Mixtapes - Even on the Worst Nights (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Even on the Worst Nights (2012)

No Sleep Records

First there was Maps, a 10-song, 18-minute tour-de-force that came seemingly out of nowhere and made punk fans take notice. A split with Direct Hit! came soon after, followed by a few 7-inches, the Bat Out of Hell III mixtape, a few covers for compilations here and there, the Companions EP added to the vinyl release of Maps, the mostly acoustic, digital-only How to Throw a Successful Party EP, and more recently 26 songs of jokey material released for free online. So it feels a bit odd to be saying this at this point, but Even on the Worst Nights is the debut full-length from Cincinnati, Ohio's Mixtapes, and it's a great one.

Even on the Worst Nights offers few surprises for Mixtapes fans, but it finds the band getting better at what they do. The opening one-two punch of "Seven Mile" and "Something Better" recalls past "acoustic intro then full band banger" moments the group has pulled off with the transition of "Sunrise" into "Maps" or "Recently" into "Morning Sex and AM Radio," but the group's abilities have progressed since then, as can be expected with any artist as prolific as Mixtapes, and the new songs trump those previous entries. The "Maybe we'll find a good way / Just don't count on me" refrain contains one of the strongest hooks the group has ever written.

There are other moments that recall past glories on Even on the Worst Nights; the title track sounds a bit like "Hope is for People," and "Golden Sometimes" recalls both "And If We Both Fail?" and "Soups Whatever," but the new tracks are almost always better, due to the band's improved musicianship and songwriting skills. Ryan Rockwell and Maura Weaver have also both improved as vocalists throughout the course of their last two very busy years, their dual vocals coming across clearer and more confident here than ever before. As always, the two get equal playing time on lead vocals, and sing in unison about half the time, as well.

Sure to be one of the most discussed moments on Even on the Worst Nights is the chorus of "I'll Give You a Hint, Yes", where the group croons "You keep listening to that Bon Iver record / I don't get it, but maybe that's the point." That they pronounce it "Bon Iver," and not "Bone-Ee-Vare" demonstrates that they truly do not get it. The group's lyrical attitude is what has endeared many fans to the band, and they've clearly lost none of it.

While Mixtapes are often lumped in with those "easycore" New Found Glory/Madball hybrid bands, the group is a melodic punk rock band plain and simple. While Dan "Soupy" Campbell of the Wonder Years does pop up for a guest vocal spot on closer "Mt. Hope," the cameo from Grath Madden of Steinways/House Boat fame on "Anyways" feels much more appropriate. Namedropping the Ergs! and Superchunk's best album doesn't hurt either.

Mixtapes have given fans exactly the album they expected with Even on the Worst Nights, and that's not a bad thing. Everything you've come to love about Mixtapes is here in spades, with noticeable improvements in almost every department. If you liked the group two years ago when they were giving their music away for free on Death to False Hope Records, you'll like them now, possibly even more.