Mixtapes – A Short Collection of Short Songs

Mixtapes Short Collection coverYou may remember Mixtapes from my review of their split with Milwaukee’s Direct Hit!, about which I said:

“…the least convincing band rivalry since Radon burned that church down and Bad Religion wrote them a really stern letter.”

Hey, go check out their joint video if that has you curious!

So, since then the boys and girl in Mixtapes have been busy engineering an advanced form of mad science, allowing them to cram 7 songs over 16 minutes onto a single 7″. A Short Collection of Short Songs is the result, and there’s actually a real mixtape feel to it – a mix of songs with varied pace and songwriting, plus, of course, a cover.

Let’s begin at the beginning: ‘Birthday Party Summer’ (subtitled ‘Helllooo Meggannnn’ – bless those punx and their in-jokes). It opens soft, steady and gentle but with quick root notes on the bass to indicate that things are going to pick up. At first, though, you’re left to soak in some sweet vocal harmonies, occasional delicate guitar picking and ever-so-slightly sappy lyrics. There’s a faint smattering of piano, too, before the pace picks up alongside gang vocals and more energetic drumming. But the song is, essentially, an extended intro for ‘Real Hotel California’, the faster pop-punk number that ‘Birthday Party Summer’ was always promising to build toward. The vocals here are led by Maura Weaver, who reminds me a little bit of a grittier Candy Heart’s Mariel Loveland, or a predictable RVIVR reference, but really she’s got a distinct voice that isn’t enhanced by loose comparisons. Here’s she’s driving a catchy tune which, like its predecessor, boasts some nice harmonies and a good, simple melody, with vocal counterpart Ryan Rockwell snarling in the background.

‘Soups Whatever’ changes pace, placing both vocalists front and centre over an acoustic tune that’s a little jaunty for something that’s a little nostalgic and a little sad at the same time. Bassist Josh Condon and drummer Kamal Hiresh don’t have much to do here, just as in ‘Whit’s End’, which is a little pacier, a little more energetic, and features more piano parts, and ‘Anna Maria’, the slowest, softest and sweetest track on the EP. The latter two focus on shared memories and pasts, with ‘Anna Maria’ in particular dwelling on the forgotten innocence of youth, and both Maura and Ryan exhibiting vocal work with just a hint of vulnerability. Spacing up these three softer tracks is ‘I’m Like’, another pop-punk number with thumping drums and chugging riffs.

The record’s closed out with the aforementioned cover: The Hold Steady’s ‘Your Little Hoodrat Friend’. It’s pretty meaty and rocking, and a reasonable imitation of the original – right down to a passable Craig Finn from Ryan – but it’s too devoted and slavish a copy to be really memorable. I’m sure it was fun to play, and live I’ve no doubt it’s fun, but on a record why would I not just listen to the original? Sadly, it’s also the only song where Maura’s vocals are out of place, with her voice and range not matched to the low drawl that characterises Finn’s songwriting.

Still, it’s hard to complain too much about a song I do actually enjoy listening to, especially when it’s rounding out a short record with a solid and varied mix of songs that run easily between introspection and sensitivity and heel-slamming 4/4 power chords. It’s particularly impressive given how prolific the band are, with another EP – Hope is for People – released between my receiving this for review and writing about it. So, if you’re still unfamiliar with Mixtapes, this is a great place to start.

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