With a feverish glow, the glorious opening salvo of synth work in “If I Ever” welcomes us into the incredible new album from Conor Maynard, +11 Hours, amidst a firm pop undertow that will take on a monstrous shape by the time we reach the record’s conclusion.
There are some sparkling studio frills, chic bells and whistles, and a few synthetic melodies to behold here; beyond these however is only outlandishly experimental energy that Maynard will turn to repeatedly for guidance in the often jarring, always magnetizing journey that lies ahead of him past this track. Once “By Your Side” fills the void left behind by +11 Hours’ introductory ballad, it becomes obvious to everyone within earshot just how experimental that energy is for Maynard right now. Through the thick barbs of lyrical wit that cascade from above in “By Your Side” and the brain-melting melodic tizzy that “Storage” eventually transforms into, there’s scarcely a moment where listeners aren’t challenged to embrace a new brand of self-conscious pop in this strikingly smooth effort.
“Enemies” rises from the ashes left in the wake of “Storage” and immediately shifts the trajectory of the tracklist towards a more conventional direction. Don’t let the title of “How Am I” confuse you; even when considering its poetic postmodernity, it’s still one of the better compositions in the entirety of this album. It’s in tracks like this one and its stylistic opposite “Dark Side” that we get to hear just how much Maynard has grown into his sound in the last few years – he’s been in this game for a while now, and you don’t need to be a long-term, hardcore supporter to notice just how comfortable and relaxed he sounds in these particular performances. Maynard has never come off as inept in past recordings, but there’s something really special about his work in +11 Hours; it’s retrospective, anthological, and multi-interpretive to a fault (which, I might add, are all things that I would normally say about career-end compilations exclusively).
“I’m Here Forever” injects the third act in +11 Hours with a darkness that we never fully escape until the music ceases to play, but in terms of cratering impressions, its impact pales in comparison to that of “A Different Way,” a song that belongs on any serious critic’s Top Tracks of 2023 list, no questions asked. Coming in at a modest four minutes and two seconds in total running time, it’s not the longest song in the world (though it is in this album), but its swinging beats stayed with me long after my initial session with its parent record ended.
+11 Hours comes to a brooding close with its airport symphony of an outro, which I was admittedly enamored by when I listened to the whole LP a good three or four times in a row after I first acquired it at the behest of a colleague. From start to finish, Conor Maynard shines like the brightest star in the summer night’s sky in this album, and if you haven’t already taken the time out to give it a spin this June, I would tell you to do so ASAP.