Mixtapes – Ordinary Silence
No Sleep, 2013
Pop punk and maturity are two ideas you rarely see in the same sentence. And yet, here you have Cincinatti, Ohio’s Mixtapes who took everything that is great about pop punk (simple structures, monumental hooks, power chords galore, general cleverness), stripped the genre of its brattiness (ok, maybe not all the brattiness) and released a pop punk album for grown ups. OK, it’s not like this is adult swim here, because if I was sixteen years old again I would be devouring this with the same voracity as I have been these past six months. Six months! And I’ve written zip about Ordinary Silence, which is absolutely a top 10 record in my personal rotation this year.
The hooks here are fucking phenomenal. I really have no words to adequately describe the catchiness of the choruses of “Like Glass” and “Cheapness.” These are songs I blast in the car, air drum and sing along to at the top of my lungs. This is an album I never would have sought out had it not been recommended (thanks, Mr. Nick Spacek, once again your taste is finer tuned than a million Pitchforks). This is an album I snagged on a whim and just never stopped listening to it. Unconsciously I realized where my musical comfort zones lie. There’s been a sort of Come to Jesus moment brewing for a few years. Pop punk was always near and dear to my heart because bands like Blink-182 and New Found Glory broke me out of the Limp Bizkit and Korn cage I’d built around myself and from there I moved on to better stuff. But power chords still rule my heart.
Mixtapes just do everything so effectively. The way the boy-girl vocals play tag team for the majority of the album is great, but when Ryan Rockwell and Maura Weaver’s vocals collide they blend into sort of soul satisfying harmonies that turn your bones to butter. I mean, just look at this band! They’re just like you! Or anyone! When pop punk broke out with the likes of the aforementioned Blink-182 it opened a Pandora’s Box that unleashed the Fall Out Boys of the world that transformed the genre into the hair metal of the 00s. It’s refreshing to hear a style of music I love without all the image bullshit attached (closing track “Be the Speak that You Change About” addresses this a little bit with lines like “Most of these bands would sell their souls/ For a four star review and a sold out show/ An opening spot on tour for some washed up band/ I don’t think I care anymore”). These are just good old fashioned obscenely catchy songs about the everyday minutiae we all know. I don’t know why I’m surprised by this album’s depth every time I put it on, but it’s always a welcome surprise (“Swirling” and “A List of Things I Can’t Handle” notably have that effortlessly applied emotional resonance the Arcade Fire wish they still had). Ordinary Silence is one of the few albums on my iPod that I take to the gym and it’s one of the only CDs in my car. People like to rag on pop punk or treat it as a guilty pleasure but goddamnit, this album has so much joy packed into its song that I’m not even really bothered that the whole thing is about three or four songs too long (because the songs I’d cut are still good). Good for Mixtapes to remember that there is an importance in being earnest.