Taken alone, separate from the whole, the songs on Mae’s The Everglow album are adequate. The band’s progressive sound, balanced between Dave Elkin’s versatile, impressive vocal range and a smattering of piano and rock, ensure that each song is, at the very least, unique and distinctly listenable.
What’s truly amazing about The Everglow, however, is how these songs manage to greatly transcend the sum of their parts, and in doing so, become something more altogether – a moving, enchanting piece that will stay with you long after the last note has played.
This accomplishment is attained, in large part, to the band’s ambition from the very beginning of the album. Rather than adhere to the status quo and string together a variety of disparate songs, Mae constructed The Everglow to communicate a powerful, sweeping narrative. Framed by a prologue and epilogue, the listener is encouraged to hear the album as a coherent story, rather than listen passively.
From there, the narrative explores the idea of “love” and human connection in its truest sense, and doesn’t shy away from the inherent realities that people forget about when idealizing it. Love is hard. There are trials, tragedies, and tribulations inexorably tied to any relationship that every couple will at some point have to address and be tested with at some point. Multiple points
However, if they can overcome these hardships, they can become something else altogether.
I’m going to outline the narrative that I interpreted through a combination of the album’s lyrics and music. Please understand that this is only my interpretation – the music will mean a lot of different things
Act 1 – The Fall
We’re So Far Away
The Everglow’s first actual song, “We’re So Far Away,” is a piano ballad that sets the stage for everything that is going to come for this couple.
Gentle and reflective, it’s a piece that seems to be both simultaneously prescient and yet reflective of the journey they experienced together. “We’re So Far Away” conveys that the couple did, in fact, discover love together, but it didn’t come without its share of hardships. The song’s final words, “It’s so close but we’re so far away,” express that things are going to get worse before they get better.
Someone Else’s Arms
From here, we jump to “Someone Else’s Arms,” and immediately, the tone shifts. Paradise has been lost. One of the “louder” rock songs in The Everglow , the driving riffs and drums reflect the lyrics that the narrator has become disenchanted and frustrated with his love, explaining he wants to “wake up,” perhaps from the dream of this relationship that has soured.
This sentiment is cemented further at the end, when the narrator clarifies his desire to wake up is more literal than figurative, with the line “I just want to wake up in someone else’s arms.”
The music shifts again in “Suspension,” slowing down slightly and infusing the sound with a little more “pop.”
Here, the couple begins to truly apprehend the reality of their situation, reflecting on the good times, but acknowledging their current struggles and grasping for some sort of resolution and forward progress. They are in a holding pattern, and despite their best intentions to overcome it, they cannot.
This is the Countdown / Painless
“This is the Countdown” finds them on the brink, their relationship a ticking time bomb after decaying gradually over time from “exciting” and “passionate” to “exhausting.”
The music reflects the sadness and desperation of the narrator in these moments. He’s waiting for something – anything – and it’s not coming. This is, for all intents and purposes, their last try at salvaging what they once had.
In “Painless,” this sentiment is furthered, the attempts by the narrator so mechanical and taxing that his senses have numbed to it.
The quick piano supplements the chaos that their relationship has devolved into. While they both are trying to save it, it’s almost in name only at this stage – the emotion behind it has been all but lost.
Act 2 – Hope?
From the depths of despair and hopelessness, the ballad “The Ocean” offers a glimmer of hope.
For the first time, we get to see what this means to them, and the genuine emotions that, although lost, were always there. They realize that they need each other, and this thing they have is worth fighting for. This song, in particular, is a great showcase of Elkin’s voice, and everything piece of the composition, including the sounds of the waves that frame it, help establish the tone.
From here, the love seems to be reignited, at least for the moment, though the doubt of the struggles they just endured continues to pervade.
Despite the resurgence, and the cheery rise in the musical composition, the narrator is still “waiting for the breakdown,” suggesting that while things have been amended for the time, they may not be far from another collapse. Despite this doubt, the narrator still yearns to reach this place, and cement this love as something immutable and unshakable. The song’s final seconds features off notes and a built that conveys an ominous tone, reflecting that at this point, their future is as uncertain to the narrator as it is to the audience.
