It Feel Like Home . . .| Posted June 20, 2015
Before I left for Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs, CO, I had the privilege of going with my pastor, my dad, and my brother to the Mike Mains & the Branches concert at the Hard Rock Café in Pittsburgh. The venue was beautiful and we got a front row seat for the whole show. MMTB display a more mainstream melodic indie rock sound with a little bit of scratchy lyrics here and there, mixed in with Mike’s delicate falsetto. They are also able to break those bonds on certain tracks. Formed in Gainsville, Texas in 2009, the group moved north to Michigan later in their career around the time they released their elusive EP, The Rustic. Their first album, Home, released in 2010 with ten tracks came out with the single “Miracle” getting radio play. However, “Stereo” received much more attention and became one of the band’s hits. Home was re-released in 2012 with the addition of the songs “Life” and “Free.” Everything EP was released in 2013 to preview their 2014 effort Calm Down, Everything is Fine, which includes the band’s runaway hit, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.”
Home (2012): 12 Tracks, 46 minutes
“Our debut album is one of honesty,” Mike Mains said in an interview with All-Access Music Group. He goes on to say that though there’s a lot of heartbreak on the album, they shine some joy through their other songs. Home definitely deals with some pretty tough stuff.
The album opener, “‘Miracle’ is a song about some of the struggles that we’ve all dealt with but that most people are afraid to discuss openly,” Mike commented. The song deals with the struggles of lust, but the last lyrics are almost haunting, “Don’t you know that your body is a temple? / So, how ‘bout you make, how ‘bout you make a little room for me.” “Lady Love” and “Stop the Car” go into the relational side of things, relationships that just aren’t going real well with that significant other and “Free” wrestles with pride. “Emma Ruth” is about Mike’s mentor’s stillborn child, while in “Drifter” a sinner is seeking for repentance. MMTB hit a lot of heavy chords with this album, which Mike called “mostly an autobiography.”
However, “Love” also repeats that “All you gotta have is love” and that is simply not true. Truth and love are both required, with a healthy dose of both. In “Free” Mike agonizes that “. . . all we have is now / Don’t throw it all away.” Mike comments that “Emma Ruth” is all he needs, but other than that, this album is pretty solid.
There are some very good things that Mike has to say that separates MMTB from mainstream indie rock. “Stereo” lets us know that “I’ve got a crucifix above my bed / So I forget not to pray when I go to bed / But that can’t save me.” “Matches hits similar territory: “If we make it to the pearly gates / Tell me will our accolades / Earn for us an eternal date in heaven? / What filthy piles of sand our lives make . . .”A line in “Drifter” says “. . . I’m not above and not below / The place where you want me.” On the relational side of the record, “Stop the Car” gets the true meaning of love: “. . . it’s when you give / And give of yourself / Until your tank is on empty / Just to be with the one you love,” and displays real commitment as well, “Seal our words / With your lips against / My lips from now until forever.” Mike also realizes that girls aren’t everything in life in “Lady Love” when he says “If you’re the center of my universe / Then tell me / What is left when you’re gone?”
Having seen them live, I can also attest to the fact that their musical abilities are excellent. An organic sound and lots of arpeggios with some distortion define the guitar pretty well. The keys are excellently developed, being ambient and powerful on “Lady Love” and “Emma Ruth.” However, I’ve really began to appreciate the percussion that MMTB does. It’s very upbeat and exciting and keeps a steady rhythm for most of the faster songs.
All in all, I would say that Home is a successful album in all respects. It covers a lot of difficult subjects that other artists might shy away from, but also contributes a lot of positive aspects as well. The music by no means gets boring and Mike’s voice will always keep you on your toes. If you’re okay with a bit of screaming and like the indie rock style, I would highly recommend this album to you.