Ethereal vocal harmonies dance in exquisite synchronicity before devolving into a chaotic cyclone of romanticism in Conor Maynard’s “Storage,” but where some would deem his mashup of lyrical grit and minimalist melodies as too experimental for mainstream consumption, others haven’t been able to get enough of the moxie contained in tracks like this one and the seven that join it on Maynard’s new record +11 Hours this summer. In +11 Hours, literate lyrical narratives are countered with elusive but striking instrumentation that is equal parts pop and new world R&B/rock hybridity, together creating a cocktail of required listening for audiophiles everywhere this month.
The synth is as much of a star in Conor Maynard’s latest record as Maynard himself is, and one needn’t look much further than the strutting “How Am I” to know exactly what I mean. In “How Am I” and the texturally expressive “A Different Way,” the synth provides us with an endless amount of emotional context, effectively making the words so much more relatable than they would have been otherwise. The same can be said for “If I Ever” and “By Your Side,” both of which boast gilded chorus parts that justify picking up +11 Hours this June all by themselves.
On the production side, this LP is mixed with a tangible physicality that contributes to the weightiness of the instrumental might heard in songs like “Enemies,” and though “I’m Here Forever” could have used a little less embellishment on its vocal component (being that this singer already has a lot of potency to extoll), I think I can appreciate what Maynard was trying to do with the track. In allowing for some overindulgence in “I’m Here Forever,” he’s able to keep the second half of +11 Hours from feeling too barren and cold for us to look beyond its grainy exterior. It’s not necessary, but in the grander scheme of things, it’s not significantly excessive, either.
Personally, I think that Maynard sounds a lot more exposed in this material than he ever has before, and save for a couple of songs on Contrast, there’s a case to be made that “How Am I”, “If Ever,” and “Dark Side” are some of the deepest compositions that he’s recorded in his career thus far. He’s being himself with us in every way that an artist can be in this capacity, and in a summer that has seen more than its fair share of plasticity, to call his new album anything less than phenomenal would be an understatement of epic proportions.
If you’ve never heard the collective works of Conor Maynard, I highly recommend getting into +11 Hours right now, as it is undisputedly among the year’s preeminent pop albums to see widespread release on either side of the Pacific. From “By Your Side” to “A Different Way,” there’s no walking away from this tracklist once you’ve gotten started with it, and while I don’t know that it represents any sort of a peak for Maynard and his brand beyond YouTube, I do believe it to be the most credible content he’s shared with us to date.