While the members of AJR have released music since their preteens, the band decided that it is time to grow up with its new album The Maybe Man, released on Friday.
AJR, a band of three brothers that got its start street performing in 2005, is at the forefront of the indie pop genre today. With hits like “Bang!” and “Sober Up (feat. Rivers Cuomo)” AJR has repeatedly topped the charts with its meaningful lyricism and multi-instrumented melodies.
Using this well-known formula, AJR manages to effectively show its growth as a band in its exploration of mature topics in The Maybe Man, specifically that of discovering identity.
The album begins with the title track “Maybe Man,” during which the listener is immediately thrown into the struggle of finding their identity. A steady two-tone rhythm repeats in the background as lead singer Jack Met lists his desires.
“I wish I was a stone so I couldn’t feel / You’d yell in my face it’d be no big deal / But I’d miss the way we’d make up and smile / Don’t wanna be stone, I changed my mind,” Met sings.
The song’s instrumentals swell as Met sings more desperately, his pitch rising and thunder rumbling in the background as the band grapples with the concept of what it wants to be.
“I wish I was me, whoever that is / I could just be and not give a shit / Hey, I’ll be whatever makes you a fan / ’Cause I don’t know who the hell I am,” Met sings.
It is from this existential basis that the album centers around the idea of identity. This deep theme shows just how mature the band is becoming. With its first hit “I’m Ready,” a song about a girl with a sample from Spongebob in the chorus, the shift to “Maybe Man,” a song that deals with cementing one’s identity for the rest of one’s life, makes AJR’s growth clear.
In the song “Yes I’m A Mess,” the band displays its maturity with the topic of succumbing to the stress of discerning one’s identity. The pop aspect of AJR’s skill set shines with remarkably catchy lyrics and a background consisting of claps and drum beats.
“Yes, I’m a mess with an ‘s’ on my chest / Got stress fillin’ up my head / So I spent last night blowin’ up my life / Now you won’t see me again,” Met sings.
AJR has prided itself on its relatable themes in past albums, such as the theme of growing up and acting your age in “Sober Up” and the theme of giving into temptations found in “Weak.” With The Maybe Man, though, the band takes a turn toward relatability in a more adult sense, dealing with heavier topics like losing control and ruining one’s life.
On past albums, AJR sugar coated its songs by surrounding hard hitting messages with frilly melodies. But on The Maybe Man, the combination of blunt tone and lyrics demonstrate the maturity of AJR.
This is the case with songs like “Inertia” and “I Won’t.” The more straightforward lyrics on these tracks deliver the theme of solidifying one’s identity clearer than songs earlier in the band’s career.
“God is Really Real” is perhaps the best example of the band’s maturity. The track combines both an intensely mature topic with the band’s classic lyricism, and the result is a simply beautiful song written about the brothers’ father, who died after being sick while the band was writing the album.
“The Earth is spinning like it always did / The New York Times is publishing some real important thing / And each day when the world wakes up our lawns will still be wet / And my dad can’t get out of bed,” Met sings.
With such a heartbreaking context, the maturity of AJR is put directly on display, underlaid by a gentler melody. The brothers sing about dealing with the issues of not just identity, but how one copes with loss.
The Maybe Man is a feat for AJR, with the band clearly having grown into the maturity this album perfectly embodies.