This past spring has produced some larger-than-life alternative records, but what Conor Maynard has just released this June in +11 Hours is pure poetry in eight nuanced compositions that are unlike any others that I’ve reviewed all year long. Armed with little more than a galloping melody and a taste for some rather bittersweet synthpop vibes, he assaults us with angular pop in “If I Ever,” blustery waves of sonic bliss in “A Different Way,” and swaying strands of a melancholic melody in “I’m Here Forever,” all the while remaining consistent and focused in his execution. +11 Hours isn’t just Conor Maynard at his most in-sync; this is perhaps the most diversely appointed alternative album of the season if not the year in general.
I love the unassumingly complex instrumentation of “I’m Here Forever,” “Dark Side,” and the Bieber-esque “By Your Side,” partly because, even at their most intense, they never translate as overcomplicated or inappropriately extravagant. There’s been a near-deluge of such material attracting headline-caliber press as of late, which makes +11 Hours an especially rare find this June, and though its sound is easily distinguishable from the major label content that I’ve come across recently, I don’t think that its erudite quality would necessarily discourage non-music enthusiasts from finding some solace in the heavenly harmonies of songs like “A Different Way” and “Outro” at all. If there was one goal that Maynard had when making this album, it wasn’t fitting in with the mainstream model, and that’s made clear to us right from the get-go here.
There’s a lot of depth to the narratives in “If I Ever,” “Enemies,” “Dark Side” and even the implied story in the intro and outro of this LP that extends well beyond what Conor Maynard is singing to us in his trademark vocal, and that just can’t be said for the bulk of output that we’ve been seeing from his closest rivals in and outside of the States this summer. He isn’t content to use but one tool in his toolbox here; Maynard is utilizing every weapon he can get his hands on in “I’m Here Forever,” “Storage” and “Dark Side,” whether it be provocative prose or simpleton synth melodies, and exploiting the dynamic range of talents that he and his selected group of instrumental cohorts possess for everything that they’re worth.
Like a lot of occasional listeners, I was only somewhat familiar with the music of Mr. Maynard before hearing a pre-release copy of +11 Hours just this past weekend, but if this is just a taste of what he can do when there’s nothing to stifle his creativity, then I am very eager to hear more of what he’s dishing out here. No matter what he’s playing in this LP, slow songs and strong-voiced anthems alike, he never breaks his confident stride – in fact, I think that he grows blunter in his delivery as the tracklist progresses – which has been common among all great singer/songwriters throughout history. He’s demonstrating everything that he’s about in this disc, and making it tough for even the harshest of critics to dismiss his efforts as anything other than brilliant.
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