Mixtapes - Even On the Worst Nights
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Record Label: No Sleep Records
I’m not sure. Really I’m not sure of anything, but this isn't about my personal life, so stop asking. Album reviewers use a lot of adjectives but why does anybody really like any record? There is certain music that I should probably enjoy greatly, like the latest La Dispute record, that for whatever reason I just don’t want to listen to. That definitely doesn’t make sense, because I like that band! I listen to a lot of pop-punk music so by now I should have some higher standards for the genre or something, right?, but here I am, saying good things about an album that really does not stand out all that much. Well, I haven’t started saying good things yet, but foreshadowing is a literary device in which an author indistinctly suggests certain plot developments that will come later in the story.
Mixtapes is a band I like a lot. Ryan Rockwell and Maura Weaver both play guitar and sing, and they sing about things that are pretty basic. About living pretty mediocre lives in mediocre cities and just getting through life. But they do it in a way that is absolutely pleasing and rewarding. And I’m not saying that Even On the Worst Nights is, like, going to change the scene or something, man. It’s a pretty good pop-punk record. There’s no phenomenal musicianship to be floored by – Rockwell’s middle-of-the-road guitar skills have been documented by this website with confusingly extreme precision – but it’s still fun to listen to and easy on the ears. Even On the Worst Nights is a record that you know is objectively not that good – the technicality of it, I mean – but you’re still going choose to listen to when you get in the car because you enjoy it.
The 16 songs on the album don’t take that long to go by, only 38 minutes or so. They begin and end so quickly that the first dozen times I listened to the album, I didn’t really pick up on where the songs separate. “By the time this is over, I won’t have any friends,” Rockwell begins on opener “Seven Mile,” but after less than a minute you’re already in the fast-paced, punk(ish) “Something Better.” The songs where Mixtapes plays fast are the best ones on Even On the Worst Nights; it’s where Rockwell and Weaver either sing at the same time or sing together that they shine. And they sing fast, but not so fast that you can’t keep up, and they make it so it’s fun to sing along. “You Must Not Be From Around Here” is a song like that, and so is “I’m Wearing the Device (Bridge, Water).” In the latter of those two songs, Rockwell and Weaver team up for one of the more memorable choruses on the album as they belt out, “If you’ve got something to say, just say it / I’m tired of running away, so I’ll stay / I spent these last few years on the fence about who I am / And I’ll probably go through it again, but that’s just who I am.” Yeah, I know guys, it’s not poetry, but how many of you under the age of 30 haven’t felt like that a time or two in the last couple of years?
That’s what Mixtapes does, they write songs about nothing that simultaneously are about most things. There are songs about feeling helpless, like when Rockwell sings “You try to change the world and feel useless / I’ve gotten good at making excuses,” on “Indian Summer.” There are other songs about walking around talking to strangers (“One for the Ozarks”) and still other songs about sitting outside discussing movies you hate (“Something Better”). It’s an album about sitting in driveways and growing up feeling awkward, and about how at the end of the day everything usually turns out OK. These are the kinds of things that plenty of punk bands sing about, but hey, there are still a lot of kids in suburban homes listening to those bands.
Some of the slower, or mid-tempo songs, are good, too. There are some duds, certainly, but they go by fast enough that you don’t have time to skip them. The title track is just okay, but the smooth-sounding guitar on “I’ll Give You A Hint, Yes” makes it a highlight. Or maybe the best part about that song is the “You keep on listening to that Bon Iver record / I don’t get it, but maybe that’s the point,” line in the chorus. Mixtapes has always been a fairly outspoken group of young adults.
Maybe I shouldn’t have waited this long in the review to mention this, because most of you likely jumped to the comments about 650 words ago to complain about the too-high score I gave this album, but the last two songs on Even On the Worst Nights are the best ones. “Basement Manners” is good because of its gang vocals, but “Mt. Hope” is good because it’s the best song the band has ever written. It’s the only track to surpass the 4-minute threshold and it has no chorus, but at the 1:30 mark it shifts from a mid-tempo song to a fast pop-punk song. The tempo change leads into a guest vocal part courtesy of The Wonder Years’ Dan Campbell where he belts out, “We’re passing out for about an hour / To give the world a chance to get its shit together / Hiding out, here in the shower / Cause it’s safe and secure and I can’t get hurt no more.” The song slows down before it ends but “Mt. Hope” closes the album on such a high point that it’s hard to resist starting over.
Maybe Even On the Worst Nights is an album that I enjoy more than I should, but like I said way earlier before you began to regret reading this review, I still don’t know why I like some albums more than others. I do know that it hasn’t been out of my constant rotation in the last four months, and that already makes it have longer lasting power than most records I’ve written about in 2012.
Fantastic write up. The record is great in my opinion and I definitely agree with Thomas on a lot of points. Good for Mixtapes for putting out such a solid record. DEFINITELY pick this up when it drops!