While it may sound dirty that Brit musician James Chapman got famous for his 10 inches, it’s absolutely true. Most of the UK knows Chapman as Maps, an electronic soul / pop artist who has dazzled his audiences with solo material that has been flying off of record shop shelves for the last year. It’s easy enough to hear why he’s so popular. His soothing electronic pop melodies are accompanied by lyrics that deal with universal truths of love and loneliness to which everyone can relate. Start Something is an EP length collection of his first two singles and a few bonus tracks, which due to length could have not too long ago been considered an album.
Chapman puts his second single first with “Lost My Soul” followed by its flipside, “Sparks in the Snow.” The former finds the artist whispering along to steady beats and a dreamy chorus as if Moby and Wayne Coyne collaborated a few albums back for each of them. That chorus, which boasts the brilliantly worded, “I found a love, but lost my soul,” immediately draws you in to his world, either with sympathy or empathy. “Sparks in the Snow” illustrates why so many British fans are so quick to call Chapman their version of the Postal Service. Maybe instead of Maps he should have called himself the Post. There’s also some similarities to Spiritualized, particularly in this track.
The b-side to his first single comes next, titled “To the Sky,” backed by a tremolo organ that undercuts the hip-hop beats nicely before an acoustic guitar cuts through both for a truly memorable chorus. The two new tracks are sandwiched in before you get to hear his first a-side and title track. The first is called “Tonic Girl” and owes a little bit of its gorgeous orchestral swells to Sigur Rós, which means that Maps certainly found a fan in this listener. My favorite track on this EP comes next, one of the new tracks called “Some Winter Song.” It can be called the simplest track on the record with gently played guitar, piano and sparse bass drum, but the combination is absolutely entrancing. Chapman repeats the lyrics, “I’ve been so happy lately, and it’s got nothing to do with you,” and whether he means it or is only trying to convince himself, he’ll find his share of empathizers. At about three minutes in, which is only halfway through this brilliant track, his vocals start to layer over each other as if to create some kind of gauzy yet intricate landscape.
Finally, we are treated to his first single, the title track. Again, Chapman elicits truths when he sings the chorus, “Sometimes you feel like you’re good for nothing, if you can hear me, we could start something.” Again, we are treated to soaring strings and dance beats to great effect, which, while not necessarily the first time this has ever been done, is certainly one of the better times it’s been done. It’s a good thing he’s actually called Maps, as it’s fairly easy to get lost in his music.
The Postal Service- Give Up
Spiritualized- Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space