Harper and The Moths — Mixtape EP
It is not often that a band can truly surprise people. When I say surprise I’m not necessarily saying that they leave fans saying “wow, I didn’t know they were that good” or “Wow, that was a great song” I mean literally surprise people. Harper and The Moths did just that when out of the blue they dropped the “Mixtape” EP on Halloween, which would definitely qualify as a treat in my book. A project that very few people knew about prior to release, this is a perfect bridge of music to hold over any HATM fan that is eagerly awaiting their next release after hearing “Lose My Touch” earlier this fall.
The best part about this release for people of my…ahem…generation is that it is a brilliant 5 song compilation of songs from the 80’s. Before you hit the mute button because you are tired of older music always coming back you need to know that the band had rules when choosing the songs and one of them was that the song could not be one that was totally “played out” So while all of the songs are familiar they are not necessarily songs that showed up on every 80’s compilation CD or played on every movie or TV show of the era. That being said, there are still some classic eighties tunes here and when it comes to showcasing the talents of the band, especially vocally, the song choices are spot on.
The five-song collection includes “Don’t You Want Me” from the Human League, “Rumors” by Timex Social Club, “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell, “Take On Me” by A-Ha, and finishes with “West End Girls” by Pet Shop Boys. Now at least one of these for me was a no-brainer. Take On Me is perfect for the pipes and range of Harper Lines and he did not disappoint. Listen to anyone else try to cover this song and tell me you don’t almost cringe wondering if they can hit “that” note. Harper nails this song as close as I have ever heard, which is not an easy task when you consider Morten Hackett covers a two and a half octave range in the original. The most pleasant surprise of the EP comes from the increased reliance on the vocals of Kelsee Ishmael. Anyone who has seen or heard HATM knows that Kelsee can sing, but from the back and forth banter on “Don’t You Want Me” to her taking lead duties on “West End Girls” it is a pleasure to the ears to hear Kelsee literally step up to the mic on those tracks. As for the rest of the band, Chan and David are as solid as it gets in keeping the vibe and the beat of the original songs. From my understanding, Chan is actually the one we have to thank for making this project come to life, from idea all the way through production.
I will make a confession that when I first saw the track list, I was almost immediately prejudiced against “Rumors” because I wasn’t really a fan of the song when it first came out but I officially renounce that position. It took me a listen or two, but I really enjoy their interpretation of the song and they literally got a “wait a minute, what???” from me with the subtle nod to The Police at the end of the song. You’ll have to listen to see what I mean.
Beginning to end, this is a top-notch project and one that I already have, and will continue to listen to on repeat. Harper and the Moths have done both the 80’s and themselves proud. I’ll close with a quote from an anonymous amateur music critic (my wife) after hearing it the first time. “Their sound and style is a perfect fit for these songs”. I would say that is a very apt description of Mixtape.
Bravo Harper, Kelsee, Chan, and David. Check out a sample below