Spotlight Album: ‘Here And Not Here’ – Mapping The Sky

Folk N Rock
Spotlight Album: ‘Here And Not Here’ – Mapping The Sky

It’s not often a debut album hits the ground running quite this flawlessly. “Here and Not Here” by Mapping the Sky is a masterclass in alternative rock, brimming with catchy melodies, awesome guitar work, and some wonderful song writing. While the grunge influences are undeniable, Mapping the Sky injects a fresh perspective, reimagining those familiar sounds and putting in a few unexpected threads.

I say this because I got to thinking. The creative process behind music, especially a full-length album, must be incredibly intense. Artists pouring their heart and soul into their work, investing countless hours and resources, all before releasing it into the world… it takes courage.

The most impactful art often comes from a genuine need to express, to explore, regardless of the response it receives. Of course, positive feedback and connecting with listeners is incredibly rewarding, especially for a debut album where an artist is truly introducing themselves to the scene. And again, I need to say before looking into a few of theses song I’ve not covered yet, “Here and Now,” is a phenomenal introduction.

The first thing that grabbed me with “Delirium” is that opening riff. It’s a a gentle strumming pattern laced with a low, humming distortion that threatens to erupt at any moment. And as you can guess, it does. It sets the scene perfectly for the raw honesty that unfolds in the lyrics. The line about saying you’ve got it all, but really you have nothing at all is the kind of line that will strike a chord with you. In our age of meticulously curated social media feeds, the struggle to find authenticity is something we all know all too deeply.

The sense of distortion extends even to the vocals, manipulated to sound like they’re being broadcast through a crackling megaphone. The whole song feels like a scathing indictment of superficiality, on the artificiality that’s so easy to get caught up in. In other words, believing one’s own hype. There’s a sense of self-inflicted blindness that’s made into the lyrics, a character who might be caught up in their own carefully constructed image. Or at least, that’s one thing I took from it.

The guitarwork here is amazing. It’s potent and driving, fueled with a grungy, rock and roll energy that cuts through the lyrical weight. Layered behind it, backing vocals swirl with various effects, creating a really cool atmosphere. Finally, the outro – a scorching guitar solo – which is as an emotional release with its blend of pure feeling and technical skill. It’s the exclamation mark at the end of a track packed full of clever lyrics, great vocals, and relentless momentum.

“Falling Angels” opens with a somber mood, set by those melancholy piano keys and the humming, almost orchestral atmospheric tones. Now at this point, one would assume there is almost something grand taking shape. As the shimmering guitars join, it feels like a sunrise. The harmonizing vocals are a standout feature, their layered effect adding richness to every few lines from the opening verse.

From the start, the lyrics feel impactful, exploring a search for answers in seemingly endless uncertainty looking to the sky. Right after that opening verse, a beautiful guitar melody sweeps in. Momentarily, it almost feels like it could become the true chorus of the track. That guitar work is simply stunning, and if it were the heart of the song, it would be more than enough; it speaks as powerfully as the words themselves.

There’s a depth to the lyrics here, especially the line about: “If the angels want to sing with me, well I will sing for thee.” It paints a striking image, and the whole song carries that air of melancholy beauty. What makes this track even more great I think is that subtle, hard edge woven into the music. It’s unexpected in a song this thought provoking, yet somehow it works perfectly. It’s not an aggressive edge, rather a touch of grit that keeps it grounded. This is one of the most unique “slow rockers” I think I’ve ever heard. It’s heavy.

Right from the start, “Novocaine” has a distinct early 2000s pop-punk vibe – although a more subdued take on I should say. But again, that’s just the first part of the opening it goes in a little bit of a different direction shortly after. That nice bassline going through the background sets a minor unique groove, and is perfectly complimented by those subtle ‘ooh-ing’ backing vocals. There’s almost an early Pixies inspiration here, especially in the song’s overall structure and vocal delivery.

The first half of the verse gives us an image of a restless, troubled soul. Sleepless and in pain, they reach for that figurative “shot of Novocaine” to soothe an aching heart or an overactive mind. As someone who also struggles with sleep, that imagery resonated deeply with me. The second verse adds to the character sketch, with its mention of a familiar town that’s “all they’ve ever known.” It hints at possible themes of stagnation, of longing to break free from a life that feels too small.

As the song progresses, the latter half picks up the pace and introduces a slightly more upbeat and assertive edge. It’s a subtle shift, but it adds energy and speaks to a possible turning point in the story. All in all, “Novocaine” is a great listen, blending nostalgic influences with a raw, relatable emotional core.

“Don’t Make Promises” is one of those tracks that marks a shift on the album, taking a break from the raw edge in favor of a more stripped-back sound. The guitar tone here has a warmth and simplicity that sets a nice mood – an acoustic feel without any actual acoustic guitars, which adds an interesting sound. If that makes any sense. The percussion work is equally great, with a gradual build that adds texture and a sense of building momentum. But it never really gets to wild. But that’s just what the Dr ordered here.

Those ethereal vocal flourishes have become a signature element on this record, and they shine through once again here. They offer a beautiful change up against the rougher, grittier sections we’ve heard before, creating a great balance. But here, it’s all a bit more softer.

As the song progresses into the chorus, the vocal arrangement is truly something special. That technique of having the main vocal line echoed by a subtly altered of what Ill say, is not an overlay, is not counter point vocals, but a “co-signing” vocal is brilliant. The shift from that initial, ethereal delivery into a brighter, almost Beach Boys-inspired harmony is unexpected and great.

Even if this song weren’t so thematically impactful, that vocal section alone would make it a standout track. And I’m serious here, on that one section of the vocal works during the course, if the rhythm was upbeat a little bit more come on you’d think it was Brian Wilson. Jordin just has some insanely great versatility with his voice.

This debut is absolutely phenomenal. There is this sense of consistency that shines through, where every track delivers something unique and memorable. It’s particularly impressive for those of us who grew up on alternative music. Those grunge influences are undeniable, but there’s a freshness here that speaks to a clear evolution of the genre. They’ve taken familiar elements and reimagined them in some really cool ways, mixing in unexpected threads that kept me hooked.

But what’s even more striking is the sheer range within this album. It’s not just delivering a solid dose of grunge-inspired rock, Mapping the Sky has crafted an album that shifts gears effortlessly in ‘Here and Not Here’. The catchy melodies burrow into your ear, and the guitar work is truly outstanding – a masterclass in both technical proficiency and emotion.

Yet, it’s the depth of the lyrics that really seals the deal for me. There’s a thoughtfulness here that transcends genre, a keen eye for observation and a gift for crafting words that I found connected with me. It’s an album that I think will make you reflect, while rocking out. Simply put. One of the best debut LP’s I can ever remember.

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