Mistakes We Knew We Were Making
And then my favorite song happens. Poignant, poetic, and tragic, it’s a game changer, world’s are shattered, and hearts are exploded.
Alright. I’ll elaborate.
Finally, after this journey that the narrator has been recounting with his love, there is a true moment of understanding of what they have been through, catalyzed by “an event.”
I say “an event” because the exact nature of it seems to be unclear (intentionally). The couple loses a child, either through complications or abortion. Hence the “Mistakes We Knew We Were Making,” and the turning point of the entire album.
“And when we try to think of the life inside,
We found ourselves looking at the world through new eyes.”
This tragedy, regardless of the details, tore them down to their lowest point, where all they had was one another. This life-altering experience has brought them together in a way they didn’t think was possible, and fundamentally shifted their perspectives, forging the bond that they were desperately grasping for but had previously been just out of their reach. It’s a moment where, regardless of the mistakes, the regrets, the hardships, and the obstacles, they realized their souls are irrevocably bound to one another.
And the last verse, while demonstrating their resolve and acceptance, is truly heartbreaking.
This paves the way for Cover Me, one of the album’s most eclectic and layered songs. A lot is going on here, and the song conveys the assurance that they will always be there for one another, despite the mistakes they’ve made, and will make in the future.
Act 3 – Everglow
The album’s title song is the pinnacle of their entire journey. Through the ups and the downs, the joys and the mistakes, they have reached this higher plane, and attained a love and affection deeper than anything they’ve ever experienced before, an emotion so strong and yet intangible, it can only be described as a warm light that burns for eternity. Here, for the first time, they abandon their fears and concerns, and they know they’ve finally reached what their hearts were searching for.
I take it back. This song might be my favorite – not for anything other than the emotion it instills. I’m sorry, pure sentimentality factors into my opinions much more substantially than it ever should. I have a problem.
Ready and Waiting to Fall
In “Ready and Waiting to Fall,” they’ve made it. Together, they have overcome every obstacle life has thrown at them, and can now bask in this “everglow.” Here, they explore how this love has changed their life and how they see the world around them. More than anything, they’re happy.
An extension of the previous songs, Anything describes how their love defines them, enabling them to accomplish anything – everything else in their life seems attainable, all obstacles conquerable. It’s pretty much the cutest thing ever.
The Sun and the Moon
And finally, The Sun and the Moon. I’m a sucker for this song. A slow serenade, this song looks back at the journey they shared together, and looks forward to what they will get to experience with one another.
“So when you say forever,
Can’t you see you’ve already captured me.”
We witness the exact point when, after everything they’ve endured together, they’ve committed the rest of their lives to each other.
The song itself almost seems to reflect their relationship – pure and simple, it starts slow, then builds dramatically. The epic swell at the end illustrates their “happily ever after.”
Whether or not they lived out long lives, or death cut their love short, it doesn’t really matter – the point is that, for however briefly, the attained this deeper level of love and understanding, and transcended what they were capable of in this life alone.
Which brings me back to the beginning of this piece. The album’s songs, within the context of the album, are so much more powerful and moving than they are when listened to separately. In this way, the album’s structure meta-reflects its own message – separately, we are only capable of so much, but together, we can achieve so much more.
With its powerful lyrics and euphoric musical compositions, The Everglow takes the listener along a poignant journey, throughout which love – real love – is manifested and defined. It’s about how love isn’t a fairy tale, and yet you want it even more for that. It’s about finding perfection in imperfection, and realizing that it’s not about someone that makes your life better – it’s about finding the other part of you, and experiencing all the ups and all the downs that life has to offer, but doing it together.
So in closing, you should listen to this album KTHX.
4 thoughts on “Album Analysis: Why Mae’s “The Everglow” Is My Favorite”
One of my all time favorite albums! Thanks for a great analysis piece!
High five! Thanks for reading, glad you liked it!
Mae is my favourite band, this album is so wonderful … Your review gave me an another point of view of this album. I loved it already, but I love it even more now.
Great job 😀
(sorry for my terrible english *-* )
I’m ashamed that I never took the time to listen to the entire soundtrack until now. It’s so beautiful and perfect! I wish more music in the world was like Mae’s: thoughtful and sweet.