Mixtapes – Ordinary Silence
Record Label: No Sleep Records
Release Date: June 25th 2013
A little under a year ago, Ohio pop-punk four-piece Mixtapes released debut record on No Sleep Records Even On the Worst Nights, and while it was my first full length (and even just any material) from the band, I was mildly impressed. It wasn’t anything special, but that’s the whole point of the band, if you really think about it. Mixtapes isn’t out to change pop-punk, let alone change the world. They’re just four friends who love playing pop-punk songs about their every day life. They’re average people who do average things, and that’s what they talk about. They talk about real life. Their music may not be perfect, and it may not extremely unique and groundbreaking, but does it need to be? Well, no, it doesn’t. Fellow pop-punk band and Ohio natives Light Years released their debut record a couple of weeks ago (called I Won’t Hold This Against You, for those of you who are interested), and that record really stuck a chord with me, because while the lyrics were simplistic, they worked. They were all about growing up, and trying to accept things such as growing up, and even death. It was a very “real” album, and so is this. Albeit, it’s not as “deep” and personal, but it’s still real. It’s just about everyday life, and nothing more. It’s not meant to be intellectual or deep, but it’s still meant to be relatable. That’s what Mixtapes has going for them. Their lyrics and their overall sound is very relatable and easy to understand. That’s what drove me to them in the first place. That, and the dual vocal dynamic of Ryan Rockwell and Maura Weaver. Aside from dual vocalists, they’re male and female, which is really interesting. It’s a unique dynamic, so even if their overall sound isn’t too unique, there’s one unique aspect about them.
Other than that, though, they’ve never quite been one of my favorite pop-punk bands, but I’ve never disliked them, either. I’m happy to listen to them, and they’re a very fun band, but I’ve just never loved them enough to keep going back constantly. One thing that has bothered me about them, and it may just be a nitpick on my part, but their records can have a lot of songs on them. Not necessarily be lengthy in terms of the overall length of the record, but just having a lot of songs, so it feels like it’s longer than what it really is. For instance, Even On the Worst Nights was 38 minutes, but had 16 songs. Ordinary Silence is only 37 minutes, and has 14 songs. This album feels much more concise than the former, because there aren’t as many. Granted, it’s only two less, but it’s still something. Even so, it bothered me, just because have that many songs on a record can be too much, and if you’re not careful, you might miss a song or two. While the record itself may only be 36 minutes, Ordinary Silence does suffer from the same thing that Even On the Worst Nights did, which was droning on after awhile. The record was only about 38 minutes, as I mentioned, but it seemed to drag on awhile, because of its tracklisting. The songs were all enjoyable, albeit some of them didn’t do anything for me, but as a whole, it felt rather long. The songs were all short, but the record itself felt much longer than it needed to be. I did say that Ordinary Silence is only 14 songs long, which makes a bit of a difference, but it’s not much. It still suffers from the same thing, but it’s not as extreme here. Even then, that’s something to easily overlook. The music itself, though, is quite impressive. It’s a step up from Even On the Worst Nights, even if they haven’t done much different. The dual vocals are still there, the relatable lyrics are still there in full force, and the short pop-punk jams are still there, too. It’s a step up from their previous record, but it still does fall into the “generic” category more often than not. Some of the songs are great, but others are rather forgettable, even if they are enjoyable.
The record begins with “Bad Parts,” and it’s a really solid introductory track. While the record does have some generic and rather forgettable songs, the band has improved on their quirky brand of pop-punk that deals everyday life. The instrumentation on this record is great, and “Bad Parts” is a prime example of that. What I loved about their last record was the combination of indie and pop-punk, and they continue that to a much bigger degree here. Not to mention, there are a lot of catchy hooks, too. There’s a part in the song where Weaver repeats the word “no” a few times, and it’s honestly quite catchy. I’ve had it stuck in head for the last few days, and I don’t know why. Anyway, “Bad Parts” has a misleading title, because this song is one where they’ve taken all of the good parts of their sound, and amplified them. And that’s kind of what happens on the record. It’s not perfect, and there are some songs that don’t do much for me, but it’s still enjoyable for what it is. In fact, the first three songs are absolutely fantastic. Weaver takes vocal control for the majority of “Bad Parts,” while Rockwell comes in for the second song, while Weaver does come in occasionally. I’ve always enjoyed how neither vocalist overshadows the other. They both have songs where they take lead vocals, but for a majority of the record, they share the songs, and it works perfectly for them. I love hearing them trade lines. It’s almost as if they’re having a conversation with the way these lyrics are written, along with the way they sing them. Third track “Elevator Days” is the first song released the record, and I can see why after hearing it a few times. This is where the very relatable lyrics come in, too, because the song has Weaver and Rockwell talking about they’re trying to improve themselves and get better, and no matter what you, the listener, might be struggling with at the moment, this is a nice little inspiring to say, “Hey, I’m just trying to get better, and I’m doing all that I can.” It’s simple, but it works.
A little while later, there’s a one-two punch of sixth and seventh tracks “Gravel (Interlude)” and “Happy and Poor.” The former is an interlude, which is obvious, thanks to the title, but it’s a really cool little interlude. It’s quiet, and goes by rather quick, which works for it. It’s a contrast to how the record has been going so far, and this song has one of my favorite lines on the entire record, which goes, “Sometimes I’m just happy that I’m alive.” I don’t know what it is about that lyric, but it’s perfect. The latter track is another one of my favorite tracks, mainly for its lyrics. “Happy and Poor” deals with just that; being happy, even though you may not have much money. As for the last half of the record, it still holds up, just as well as the first half. One song that sticks out is ninth track “You Look Like Springtime,” which is a rather slow track. That’s why it sticks out. A majority of the record is fast, aggressive pop-punk, but this song slows things down slightly. It’s also the longest song on the record, at a little over three and a half minutes. The only other song that really grabs my attention is the closing track, “Be the Speak That You Change About.” Again, it’s the lyrics that really suck me in, because this song is a jab at bands that “sell out,” and only do things for money. It’s become a recent trend to call out musicians for being awful people, even though the musicians calling them out are just as awful (I’m looking at you, Attila). But Mixtapes aren’t quite doing that. They’re not calling anyone specifically, but just saying, “We don’t like that, and we’d rather have a small dedicated group of fans, rather than selling out stadiums.” It’s a valid point to make, even today, so it’s a nice closing song. The record itself is quite solid, even though it can be rather generic at times. The lyrics are very relatable, even if they are simple. And the best things about this record are Weaver and Rockwell’s vocals. They may not be great vocalists, but their vocals together are unique and enjoyable to hear. All in all, it’s a very fun and relatable pop-punk record that’s great for the summer.