Mike Mains and the Branches. This indie album fizzes with energy, purpose and strong songs.

Label: Independent
Time: 10 tracks / 40 minutes

Mains joins some very disparate dots. The opener takes a Jam-like melody, adds a Newsboys hook and sprinkles some Danielson glitter over the lot. It works.

But over the course of this sprightly collection, he develops plenty of his own appealing style, not least because of his expressive vocals. There’s something about his confident ‘70s/’80s New Wave approach that reminds me of Steve Taylor and makes me wonder how charismatic he might be on stage.

‘Home’ seems to be an important concept for the band. Being on tour brings that out for them and there is a relational element to the words in this collection. Like many of the best bands, there is an underpinning of faith to the whole album, but different songs deal with different parts of life.

I must admit some confusion: they had a 2010 CD Baby release with twelve songs, while another site shows only ten with a different cover. My review copy – lacking any tracklist, cover or lyrics – only has ten, and in a different order to both. However, even on these ten, the band impresses both in the songcraft and their musical understanding. David Denison’s drumming particularly epitomises the musical sensitivity that draws the songs together. That they chose these from a starting point of 60 songs shows how strong this set is, and the important tracks all seem to be on the shorter release.

It takes a while, but the hooks do appear – and strangely, the band leaves the best till last. These also happen to be close to the few on their MySpace page (http://www.myspace.com/mikemainsandthebranches).

“Beneath Water” is a baptism song, whose energy captures the intensity of the moment. The chorus lyrics “Hold me /underneath the water till the old me /dies and slips out of this body /and make me new again” are great, but you need the music behind them to capture all of the emotion that flows inside the tune. “Rush You” is a fully-formed song that deals with caring for another person and hints at Mains’s unhappy childhood; while “Stereo” has all the shout-out chants, jangly guitar and sing-along moments that make a fine single.

By the time “Stereo” closes this impressive début collection, the ending seems premature and I am left wanting more. This band has a lot going for it; they are worth checking out.


Derek Walker

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