Album review: “XOXO: From Love & Anxiety In Real Time” by The Maine

Ash Anders

“XOXO: From Love & Anxiety In Real Time” is the 8th studio album from The Maine, recorded and produced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. According to frontman John O’Callaghan “This album is quite literally a real-time dive into the duality of love and anxiety in my life,” It has the classic, fresh sound expected from The Maine’s past work, with most of the songs having fun, upbeat rhythms. 

“Sticky”: This track is a very strong opener for the album, bringing The Maine’s signature upbeat sound and catchy lyrics. The song follows a theme of music, ironically, comparing the listener to a song that O’Callaghan wants to listen to over and over. 

“Lips”: The rhythms in this song are very strong, and the lyrics even stronger. O’Callaghan calls out the audience for “faking things” and being “fluent in tragedy,” exploring the complications of relationships and communication. 

“Love In Real Time”: This track clocks in at barely two minutes, making it similar to an interlude if it wasn’t the third song of the album. The key phrase “real-time” reflects the later track ‘Anxiety In Real Time,’ as well as the title of the album itself. This track is a quick insight to O’Callaghan’s loving emotions, with a solid beat to back it. 

“High Forever”: This track starts out with a very strong beat moving to catchy lyrics in the chorus. The lines “We ain’t gonna stay high forever, Life’s a bittersweet (Sweet) surrender” share the message of the album explicitly, as this track is a reminder that life has many ups and downs that you can only surrender yourself to. This track also has some very unique mixing in the bridge that creates a fun tunnel effect on the music. 

“April 7th”: This track’s title is the day lead singer John O’Callaghan explains he fell in love with his wife. The lyrics “Never thought that you would turn into my best life” make it clear that this is a love song, sharing O’Callaghan’s strong emotions toward his relationship. Despite the elegant music and rhythms, the lyrics are pretty repetitive until the music changes at the bridge. The track is unique in that it starts out with the chorus though, as opposed to the rest of the album where the chorus is not sung until after the first verse. 

“If Your Light Goes Out”: The chorus in this track is very uplifting, and the lyrics in each verse are reminiscent of friendship and promises made for them. The lines “If your light goes out for a little while, And if you cannot carry the world, You can rest it on me now” are very sweet. Overall this track is a nice reminder that there are always people in your life to help you out. 

“Pretender”: “Pretender” opens with a pretty, simple rhythm, but the music switches quickly from soft beats to loud drums in a reflection of the anxiety this song is about. The chorus “You don’t have to hide yourself” explores the guilt many people feel about themselves, and O’Callaghan’s lyrics are encouraging to open up to more people around you in times of trouble. 

“Dirty, Pretty, Beautiful”: The music in this track is very catchy, and O’Callaghan’s voice in the verses specifically are magnetic, making it feel almost as if he’s talking directly to the listener. The song itself is about feelings that arise at the beginning of a new relationship, and how hard it is to deny yourself something you want. 

“Anxiety In Real Time”: The opening music to this track is mellow and laid-back, and the title sums up the lyrics pretty well. This track is relatable for many people who deal with anxiety in their day-to-day lives. The lyrics “I’ve never felt so freezing cold In the middle of the summertime” really help to define the unexpectedness of the song’s emotions. The music itself stays laid-back through the whole song, only getting softer for the pre-chorus and louder at the end of the song into the next track. Similar to “April 7th,” the lyrics are still pretty repetitive. 

“Face Towards The Sun”: This song ends the album on a bittersweet note. Some of the lyrics, namely “There’s no sense at all In making plans ’cause God don’t carе about our plans,” are slightly depressing, but the song makes up for it later in the chorus with the phrase “I just hope you felt no pain at all…As you turn towards the sun.” This emotional track is actually about O’Callaghan’s grandmother who passed away during the pandemic, so it is a very beautiful tribute to those we love. 

“XOXO: From Love & Anxiety In Real Time” is a strong release for The Maine. Despite not veering from their well-known sound, it still makes a strong case for the exploration of personal emotions. Spinnaker Radio rates this album 2.5 out of 5 Spinnaker Sails. 


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