Most bands follow a conventional route for the release of their debut album, but VALLEY isn’t like most bands. For their debut, they released a three-part album entitled MAYBE, part A released in late 2018, Part B in June of 2019, and Part C this September. The end result is a brilliant, dynamic, and monumental debut album that has quickly become one of my favorite albums in recent years.
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, VALLEY is comprised of Rob Laska (vocals), Michael Brandolino (guitar), Alex Dimauro (bass) and Karah James (drums). Together they’ve created a unique and unbelievably refreshing sound that sets them apart from other current artists, while at the same reminding me of artists such as The Radio Dept, The Band Camino, The Postal Service, of Monsters and Men, and Family of The Year. The vocal harmonies of Rob Laska and Karah James are intoxicating and the vibrant production and detailed composition of each song enable MAYBE to shine as an amazing piece of art.
The album opens with the title track “Maybe”. Coming in at just under two minutes it provides an excellent thematic introduction into what the listener can expect for the remainder of the album and gradually builds until it concludes with a smooth transition into the second song “There’s Still A Light In The House”.
“There’s Still A Light In The House” was the first song I heard from VALLEY, and I was immediately blown away. With each time I listen to this song I love it even more. Everything about it, from the dynamics, production, instrumentation vocals and harmonies, this song has it all and is hands-down my favorite from MAYBE and easily one of my favorite songs that I’ve heard in the past year.
“Closer To The Picture” was the lead single from MAYBE and one of the focus tracks on the album. The music video appropriately follows the meaning of the song, best described by Rob Laska in an interview with Ones To Watch where he explained
“Closer To The Picture is very much about social anxiety. …Every line is kind of pinpointed, like walking into a party and kind of in-between trying to be a social butterfly but also trying to like find the dog and pet it all night.”
“Loop Love” is pure pop ear candy. The sound is so smooth and perfectly mixed. The way VALLEY composes and produces their music allows each song to have a unique sound while remaining consistent with the overall theme of the album. MAYBE has to be heard in its entirety to get the full appreciation of the brilliance of this album including all the incredible deep cuts like “Loop Love”.
“Namedropper” delivers a bright, crisp tone. It’s one of those perfect songs to listen to as you drive around town with the windows rolled down on a warm summer evening.
“Push For Yellow (Shelter)” is one of my favorite songs on MAYBE. It’s lyrically deep and sonically expansive. It delivers huge group chorus vocal part and one of the best lyrics “Why is something dead not killing me”. When asked about the song in an interview with Wolf In A Suit, the band revealed
As much as this song talks about the want to escape from what you’re dealing with, it also touches upon the feeling of being stuck in the in-between, the feeling of not having the control to slow down-yet everything around you is constant noise to speed up.
Another lead single from MAYBE, “A Phone Call In Amsterdam” delivers a powerful moment on the album. The verses and pre-chorus provide a softer tone before the explosive and infectious chorus hook. The video portrays a young couple having an intense argument and parting ways before realizing the depth of their love and running back into each other’s arms.
As the title suggests “Boys And Girls of 2018 And Everything In Between” declares a more existential message in one of the most poignant moments on the album. The pre-chorus lyrics are particularly powerful to me.
Tell me how you feel, you’ve been at it for a while now
Lock that screen, don’t touch that dial now
Numb that feeling, we’ve got another mile
Another generation dying
“Park Bench” is nothing short of epic. This song will give you life. Props to the band for their incredible video for “Park Bench”. Through the first couple of verses and choruses, they knock it out of the park with incredible synchronized choreography. Once it hits the bridge, everything lets loose and the song and video explode into an energetic party. It’s impossible not to love this song and video!
“Stock S.O.” is one of my favorite deep cuts on MAYBE. It delivers some killer 90’s pop/hip-hop vibes, features a great solo vocal moment from Karah James, and also features a sick instrumental breakdown in the bridge.
“Bailey” is a brilliant perspective on the lifestyle of many current young adults who’ve been given significant advantages in life but waste them away while complaining that ‘adulting is hard’. This chorus lyric sums it up well.
Oh god, Bailey
You spend your Daddy’s credit card
Then complain that money’s hard
And your pictures compensate for your lack for your fun
And you wonder why you’re alone
“Sports Car” is a softer and more laid back track compared to others on the album. It features a steady simple beat throughout as well as the bridge which puts Karah James’ vocals upfront.
“Headphones” features one of my favorite chorus melodies and lyrics on MAYBE. It’s soft, melodic, and powerful. Just excellent songwriting, pure and simple.
It’s not a vain trap door
Part of an elaborate show
I can hear you in my headphones
But you won’t hear me
There’s not a secret code
Swung behind the hidden door
I can hear you in my headphones
But you won’t hear me
“Nowhere Fast” delivers another particularly powerful and poignant moment on the album. It’s an excellent encapsulation of the feeling that many people experience as they grow up and struggle with gaining traction during life’s transitions.
As if you didn’t already realize, VALLEY is extremely intentional with the creation, composition, and structure of their music. When listening to MAYBE all the way through you’ll recognize a common theme, but once the final track “Watery Brain” hits you understand how this album is a complete work of art. “Watery Brain” brings the album full circle with the same melodic tones and lyrics from the opening title track. In a triumphant and climactic moment, the band, with extra support from a choir, belts out the bridge before Rob Laska and Karah James softly sing the final lines.
Too young to drive or pay the grocer
But you still know somethin’ that I don’t
Dialin’ number with my eyelids shut
God knows I try…
MAYBE includes three beautiful extra bonus tracks at the end. These are alternative versions of previous songs within the album, including “Nowhere Fast – Reprise/Orchestration”, “A Phone Call In Amsterdam – Acoustic”, and my favorite of these three “Boys And Girls Of 2018 And Everything In Between – Reprise/Orchestration”
With this incredible debut album, VALLEY has set the bar extremely high for themselves, but I have no doubt that they’ll continue to release even better music long into the future. This album made me a lifelong fan of VALLEY and I can’t wait to see what they do next. Until then, I’ll be listening to MAYBE on constant repeat.