Ambitiousness doesn’t always equate to indulgence, and Mainland Break does a pretty awesome job reminding us all of this in their new album One Way Ticket to Midnight. In this latest affair to bear their name in the byline, One Way Ticket to Midnight lives up to the experimental premise of Mainland Break’s previous work rather marvelously, but if you were expecting this band to make a copy of their first effort in this piece, you’re in for quite a surprise with its ten-song tracklist. This is a record profoundly more progressive and gripping than its predecessor, taking elements of indie rock and left-field pop to a more melodic place than a lot of critics will be anticipating.
The vocal presence is the embodiment of emotion in “Portland” and the casual “Replacements,” but this isn’t solely because of the role our singer is given in the arrangement of these two songs alone. There’s no denying the volume of his voice in both instances, but the breakable tone of the strings in the backdrop is made to be intentionally brittle, emphasizing the potency of this crooning naturally. This is a fat-free indie outfit, and you can tell as much just in a cursory listening session with One Way Ticket to Midnight.
Eclectic song structures don’t do much to hinder the poetic value in the detailed “Lucky Miles,” “Memory Fades,” as well as “Split Time” or even “One Way Ticket to Midnight” itself. A minor segue in “The Ranger” would have come off as over the top had it not been afforded the same gruff cosmetic finish everything else here sports, and to my great pleasure, the tracks flow into one another without ever skipping a beat. It’s implied that we’re supposed to hear One Way Ticket to Midnight as a complete album, but with producing like this, it’s even harder to get up from it once you get started.
The fluidity between the players in Mainland Break is something that could leave a lot of the competition green with envy, and given how unforced they relate to each other in performances of “All Night” and “Calling After,” I’m surprised they haven’t been spotlighted more for this specific reason. Anyone can assemble a group of smart musicians for some shared time in the recording studio, but getting artists who can read each other as proficiently as this bunch can take more of a divine action than most of us are willing to acknowledge. It’s epic, and it’s unsullied by robotic bells and whistles in this album.
There’s just no doubt about it – One Way Ticket to Midnight is one of the most moving and multilayered works I’ve heard in the alternative genre this month, and probably a solid contender for album of the year among plenty of circles outside of my own. The best part about this tracklist is how it grips us into sitting through every song intently from start to finish while also inviting the cherry-picking often reserved more for Best-of compilations and the sort. Mainland Break is on top of their game, and in One Way Ticket to Midnight, make a case for global exposure I have to endorse.