Repeat After Me - Mapmaker

9 songs
40:24 minutes
***** ****
Russian Winter


Two years after their debut album, Oakland indie rockers Repeat After Me are back with their second record Mapmaker. One thingís obvious from the start. Instead of trying to innovate, the four musicians are rather interested in good songwriting, and thatís something one doesnít come across that much anymore these days.

Repeat After Me are mostly influenced by the power pop of the Seventies and the indie rock movement of Nineties, with Big Star and Neutral Milk Hotel being two references. The latterís impact can be discerned on the opening chords, played by acoustic guitar, of the title track. This six minute plus track is the albumís longest track, and conveys a beautiful atmosphere of melancholia carried by the aforementioned acoustic guitar and some pretty piano parts. The vocals courtesy of Rob Kassees are clear, full of yearning yet never whiny in the least aspect, thus really conjuring a wonderful atmosphere of times past. The trackís last minute even adds some steam with an electric guitar solo and some vintage retro organ parts.

With Iím Going Back, the band works in a more concise way, without giving up though on their modus operandi of really great songwriting. There might even be a hint of Weezer to be discovered here, just as on the following Dial Me Up, although this track comes with even more drama than one is used from Rivers Cuomoís band. So the parallels might actually be only in the ear of the beholder and therefore completely accidental. More upbeat material comes in the shape of San Francisco whose prominent bass line and the funky electric guitar are definitely a nod to the Seventies. I also really love the vocal harmonies that once again perfectly match the songís mood. The not even minute long Grass Valley has probably been intended as a mid-way break point, and is followed by another genial track, The Volcano, where a brass band has been co-opted to add a blissfully underground soul touch, a little like some of the stuff Elvis Costello did in the past. You Canít Go Back has possibly been inspired by Dinosaur Jr., or might just as well show shadows of Neil Young. Who can know at this point into record? The guitars get really screaming, rather unusual and unexpected maybe, but definitely not marring the albumís red thread. Carve Out A Name is a folksy acoustic piece with voices in the background, as if it has been recorded in a pub in front of an audience not really interested by the band. Not one of recordís best moments, but once again it proves that Repeat After Me are able to come up with many different moods. The concluding six minute epic The Canal comes with a lot of pathos, and why not?, as this is an adept way to end the album by once again mixing their favourite elements of the Seventies with the Nineties.

Mapmaker is certainly not the most original album, but its breadth and depth combined with really successful songwriting make this one of the more pleasant items I have come across this year. The album comes as digital download, CD and as a very special clear vinyl edition, with complimentary crayons that lets you colour the states on the map. Nice idea, but probably more interesting for their American fans. Still, this is great stuff for fans of honestly crafted indie rock / power pop.

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