Mike Mains and the Branches headlined our festival this year, so we have to write about their new album, right? I think that’s in the music journalism rule book.
My listening history with Mike Mains and the Branches started in early 2011. I remember walking around Wheaton College’s campus as a senior, listening to “Stereo” on my iPod classic. I have memories of walking to my friends’ totally-not-a-frat-house known as “The French House,” which has sadly been torn down in favor of shiny new welcome center. Yay nostalgia, boo new construction am I right?
Fortunately for us, Mike Mains and the Branches have managed to retain that indie pop rock sound that tugs at the nostalgia heartstrings while their faces are firmly set toward the future. If past releases were for the band’s niche die-hard fans, then When We Were In Love is the band’s introduction to the rest of the world.
“Endless Summer” came out a bit too late in the year for me to make it my warm weather anthem of 2018, but you can bet that’s what I’ll be doing this year. This is the perfect twilight-and-warm-weather-with-windows-down tune. I have half a mind to take a road trip to somewhere near water in a couple of months just so I can fully dive into the “Endless Summer” experience.
Another highlight of the album comes in the form of “Around the Corner.” It’s an anthemic song that, in spite of its driving nature, serves as more of a gentle reminder to persevere than a loud motivational speech.
“Renegades” is classic Mike Mains the Branches through and through. It functions as the longest song on the record, but it also inhabits that twilight mood well, with piano melodies coming through like brushstrokes on a light canvas. After listening to this song recently, I felt like a change of pace in my iTunes, so I switched to “The Outfield” by The Night Game. (Man, that would be a killer tour package.) I can actually hear some similarities between Martin Johnson and Mike’s vocals.
“Breathing Underwater” might be the most obvious example of the evolution of MMTB’s sound on the record. It flirts with synth pop at times, with some production choices that are unassuming—not obnoxious, but not in your face either. It all feels very natural. Sidenote: watch our video of them performing this song at Steadfast Festival below:
This record definitely captures a fun, easy listening vibe while also diving into the heartfelt authenticity that MMTB have been known for to long time fans. Whether you listen for background music or with intention, you’ll get something out of this album each time.