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Destination:Beautiful - Mae (2003)

Oooh. You smell that? It's pop. No, not the soda (you Yankee...), the music that seems to be the world's most attractive genre at the moment. It smells… old. Way old. Christian pop seems especially ripe, thanks to artists such as Stacie Orrico and Plus One. It's enough to make a girl want to chop off her hair and go rock-chick for life.

And then there is Mae.

This five-piece set from Norfolk, Virginia, deftly crafts astounding masterpieces melding the worlds of rock, circa U2's The Joshua Tree or the Beatles' White Album (both of which are counted among Mae's strongest influences), and the electric, radio friendly sounds of modern pop. Driven by a desire to make songs that never leave the listener "trapped in one musical dimension," these guys have pulled together an album that should make even the snootiest pop combatant perk up and take notice.

All songs have a certain level of appeal, ranging from slower tunes like "Giving It Away," to the ultra-popish "Last Call." "Summertime" is a fun little track that puts a happy piano riff under Dave Gimienez's vocals [A side note: Dave's voice sounds uncannily like a masculine, rockier version of Leigh Nash. Or maybe it's just me...]. "Soundtrack For Our Movie" is easily a highlight of the album, thanks to Mark Padgett's driving bass, and Dave's young-and-innocent telling of a sweet romance. Lyrically, this project runs the gambit from deep symbolism in "Sun" ("The confidence you held in us was the rope we almost hung ourselves with"), to borderline clichés in "Runaway" ("Can we talk about this? Give me the chance and we'll fly away"), but throughout the varied swings there is an underlying substance that is rare in pop. Melodically, Mae offers 11 tracks that flow together like water, yet each has intricacies and priceless details that will keep you listening for hours. These guys are musicians for musicians, yet the music they produce is accessible on all fronts. It's the sign of a very talented band.

So toss away your Rachel Lampa, tell Jump 5 to take a flying leap, and get to know Mae. It's like fresh air coming out of your speakers. About time, too. It was getting stale in here.