The Maybe Man

The Maybe Man

In the 2020s, AJR have experienced dizzying highs and crushing moments of sadness: Their swaggering 2020 single “Bang!” became their first Top 10 hit on the Hot 100; they got tapped to write songs for the musical version of treasured children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon; and Gary Metzger, the father of AJR members Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met, passed away after a brutal illness. The Met brothers channeled those peaks and valleys into their fifth full-length, The Maybe Man, a maximalist pop odyssey that faces its existential crises head-on with brutally self-effacing humor, devastating honesty, and densely ornate music. Big hooks and huger arrangements abound; “Hole in the Bottom of My Brain” is a rollicking chronicle of how climbing the ladder soothes the ego that recalls an amped-up cross between Harry Nilsson and Fun., while the stressed-out “I Won’t” pairs its lyrics about feeling boxed in by 21st-century norms with horror-movie strings. The band also adds to its own mythology with the sweeping “Turning Out Pt. iii,” which sprinkles angst over the perception that “everyone’s got it all figured out”; it culminates with Jack Met’s voice slicing through the mix with an important message—“don’t overthink it”—as the music drops out. The Maybe Man digs in on “God Is Really Real,” which opens with a striking line: “My dad can’t get out of bed,” Jack Met sings over gently strummed guitars. Its simple melody highlights its wrestling with the big issues (mortality, theology, the notion that “we can’t face our feelings, so we’re makin’ lots of jokes”) and puts the status anxieties and petty squabbles of previous songs into sharp relief. Following it with the sprawling mini-rock opera “2085,” where the brothers ruminate on what their life will be like when they’re older, shows how their lengthy journey has taught them hard lessons; its interpolation of the title track brings the album full circle, and its curtain-call ending signifies a closing of this chapter in AJR’s wild ride.

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