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Rise Records has announced a handful of new signings over the past several months; hitting new bands hard and fast and lining up their new releases quick-smart. One of these newest additions to their roster is Southern California’s Modern Maps, who released their debut, ‘Hope You’re Happy.‘, earlier in 2018. I was impressed by the singles that this three-piece had released beforehand – ‘Autopilot‘ and ‘Nightfall‘ – and based off those, I thought that their pop and rock blended sound was pretty intriguing, leaving me pretty excited to see what the rest of their debut LP had to offer. Spoiler warning: it offered a lot that I love!
Those two singles were honestly the perfect choices to be the lead promo for the record; a solid first taste of what people would hear from the larger album and both showing off the various influences that make up this trio’s sound. Another song similar to those two, at least in that sense, is actually this record’s closing track, ‘Something Different‘. It’s decent blending of pop-influenced synths with rock instrumentation, as well as providing an impressive vocal performance from the band’s frontman, Trever Stewart.
Besides those two singles, there are quite a few more upbeat tracks contained within ‘Hope You’re Happy.‘. One of them is ‘Heatwave‘, complete with a racey rhythm whipped up by Matthew Hall’s drumming, a huge chorus full of ear-worming melodies, and some great bass parts that get flexed during the song’s bridge. ‘Reflective Glass‘ has even better/hookier melodies and even more energy to its name, with a real highlight of this particular song being the bridge section. Simply put, I just loved how it’s been composed, and the lyrics found in this section are some of my favorites on the whole album: “I found myself here with my own thoughts, when the lights just wouldn’t turn off/alone until I stood up, three feet from reflective glass/I’m watching, examining myself/I’m staring, comparing my surface./It’s older, but still me”. These lines and many others throughout this track discuss the topic of the self – namely feelings of self-doubt – and the raw emotion painted in those lyrics is portrayed very well through Trever’s vocal performances.
‘Bite My Lip‘ leans towards the complete polar opposite side of these two prior tracks; with this piece being seemingly more influenced by indie bands, shown primarily in the stronger use of ambient instrumentation. ‘On My Own‘ enters the world with a synth intro, but once the full band kicks in together, they immediately hit things up a notch to create something catchy and captivating. Speaking of being catchy, ‘Shot You Down‘ is pretty much guaranteed to be stuck in your head for days, even with vocals being more aggressive in tone.
A few fellow standout moments on ‘Hope You’re Happy.‘ are found during ‘Ahold Of Me‘, which shows a lot of the rock-leaning elements of Modern Maps‘ sound, not only in the harder instrumentation (which gradually builds up) and Dominick Hall’s guitars, but also in Trever vocal performance too, especially during the verses. ‘Your Fault‘ is probably the biggest personal ‘wow’ moment on the album for me. The hook that opens the track is just incredible; the vocals all throughout the track are fantastic and the drums bring so much energy to the song. This is without a doubt the best anthemic track Modern Maps have to their name so far.
Amongst all of these 11 tracks is an acoustic ballad titled ‘One More Night‘. Although it’s a track I had mixed feelings on at first, I grew to love it and it’s since become one of my favorites from the entire record now. The pre-chorus and chorus have such a nice build to them, all led along by the acoustic guitar that drives this sweet track onward.
Across these 11 tracks, Modern Maps combine various different influences from both the pop and rock realms, creating not only a solid debut album, but the start of what could one day be a sound of their own too! With each new listen, I just enjoy every song more and more. ‘Hope You’re Happy.’ as a whole might just be one of my favorites from 2018 so far.
3. Reflective Glass
4. Ahold Of Me
6. Shot You Down
7. One More Night
8. On My Own
9. Your Fault
10. Bite My Lip
11. Something Different
‘Hope You’re Happy.’ is out now via Rise Records.