Music Reviews

Maxïmo Park Nature Always Wins

(Prolifica Inc./PIAS) Rating - 8/10

Much like the British art-pop bands that started in the early 2000s, Maxïmo Park finds themselves in a strange in-between. Neither too unfairly-maligned nor ardently adored, the Newcastle band have defended their underdog status by chugging along with release after release for over twenty years. Literate-minded frontman Paul Smith gets to the bottom of this very same idea on the jangly rocker Placeholder, where he cheerily proclaims to give a relationship his best shot—even if what he may truly mean is that his band will not fade into obscurity under his watch. And, in effect, Smith and his bandmates pack Nature Always Wins with single after single—most of these genuinely some of their best since 2009's Quicken the Heart. Throughout the album, Smith taps into themes of aging, fatherhood, and the innate connections humans have with the natural world. And while many of these ideas aren't particularly sexy, especially for artists who've recently turned forty, the band wisely keeps their grand, romantic gestures in check while making them thoughtful and relatable. But if there was any doubt of Maxïmo Park's taste for winning songs, then look no further than the arena-sized ballad All of Me, where the band strikes an elegant balance between equally massive, yet musical polar opposites Europe and R.E.M.