In a scene where most artists don’t make it past their first full-length album, prolific isn’t a term often used to describe a pop-punk band. But in the case of Cincinnati, Ohio’s Mixtapes, there are few words more appropriate when characterizing the massive output the group has been able to produce. Depending on how you count it, Mixtapes has released over a handful of EPs, several singles, a split 7-inch and quite possibly more joke songs than what’s considered part of the band’s actual canon, all before releasing an official full length. Now, two years since their inception comes Even On The Worst Nights, their full-length debut album via indie powerhouse label, No Sleep Records.
Although the casual listener is likely to find more of the same light-hearted pop-punk they’ve come to expect from the band, a more thorough listen of the record reveals significant departures from prior material. Not only are the track times longer, but it seems as though a greater effort has been put behind these songs, giving them more time to develop. As a direct result of this, the album is the band’s most refined work to date.
“Seven Mile” starts the record with a short, but aptly timed acoustic number introducing the dual-vocal harmonies of guitarists Ryan Rockwell and Maura Weaver, which finds a place in nearly every song on the recording. “Something Better” follows, beginning a trend of straight-forward, mid-tempo punk songs based on self-discovery and growing up. The title track picks up on this theme, as Weaver recalls the past and ultimately realizes that most of our fondest memories are romanticized with time, as she sings, “I think this place looks better in the rear view.”
Some of the record’s finest moments come in the form of its more realized songs; the songs that take their time with the bridge and pre-chorus, in stark contrast to what most have come to expect from the band’s often rushed takes. “Anyway” begins with nothing more than Rockwell’s voice and his electric guitar, ebbing and flowing through various bursts of energy and a harsh criticism on today’s internet culture. “Mt. Hope,” featuring guest vocals from Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years fame, boasts similar crescendos and decrescendos throughout the course of the mostly half-time and coincidentally longest song on the album.
Even On The Worst Nights is a lesson in light melodic-punk. It’s fun, bright, and a surprising but welcomed progression from a band known more for its jokes than its substance.
Sound Quality: Pressed on a single LP, the sixteen track album just barely fits onto the vinyl record. This of course causes the grooves to be cramped, as well as the sound. With that said, the sound quality was much better than I expected. Although the vinyl was not formatted within the best conditions for optimal sound, it still sounded fuller than it’s digital counterpart.
Packaging: One of my favorite aspects of this album was Ryan Russell’s photography adorning the record’s jacket and insert. Photographed at various locations throughout the band’s hometown, the photos look great on the jacket’s matte finish. Also included is a two-sided color insert with an extensive “Thank You” section and album credits.
Extras: A digital download card is included, as well as an immediate download when purchased directly from No Sleep. No CD is included.
Summary: Even On The Worst Nights shows Mixtapes stepping away from the joke songs that have defined their past and into a place where the music can stand alone as a solid set of tracks.
Make Sure To Spin: “Mt. Hope,” “Hey Ma Pt. 2” and “Anyway.”
You can still pick up the record at No Sleep.