First Listen: Maps, 'Vicissitude'

NPR icon by Stephen Thompson
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Erika Wall

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James Chapman, a U.K. musician who records under the name Maps, writes earnest synth-pop songs in the tradition of The Lightning Seeds, Erasure and other artists whose use of machines is incidental compared to the pursuit of thoughtful songwriting. Chapman's charming songs sound fizzy and bright throughout Vicissitude, Maps' third album, but they also convey his thoughtful reflections on transition and doubt.

True to its title, Vicissitude (out July 9) is an album about change: about getting older, staring down an uncertain future, taking stock and finding hope. After two albums of more outward-facing dance-pop music — 2009's Turning the Mind and Maps' Mercury Prize-nominated debut, We Can CreateVicissitude finds Chapman sounding more fully formed as both a musician and a human being. Smart and soaring, it's an album versatile enough for dance floors and road trips alike.

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