AJR’s ‘The Maybe Man’ connects to fans

I have a strange psychic connection to the Met brothers. I don’t know how they do it, but Adam, Jack and Ryan — hence their band’s name, AJR — seem to always release an album when I desperately need one and always seem to know exactly what I’m going through in life at that time. I wasn’t sure how their newest release, “The Maybe Man,” was going to make me feel, or how it would connect to me. But by the time I heard the closing line “You’ve got to get better, you’re all that I’ve got,” it felt as if Jack was saying it to me. That’s when I knew that “The Maybe Man” was truly a special experience and might just be the band’s finest work to date. 

AJR is known for their bright, peppy, catchy pop songs like “Bang!,100 Bad Days” and “Sober Up.” All their radio hits exude the same sort of wild production and orchestral power they are known for. “Neotheater” and “OK Orchestra” were deeply rooted in their theater inspiration from growing up in the city. “The Maybe Man” is no different. 

The opening title track takes AJR’s habit of starting with an overture in a new direction. Each verse of “Maybe Man” is about a different song from the album. Then the closing pulls a classic theater trope — a reprise, which loops the opener and closer. It’s things like these that have always made me love this band, and has made them stand out among others for years. 

But, there’s something new here, something not quite felt before in other albums by this band: sadness. “The Maybe Man” isn’t a gloomy album by any means, but there is a deep sense that this album was heavily influenced by the sickness and death of their father Gary, whom the members had always described as their number one fan. 

The song “God Is Really Real” is the most obvious, as it is about Gary not being able to get out of bed. They released the song early as his health was declining so he could hear it, and he died the night it came out. The overall notion that a huge part of themselves had recently gone away, as well as songs about crippling self doubt and anxiety, is the umbrella that looms over this album, which makes sense given its title. 

Songs like “Touchy Feely Fool,” “Yes I’m A Mess,” “The DJ Is Crying For Help” and “Inertia” all tackle these feelings in different ways, yet manage to do something very different in each. Then there’s the more out-there tracks, such as “Hole In The Bottom Of My Brain,” which is hard to explain, but is by far the strangest of the bunch. 

“Steve’s Going To London” is quite the treat. It’s a hilarious track about a song within a song and the process of writing that song. There’s also a huge twist in the middle, and it’s my personal favorite on the album. 

“Turning Out Pt. iii” gives us a traditional ballad moment. The continuation of the “Turning Out” saga now has Ryan writing a song for his new wife about the moment they decided to get married. It’s a beautiful song and one of my favorites for sure. 

But to me, all that energy and those uncertain feelings come full steam ahead in the album’s masterful closer, “2085.” A song about looking towards the future when you are much older and wishing you didn’t waste your time, it encapsulates everything felt throughout the album —  uncertainty and self-doubt. It’s nearly six minutes long, and as mentioned, does include a reprise of the opening song. It’s thunderous, it’s emotional and the finale will bring you tears. I could argue it’s the best song the band has ever made. 

“The Maybe Man” is everything I expect from an AJR album. After five of them, it’s amazing to still see them top themselves and make their most recent piece their very best. The next album is going to have quite the challenge of continuing the trend, because “The Maybe Man” may be their best ever.


5\5 Stars




Featured photo courtesy of @ajrbrothers, Instagram