Conor Maynard issues a formidable sequel to his last album, 2016’s Covers, in +11 Hours, a record that not only lives up to its provocative premise but further explores a poetic side of Maynard’s artistry that was only slightly touched on in his 2012 debut Contrast. In lyric-driven ballads like “Storage,” “Dark Side,” and “By Your Side,” we meet a relaxed Conor Maynard for what feels like the first time – gone is the hesitance and the charming but bitter self-analysis, and in their place, we find a swaggering persona that seems completely at ease with vulnerability (something that I had felt was missing from the whole of Contrast). +11 Hours is a turning point for this artist and the movement that he sits at the forefront of.
There’s an immersive feel to “By Your Side,” “If I Ever,” and “I’m Here Forever,” but beneath the cerebral cosmetics that we hear in all three of these songs, there’s a conventional pop framework that is accessible, warm and surprisingly freewheeling. The juxtaposition of the familiar and the flamboyant doesn’t create so much contrast as to repel casual listeners from the more experimental material here ( “How Am I”), but you can tell that Maynard wasn’t intimidated by conceptual elements when he was developing the core blueprint for this album. As previously noted, the confidence that he brought with him into these recording sessions had a really big influence over the elaborate design of the content, and at times it’s so prominent a component that it’s even a little infectious; i.e. the unparalleled “A Different Way” serves as a good example of what I’m talking about.
Instrumentally, I think it’s safe to say that +11 Hours is the most profoundly pushy LP that Conor Maynard has attached his moniker to since first coming onto the scene well over a decade ago. “Dark Side” and “I’m Here Forever” both push his signature sound’s stylistic envelope more than any of the other balladry he’s penned in recent memory has, while the synth parts in “Enemies” and “Storage” tell us stories of their own that are completely separate from those created amidst the lush lyrics Maynard emits so carefully. This is multilayered melodicism on steroids, and that’s putting it mildly.
+11 Hours is the consummate pop singer/songwriter release in this artist’s scene this summer, and if it gets into steady rotation anywhere on the sat radio dial this June, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Conor Maynard burrows his way even deeper into the mainstream spotlight before the year is over. Here, Maynard abandons every preconceived notion of what a modern pop record is supposed to look and sound like whilst melding a basic style of prose with anti-establishment harmonies that don’t fit into any box.
He shows nothing but discontent and resentment for blasé concepts, labels, and traditions in +11 Hours, and in doing so creates something that ironically sounds younger and fresher than almost any other indie pop album I’ve heard in 2023 has. It’s a melting pot of melodies, and simply put, a marvelously evolved incarnation of this player’s one-of-a-kind style.