Almost everyone who went through a major emo phase loved Mayday Parade at some point or another. It’s a given. There wasn’t a MySpace page that didn’t have a quote from “Miserable At Best” or “Oh Well, Oh Well”. I’m the exception to this rule, per usual.
My “emo” phase (if you could even call it that) happened a lot later than most kids’ did. I wasn’t around the music scene for the heyday of many of these bands. I came in a little later: For example, I’m much more familiar with Paramore’s Brand New Eyes rather than All We Know Is Falling. In short, I was too young for the Golden Age of Emo, and therefore too young for Mayday Parade.
I never went through a Mayday Parade phase until today. I blasted through their entire discography to prepare myself for their sixth album, Sunnyland. Of course, I dabbled in their singles. You can’t have “Jamie All Over” without the word “jam,” now can you? I know a lot of diehard fans of Mayday, though, so I’ve definitely received expert secondhand knowledge. It’s enough to get me by.
Sunnyland starts with a track called “Never Sure.” I think it’s called this because I’m never sure whether I’m listening to “Melrose Diner” by The Wonder Years or a Mayday Parade song. That being said, it’s a great track and the perfect choice for an opener. This seems like a weird detail to hinge on, but I love the tone Derek Sanders’ vocals in the chorus. He truly shines on this album, whether he’s singing softly or really putting some growl into it.
The album continues with “It’s Hard to Be Religious When Certain People Are Never Incinerated by Bolts of Lightning”, which just might be the longest song name released by a band who isn’t empire! empire! i was a lonely estate. I wasn’t a huge fan of this when it was released as a single. I had never listened to Black Lines since it was released in 2015, so I wasn’t used to a heavier sound from the band. It fits into the album very well, though, and I have a new appreciation for it.
The fourth track really stands out. “Is Nowhere” hits hard and seems to me to reference a toxic relationship. You think everything is great at the beginning, but after a while, true colors come out and the idea of the person’s (or even your own) perfection is shattered. “You smile while the symphony plays / And tell me music is your only escape / Well I don’t hear it anymore / So what do we do now?”
Mayday is probably best known for their heartbreaking ballads. “Miserable At Best”, “Stay”, “Terrible Things”, etc. I think the fifth track, “Take My Breath Away”, is a contender for that prize on Sunnyland. I love this track because it’s so delicate. It’s short, but it definitely stuck with me.
A low point on the album comes for me with “Stay the Same”. I think the chorus is a little bit weak, considering the rich lyrical quality of the verses and bridge. I know I’m really picky when it comes to lyrics, but I don’t think the chorus matches the imagery in the rest of the song. The opposite of a low point, though, is “How Do You Like Me Now”. Another intense track, it has nothing in common (thankfully) with the 1999 Toby Keith song of the same name. There’s a lot of things to think about in a lot of these songs, and the lines that really made me stop were the last three: “The hand you hold is letting go / The sunset is fading / So how do you like me now”.
“Satellite” is a cute track, but I feel like it’s a theme that’s been overdone in music lately. There are a lot of songs comparing love to outer space, and I think this track fell flat for me just based on that cliché. It’s a throwaway track in a sea of other really strong ones. It’s not a hindrance to what the album tries to accomplish, it just seems like an afterthought.
Interestingly, the album’s title has an explanation that we don’t get until the last two songs on the album. It ties everything together and makes the entire album more reflective than it appears before you get to the two final tracks. “Always Leaving” is a look back on the time they’ve spent away from their homes during their time as a band. Derek Sanders has a kid now and I have no doubt that this song was brought from the idea that his line of work forces him to miss out on things at home.
The final track, “Sunnyland”, talks about being kids and having the view that nothing could go wrong. Obviously, if you’ve listened to the rest of the band’s discography, you know that virtually everything went wrong in some way or another. Derek sings, “I left something important back in Sunnyland / And it’s something that I know I’ll never find”.
Sunnyland seems to be the name Mayday Parade created for the concept of nostalgia. They talked about old relationships, driving at night with friends, and playing baseball as kids. They’ve covered the theme in virtually every album they’ve released, but I think this is the first time they’ve really nailed it so heavily. This album is a fantastic piece of art. If emo was dead, Mayday Parade have singlehandedly raised it back to life.
by Nadia Paiva
Nadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.