Album Review: Mike Mains & the Branches – Calm Down, Everything is Fine

It has been just over a year since the PledgeMusic campaign for Mike Mains & the Branches sophomore album launched. As you can imagine, the anticipation of getting this album into my greedy little hands has built up quite a bit since I pledged. Thankfully one of the perks of pledging was that I got the album 2 weeks early.

I’m sure the band felt the pressure mounting as they watched their pledges climb to 829 to reach 120% of their goal, and that doesn’t even factor in the fear of the sophomore slump. Perhaps that’s why the band chose to name the album Calm Down, Everything is Fine.

The Everything EP was released in October as a preview of the what was to come. The EP included “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”, “In the Night”, and “Noises”. It was a great way to showcase the album, 2 catchy upbeat songs paired with the heavier “Noises” quelled any of my fears that the new album was going to be anything but great.

One thing the band definitely excels at is mixing catchy hooks and fun yet deep lyrics to create indie rock gold. The album starts out with a quick glimpse at the harder side of the band with “Played It Safe”. One of my favorite things about Mike’s distinct voice is that it can go from being soft and lulling to screaming with emotion in the matter of a few bars and that definitely comes through here. It’s a great way to show just how much of himself he puts into the music.

“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” is an upbeat, catchy song that is tailored for top 40 radio play. With its optimistic lyrics, bright guitars and electronic beats it could easily become the anthem for the summer of 2014. And the clapping at the end just makes me love it more, I mean, who doesn’t love a song with clapping?

My favorite track has to be “Noises”, it’s wonderfully dark and was stuck in my head for days upon first hearing it. I was very happy when I saw these guys in concert and they played it because, honestly, this song is best heard live. There is a lot of energy both musically and lyrically and you really get a sense of that when you actually get to see Mike belting it out while Shannon, Nate, and Drew get just as in to it as they rock their respective instruments.

The other great thing about this album is that there’s a nice mix of upbeat songs with some slower ballads. “Slow Down” is a simple and beautiful lullaby perfect for lounging in bed on a rainy spring day with nothing better to do than enjoy the quiet. While “Stones” is equally beautiful, it’s a bit more tragic. “The chips are in but now you should know that nobody wins when we both fold” Mike croons over Shannon’s quiet harmony signifying the end of a relationship with no blame to cast and nothing left to do but walk away.

The title track closes the album out, starting simply and quietly before building to up to its finish, a perfect ending to a fantastic album. It’s clear that the band has grown since releasing its first LP back in 2010. There’s more life experience to be shared along with an honesty that leaves the listener feeling that they’ve experienced everything expressed in each song. One thing’s for sure, as long as Mike Mains & The Branches keep writing honest music and putting every piece of themselves into it, they’ll keep creating albums as strong as Calm Down, Everything is Fine.

Calm Down, Everything is Fine comes out Tuesday, February 18. You can preorder the CD for $10 or get a vinyl copy for $22