  "One of Us" and "Keep in Mind, Transmorgrification is a New Technology" keep me wanting more.  "Narrow" reminds me of early Dashboard Confessional in musical delivery and lyricism.  There's not a bad song on this album!

Despite the ups and downs the band has endured, Mayday Parade have marked their 10-year anniversary on a high note with "Black Lines".  It's everything a fan of music wants: progression, change, deep honest lyrics and tight knit music that's well produced.  I can't recommend this album enough and not just because I'm a fan of this band but because I love good music.  You know it when you hear it.  After countless listens to "Black Lines" it becomes more clear that this is some of the band's best work who's risk of changing their sound pays off.  You've done well, Mayday Parade.  You've done well.

Links for Mayday Parade