The idea of simplicity is a quality in music that I feel many musicians tend to undervalue. When faced with the pressure of creating a signature sound that’s all their own, many bands often tend to lose their direction and original mantra for making music in the process. Fortunately, this line of thinking hasn’t yet affected the judgement Cincinnati, OH’s own pop-punk quartet Mixtapes. Ever since they released their first studio album Maps on Death to False Hope records, the band has kept on thing very clear throughout all of their material – keeping their music simple. While everything has been upgraded on their sophomore No Sleep release Ordinary Silence – everything from the production to lyrical content has a nice, new sheen to it – the overall methods and style of music they produce have stayed the same, which is all any fan of the band could ask for. It’s for this reason that Ordinary Silence is the best album Mixtapes has put out so far in their short career as a band.
Ordinary Silence, while not a perfect record by any means, comes as a sigh of relief for the four-piece. After signing with No Sleep Records just last year, the band almost immediately put out their label debut Even on the Worst Nights. While the album was reflective and catchy, the sixteen-track album felt a little overbearing. The record showcased some of the band’s best material (the triumphantly infectious “Indian Summer” and Wonder Years-assisted “Mt. Hope” are just two of the few), as well some of the least memorable. It made me a little worried when I saw that not even a year later they’d be following up this record with Ordinary Silence. A sixteen track album should’ve been enough to sustain the band for at least another year. However, just one time through Ordinary Silence was more than enough to show me how wrong I was.
To help tease the release of the new record, singles “Elevator Days”, “Happy & Poor” and “Everything’s Eventual” were put up for early promotion. All of these songs started to showcase an enhanced flavor of the pop-punk sound they’d been becoming well known for putting out. Sure, the subject matter and general ideals have stayed the same, but many of the kinks that plagued their earlier releases have started to feel resolved in nature. “Elevator Days”, the leadoff single for Ordinary Silence, has one of the cleanest, catchiest riffs on the entire record, resembling other pop-punk heavyweights like Green Day and Sum 41. “Everything’s Eventual”, while the shortest of the trio, has a bouncy, parade-like feel to it, showcasing some of the most optimistic lyrics the band’s worked into their material yet (“If this is where your life begins, that’s okay / not everyone starts on a blank page / I know I’ve wasted years feeling bad about feeling bad about the time that’s gone away”).
It isn’t until the album’s end that the true genuine nature of Ordinary Silence truly starts to shine through. “A List of Things I Can’t Handle” is far and away one of the best songs of the band’s discography. Everything from the after-verse tempo shift, to the passionate vocal work to the excellent lyrics are all warmly welcomed, and all add up to a reflective, poignant, and ultimately infectious track. “Swirling” is a winner for similar reasons – everything from the Foo Fighters-esque opening guitars, to the comically appealing lyrics (co-vocalist Ryan Rockwell isn’t afraid to say “I think most of the bands you like all suck), all find their place and find come off as extremely user-friendly. Closer “Be the Speak That You Change About” is a pleasant end to the record as well, with introspective lyrics about the punk scene and the world that Mixtapes are subjected to on a regular basis, much like “Basement Manners” from EOTWN (“Most of these bands would sell their souls / For a four star review and a sold out show”).
Though my praise is high for Ordinary Silence, there are a couple of mild problems with the album. While many of the problems that made Even on the Worst Nights fall short of expectations, there are a couple of problems in particular that hold Ordinary Silence from it being the near perfect record it could have been. The biggest issue? The album still features material that has little business being on the record to begin with. Songs like “I Think I Broke It” and “Like Glass” are pure short throwaway songs to round out Ordinary Silence as a full LP. While these songs aren’t necessarily bad by any means, they still don’t end up hitting as hard.
In the wide shot, Ordinary Silence is an exceptional pop-punk record by a band that has found their own groove when it comes to making music. It’s as heartfelt as anything you’ll find on The Upsides, while still keeping the same vibe of their previous material. When you take everything in perspective, Mixtapes has forever been a collective that writes perpetually catchy songs about friends, music, life and how they affect the world around them – and as long as they remember that, they’ll have zero problem continuing to produce material as poignant, memorable or often magical as what’s on Ordinary Silence.
Check Out: “A List of Things I Can’t Handle,” “Swirling,” “Elevator Days”
For Those Who Rock:
Blink 182’s Dude Ranch
Green Day’s Nimrod
Lemuria’s Get Better