Hand Drawn Maps | Black Beach

 
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Family Average: 5/7

Here they are, it's Hand Drawn Maps, and there is no denying they have that California sound. Their EP Black Beach brought us that classic indie rock, and warm vibes to perfectly end a great summer. The question is, will the family embrace the frothy waves, or be left dried up by the sun?

Listen along on Spotify and read on to find out:

 
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Well what can I say, I like the California sound, maybe because I always know what I'm going to get with it. This band surely does not disappoint. They never deviate from that mystical formula. You know, the one they mix up with warm sunshine, salt water and the promise of a spectacular summer.

The first track, “Red and Blue” had a nice opening, sort of like a Kenny Loggins foot-lose era jam. “Misery Loves Company” was a fun little Surf Music track. With "Cheva" they get all Weezer-like, but in a good way. My favorite track was “Down the Road” though. It had a vintage sound; I could picture myself listening to that song at the end of a long and perfect summer day. I would expect to have heard a few vinyl pops in that song as the needle glided across the disc.  

Thank you, Hand Drawn Maps, for the good vibrations.

6/7

 
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I...loved these guys. They were so up-beat, fun, and beachy. If I somehow acquired a record label I would sign them so fast and take them on a tour around the country creating Endless Summer vibes wherever. 

I don't have much of anything eloquent to say other than they put me in a good mood and had me dancing all around my tiny kitchen in Jersey City. 

6/7

 
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I was pretty excited to listen to this band since I’ve never heard of them before. But after a listen I am disappointed because they showed a lot of promise but ultimately seemed like they couldn’t agree on a certain sound they wanted.

“Red and Blue” had a lot of potential with its high-tempo beach rock sound. But The song’s finale made me roll my eyes. The finale  is cringe-inducing that reminds me of middle school chorus. Afterwards the album picks up by getting into a cool, slow, and ominous sound. The songs start sounding more deep and folky/bluesy with “Cheva.” But then it just gets derailed with “Blackbeach.” The song is just lame, it feels too much like a pop song and it doesn’t fit the album at all. Finally with another song that doesn’t fit the album is “Down the Road.” Now this song is even more separated from the rest of the album than “Blackbeach.” But it was seriously my favorite song, probably because it reminded me of my Death Cab for Cutie/Ben Gibbard phase throughout middle school and high school.

Overall the album had its moments but I wouldn’t listen to it again.

3/7

 
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It's not often that I take an interest in learning about a band once I already started listening to them. It’s different with these guys though. I was curious about them, mostly I wanted to see if they were from California. And bam baby I was spot on with my guess. WooHoo look at me being all smart and using context clues. So yeah they got that sound down pat.

Though the "California sound" probably has a different definition from person to person, for me it comes from the drum patterns that I always notice popping up. You would immediately recognize that kind of drumming (like this). And Hand Drawn Maps' drummer gal, Mercedes Cruze absolutely kicks ass holy smokes! Any track that she starts ringing the bell on the ride cymbal is a real treat.

All and all I would call this a pretty cohesive EP. Not only that, but I think it’s left me curious to see what these fellas would do with an entire album to expand on their sound.  

5/7

 
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Overall, I felt like this album is trying to cater to that whole L.A. - indie beach scene. My biggest criticism is what I often say of other new bands we hear: there isn’t much cohesion to the album as a whole. Maybe it’s just me, but I sensed a fissure running through it. That being said, I recognize the immense amount of time and effort it takes to hone your sound as a band. So, props, regardless. It just falls a bit flat. The title track, “Black Beach,” seemed like a rather contrived and overly produced attempt to bust out a catchy summer hit single. II didn’t mind it, but it did get a bit tedious at the end when the looped guitar riff (which under other circumstances I am usually a fan of) kept going on and on. What got me excited was that I began to draw comparisons to The Specials, especial in songs like “Cheva,” with that really punchy opening and looped guitar. Maybe a bit out there to compare them to a second-wave SKA band (shout out to Sean for clarifying the genre), but that was what I found most compelling. I vote they buy some slick black suits and fedoras and get to work on that SKA revival. STAT.

4/7

 
 
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This album came as a relief after what Kate so accurately dubbed "audio torture" from a previous album reviewed (which will remain nameless).

Right off bat, these guys were fun. Their music is interesting and original. While tracks 2 and 3 ("Misery Loves Company" and "Cheva") were more traditional surf rock music, I found "Red and Blue" and the title track, "Blackbeach" to be truly original. They had a nice blend of surf rock with either heavier rock or disco pop, both of which I really like. I liked that there was not a lot of instruments, but each instrument played its part really well.

I've got to say something about the bass, though. It's hard for me as a bassist to criticize, because the bass lines were really cool. But, dude, lose the "Death From Above 1979" sound. It works in the first song, but nowhere else. It was just too much. Also, if I'm being nit-picky, I think I may have heard some light auto-tune in the vocals. I felt like they were pretty fun and cool as is, and therefore probably didn't need tempering with. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this EP. I am definitely going to put a few in my own personal playlists, which is first for any album on here that I reviewed. As Nicolas Cage would say, "That's high praise."

6/7

 
 
Sean Maldjian