Lovely Little Lonely is difficult to listen to while sitting still. It has the kind of undeniable pop rock vitality that demands movement and perpetual action. But what the album does best is rooted in its quiet components, such as the shorter, mostly instrumental interludes that “Lovely,” “Little” and “Lonely” deliver, and the intentional lulls in some of the more intense songs on the album. Formed in 2007, right at the cusp of the emo renaissance of the early 2000s, The Maine quickly rose to prominence alongside several of the “new wave” alternative rock bands that floated into being at the end of the 2000s. The sixth studio album the band has released, Lovely Little Lonely comes after 2015’s slightly less pop oriented American Candy and has much of the same energy and balance that is characteristic of The Maine.
“Don’t Come Down” starts at a medium pace that quickly builds in intensity and complexity. With a vibrant, infectious spirit and bouncy instrumentals, the first track is equal parts pop and rock. Unlike more standard styles of alternative rock, the bass used in the track is light and almost weightless, which highlights the carefree sound of the piece rather than deepening and darkening it the way most rock basslines do. The lyrics themselves are relatively simple, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing: “When you are next to me and the music is loud / Singing ‘Hey Nineteen’ somewhere in the crowd / We are up so high / They can’t touch us now / We are thousands of feet from the ground” lead singer John O’Callaghan sings. “Don’t Come Down” makes great use of rhythm, using short, snappy lyrical passages that really power the piece.
“Bad Behavior,” the first single released from the album, has the same bouncing beat as “Don’t Come Down,” but the cheery sound of the song hides an underlying unhappiness. At multiple points, the lover is compared to a drug, adding a depth to the piece that distinguishes it from a typical love song: “Oh, I inhale you in small doses / But adore you like the roses / When you’re bad for me, yeah.”
Lovely Little Lonely is meant to be listened to in order, all the way through; it’s the only way to fully appreciate the graceful, seamless transitions that occur between tracks. “Bad Behavior” cumulates in a single, striking beat, then follows with hovering, wispy sounds before “Lovely” echoes into being. “Lovely” has a fluid, underwater soundscape, and is characterized by an intentional blurring that makes listeners feel as if they’re listening through a haze of fog. The lack of lyrics make for a pleasant, quieter break from the first two intense songs before transitioning into “Black Butterflies and Déjà Vu.”
“Black Butterflies and Déjà Vu” is by far one of the most memorable tracks on the album; it’s no wonder it was the second single to be released. Contrast plays a huge role in the song, and most of it centers around variations in how the chorus is sung: “I lose my voice when I look at you / Can’t make a noise though I’m trying to / Tell you all the right words / Waiting on the right words.” At times, the electronic instrumentals fall back and O’Callaghan’s voice becomes a tender croon, and at other times, his words are filled with a fiercely desperate longing.
The transition into “Little” is every bit as smooth as the ones that came before. Unlike “Lovely,” “Little” has a far more ghostly feeling, along with a whistling, eerie vocal overlay. Rather than completely stopping the flow of the album, “Little” makes listeners feel as if they’re suspended in time for a little bit; once again, the lull provides a nice pause, heightening the emotional impact of the songs both before and after. Ultimately, it’s the quiet calm of these passages that brings the album together as a cohesive whole; by giving space for the smooth and the intensity to complement one another, these sections fit together like a puzzle, and Lovely Little Lonely becomes one.