[11 March 2007]
Based in Northampton, Maps is the one-man-band of one James Chapman, a fellow who writes pop songs with an electronic bent. His press materials even bandy about the dreaded “electronica” word. And yet, despite the presence of such an easily-classified summary of his music, there’s a sense that even he doesn’t know exactly what he does just yet. The utterly banal titles that Chapman gives most of his compositions betray the fact that those compositions are really about nothing past the fact that they exist—“Start Something”, “Some Winter Song”, “To the Sky”... these are the types of song titles settled upon after maybe a second or two of thought, giving away little about the songs, adding nothing to the listener’s analysis of them. Chapman’s music, then, is similarly unremarkable. Sometimes it’s quick, sometimes it’s slow, but it’s always mellow and usually featuring synthetic bloopy melodies, breathy vocals, and the occasional acoustic guitar. “Spark in the Snow”, really, is the only track that hints at more, a fast-paced, wistful delight of a love song grounded in pipe organs, with an evocative title to match. Despite a general inoffensiveness and the occasional really pretty moment (“Start Something” in particular has a few), the rest of the album just can’t measure up. When Chapman figures out exactly what it is he’s starting in Start Something, I hope he tells us, because it’ll doubtless make for better, more memorable music.