Mayday Parade is pretty much a household name at this point. With ten years together and more than a million records sold, the band has headlined shows around the world while also perfecting their craft in songwriting. Putting out their sixth full-length album, Sunnyland is the follow up to 2015’s Black Lines, making it the band’s first release since signing to Rise Records a few months back.
The lead single, “Piece of Your Heart,” was carefully dropped a few months back, around the time of their label switch, and, at its core, it’s a beautifully crafted love song with a twist. Whereas many love songs focus on the good times, “Piece of your Heart” does the opposite. Putting the focus on the mess and the hurt, vocalist Derek Sanders sings, “Give me your misery, all of it, give it to me,” before asking the subject of the song to “say hello to all my problems for me.” This song reassures that love isn’t easy; it isn’t just about the lighthearted feelings you get, but also the hardships you go through together.
A standout number is on the album is “It’s Hard to Be Religious When Certain People Are Never Incinerated By Bolts Of Lightning.” While Sanders never actually says these words, the message is fully conveyed in the lyrics. The song, written after the last presidential election, is angrier than most of Mayday Parade’s previous releases. You can hear the contained rage in his voice almost breaking through at various points.
Although the song may be somewhat of a diss track, calling out those who seem to always want to justify their bigotry (“I’m sure you’ve got a reason and it’s profound / believe anything as long as it never lets you down”), it still remains hopeful as it reminds listeners that we’re together through it all and we have each other to fall back on. Perhaps the best parts of these two aforementioned songs are the accompanying music videos, which complement one another. Without giving too much away, they are both a love story and a revolution.
Without a doubt, my favorite song is the fourth track, “Is Nowhere.” It’s like a punch to the gut every time it comes on. The first verse is a familiar feeling for anyone who struggles with anxiety. As Derek sings, “I think I see someone I know / I’m hiding in my drink, and making friends with the window,” before going on to say, “I’m having conversations with the lines I’ve already rehearsed to myself,” you can almost feel the anxiety creeping in little by little. Although it doesn’t necessarily have a “happy ending,” it’s refreshing to hear these thoughts out loud and know that you’re not the only one.
“Looks Red Tastes Blue” was another knockout when I first listened to it. It is a big, full piece, that I, personally, would love to hear backed by a full symphony to really bring it to life. It switches gears at the end with a key change reminiscent of “The Black Parade,” and, with a marching band vibe, it puts the spotlight onto drummer Jake Bundrick to guide the song to completion.
The final two songs, “Always Leaving” and “Sunnyland,” are about as heart wrenching as Mayday Parade can get–similar to the feeling of your heart shattering into a million fractured pieces. “Always Leaving” has the band calling out the “relentless miles” that always separate them from loved ones, whether that be family and friends or fans. They are always pulled away by their lifestyle, as Derek woefully sings, “As soon as I arrive I must say goodbye.” The most noticeable aspect of the song is the breathtaking guitar work; it will pull you in and keep you captivated. The soft, steady finger plucking that is too often forgotten in this genre of music is a welcomed change, and it keeps the song sounding fresh.
“Sunnyland” brings the nostalgia to the record. The ballad recounts intimate moments the band has experienced. Since this is the title track, I assumed that it would hold some very deep, personal meanings to the band. As it turns out, they were not afraid to share, with Sanders pleading for the listener to “take me back to sunnyland” so they can “find the light again.” Recounting old baseball games and landmarks from their childhoods, it is sung with such pride that I could almost envision the abandoned hospital mentioned in the song.
While each song on Sunnyland is carefully constructed, the tracklist seems to be piled up with no real sense of order. Transitioning from a soft balled into a heavier one, and then slowing down and speeding up again… This constant change of pace made it difficult to flow from one track into the next. Unfortunately, because of this, some songs got lost in the crowd, so to speak. There are standouts on this album, for sure, and there are many tracks that I love, but it’s undeniably an album that I’d put on shuffle.
WORDS BY KELLY FADDEN