If you’ll forgive some highly technical critic-speak, Maritime just “sound” a lot better on “Human Hearts.”
Don’t despair, aspiring rock writers -- it’s taken me YEARS to hone my prose and critical thinking to the point where I can formulate these kinds of highfalutin hypotheses with such seemingly minimal effort.
Same goes for Maritime.
The difference between “Human Hearts” and the first three records from this Promise Ring - Dismemberment Plan love child is that you can’t hear the effort, the tinkering, the struggle to reconcile indie rock quirks with the mainstream hooks whose easy charms seemed to embarrass the band a little. From the get-go, “Human Hearts” has no such qualms. A cool stutter-strum kicks off “It’s Casual” looking for a beat, catches hold of one, and takes off on a warm rush of guitars and bittersweet brushes with electronica that don’t stop for the next 35 minutes.
Every single track is a gorgeous head-rush, and the music’s confidence inspires career-best performances from singer-songwriter Davey von Bohlen. I imagine von Bohlen’s honest, strained-with-feeling emo whine will still spark love-hate debates amongst the indie cognoscenti, but Maritime have abandoned their pesky habit of abandoning their singer to lonely yelps in empty-sounding spaces. Postal Service-y tracks “Paraphernalia” and “Air Arizona” maintain a glimmering backdrop as von Bohlen belts from center stage. Dan Didier’s drums punch up the drama in more ruminative moments like “Peopling of London,” keeping them from dawdling too long before the hooks kick in and dig in.
“Annihilation Eyes” -- and I’m going to get technical again here for a moment -- is just fucking awesome, maybe the album’s best showcase for von Bohlen’s mastery of the essential indie pop songwriting elements: a few writerly specifics ("I called up a friend, he was waiting for his laundry to end") mixed with some distinct, inscrutable phrases ("All cowboys and Indians, a deer in headlights, bargaining, bargaining") whose feelings transcend whatever the actual words might mean to the writer (See: every New Pornographers song, ever).
Big sound glorying the hugeness of small moments has produced so much of our best pop music. On "Human Hearts," Maritime do the big and the small as well as anything you've heard this year.