Mixtapes - Maps (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Maps (2010)

Death to False Hope

Maps, the debut from Cincinnati, OH/Detroit, MI outfit Mixtapes, can be summed up using fragmented talking points: Ten songs in 18 minutes. Male and female vocals. A restrained, adorably awkward predisposition. Poppy, punchy and heartfelt, sometimes simultaneously. A sort of relatability that's undeniable.

But that doesn't even do it justice. The songs on Maps are shockingly polished, surprisingly mature and occasionally brilliant. All this from a band that literally came out of nowhere.

The 1-2 punch of "Sunrise" and "Maps" sort of function as one cohesive piece, starting as a subdued number before delving into pounding, anthemic drum beats and choice piano parts, all anchored by the approach of the two vocalists. Ryan's voice toes the line between snottiness and sincerity, while Maura's pipes are slightly raspy, but almost always commanding, and it's a little ridiculous how well they play off each other this early in the game. Their chemistry is even more apparent in "Nothing Can Kill the Grimace," where the two seamlessly trade lyrics while the most infectious guitar harmonies of 2010 hum around them. That song will likely end up on a lot of best-of-2010, ahem, mixtapes when all is said and done.

Mixtapes also tackle acoustic numbers with an aplomb beyond their years, with the vocal harmonies in "And If We Both Fail?" and the aforementioned heartfelt, sometimes humorous awkwardness in "OrangeYellow" serving as definite highlights. Conversely, the band takes on lightning-speed pop-punk in the 44-second "The Mixtapes Misplaced Missed Takes," and it's an entertaining jaunt that further confirms this band's talent and versatility, as well as their diverse influences.

Speaking of influences, tracks like "Road Apples" and "Hope Springs Eternal" ought to conjure up comparisons to Lemuria, especially the former. Likewise for "Moonglow," a song that wastes no time getting to its dramatic climax. It serves as a nice lead-in to "Sunsets," the unplugged closer that showcases the more vulnerable side of Maura's vocals and confirms the band's ability to write a killer chorus, despite the fact that most of the songs on Maps don't even contain a chorus. Showoffs.

Maps was posted to the band's MySpace page as a free download and not soon after, picked up by Death to False Hope Records for digital distribution. Time will tell what's next for Mixtapes, but whatever it is, it'll likely include a lot of well-deserved recognition.