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Medical Maps’ Releases Third Album 

Medical Maps’ third album That is That is a sprawling fourteen-track opus. Their ambition is unmistakable. The Boston-based band is an extended unit, often working in a configuration featuring six musicians along with accompanying backing vocalists, but it never clutters its sound. The clarity of their creative vision doesn’t allow it. Medical Maps, instead, has proven since their 2017’s debut Soft on Crime that they occupy their own space in the musical firmament and are still as ready to push the envelope as ever before.


“Last of the Icons” begins That Is That with an unexpected retro vibe. Medical Maps comes roaring out of the chute with a boogie-centric arrangement that cooks from the outset. The production for the album gives this song and the succeeding thirteen larger than life with a boisterous sound that nevertheless affects a clear delineation between the various instruments. The song’s eventual transition into a slower tempo and wider sound doesn’t jar listeners and feels natural despite the stark differences in approach.

Trumpet and tenor sax play an underrated role in the sound of many songs. “The Dog Door on Mars” is one of the tracks where it plays a pivotal, yet understated, role. Many listeners will hear a shoegaze effect pervading the cut, but there’s an equal measure of progressive tendencies influencing the song’s trajectory. “Standing Quickly” is the first of the album’s fourteen songs that strips away the expanded lineup in favor of a comparatively bare-bones approach. It has a rugged and rollicking guitar-based slant with assorted twists built into the arrangement. Medical Maps’ ability to manifest different sides of their musical personality without ever surrendering their identity sets them apart.

“Two Minute Man” is a blazing instrumental cut along similar lines as the preceding track. It bristles with an uncompromising attitude and has a joyous tilt. It’s an example of a band that revels in the act of creation and the seemingly near riotous off-the-cuff approach they adopt makes for an enjoyable listen. “Songs About Round Objects” is one of the album’s most daring excursions. Medical Maps veers from a near-theatrical first half into a quasi-hard rock middle. The band doesn’t finish there, however. The song’s final half moves into a progressive-tinged conclusion that Medical Maps develops with patience and intelligence.

“Hurts to Shoot Rings” continues along the same lines. It has a discernibly melancholy air breaking with earlier songs and the stately unfolding of the song never sounds staid. Medical Maps is especially adept at layering their instrumental makeup and this track is one of the album’s best examples of that approach flourishing.

“As We Quietly Turn into Old Men” is one of the album’s best tracks. It’s another elegiac turn from the band, wind-swept and almost cinematic, and the meshing of different voices achieves a haunted mood that holds the listener’s attention. The lyrics are full of the same impressionistic performed poetry present in the other songs, but they are among the strongest included on That Is That. This is a deep and thoughtful release crackling with ferocious individuality. Medical Maps are ready for the future as never before. 

Mindy McCall



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