Spotlight Album: ‘Here And Not Here’ – Mapping the Sky

It doesn’t happen often that a debut album gets off the ground so smoothly. ‘Here and Not Here’ by Mapping the Sky is a masterclass in alternative rock, packed with catchy melodies, great guitar work and beautiful songwriting. While the grunge influences are unmistakable, Mapping the Sky injects a fresh perspective, reimagining the familiar sounds and adding a few unexpected threads.

I say this because I’m thinking. The creative process behind music, especially a full-length album, must be incredibly intense. Artists who put their heart and soul into their work, investing countless hours and resources, all before releasing it into the world… that takes courage.

The art with the most impact often comes from a genuine need to express and explore, regardless of the response it receives. Of course, positive feedback and connecting with listeners is incredibly rewarding, especially for a debut album where an artist really introduces themselves to the scene. And again, before I look at some of these songs I haven’t covered yet, I have to say, “Here and Now” is a phenomenal introduction.

The first thing I noticed about “Delirium” is that opening riff. It’s a gentle strumming pattern, laced with a low, buzzing distortion that threatens to erupt at any moment. And as you can guess, that happens. It perfectly sets the tone for the raw honesty that unfolds in the lyrics. The sentence in which you say you have everything, but in reality you have nothing at all, is the kind of sentence that will strike a chord with you. In our age of carefully curated social media feeds, the struggle to find authenticity is something we all know too deeply.

The sense of distortion even extends to the vocals, manipulated to sound as if they were being broadcast through a crackling megaphone. The whole song feels like a scathing indictment of the superficiality, of the artificiality that it’s so easy to get caught up in. In other words, believing your own hype. There is a sense of self-inflicted blindness in the lyrics, a character perhaps caught up in his own carefully constructed image. Or at least, that’s one thing I took from it.

The guitar work here is great. It’s powerful and driving, fueled by a grungy, rock ‘n’ roll energy that cuts through the lyrical weight. Behind it, background vocals with various effects swirl, creating a really cool atmosphere. Finally, the outro – a searing guitar solo – which is an emotional release with its mix of pure feeling and technical skill. It’s the exclamation point at the end of a song packed with clever lyrics, great vocals and relentless momentum.

‘Falling Angels’ opens gloomy, determined by those melancholic piano keys and the buzzing, almost orchestral atmospheric tones. At this point you might assume that something big is almost taking shape. As the shimmering guitars come together, it feels like a sunrise. The harmonizing vocals are a standout feature, their layered effect adding richness to every few lines of the opening verse.

From the start, the lyrics feel impactful, exploring a search for answers in seemingly endless uncertainty, looking to the sky. Right after that opening verse, a beautiful guitar melody comes in. For a moment it almost feels like this could be the true chorus of the song. That guitar work is simply stunning, and if it were the core of the song, it would be more than enough; it speaks as powerfully as the words themselves.

There is a depth to the lyrics, especially the line about, “If the angels will sing with me, then I will sing for you.” It paints a striking picture, and the entire song exudes that atmosphere of melancholic beauty. I think what makes this song even more amazing is the subtle, hard edge woven into the music. It’s unexpected in a thought-provoking song, but somehow it works perfectly. It’s not an aggressive edge, but rather a touch of grit that keeps it grounded. This is one of the most unique “slow rockers” I have ever heard. It is heavy.

From the start, ‘Novocaine’ has a distinctly early 2000s pop-punk vibe – although I’d have to say it’s a more subdued version. But again, that’s just the first part of the opening and soon after it goes in a bit of a different direction. That lovely bassline that cuts through the background creates a little unique groove, and is perfectly complemented by the subtle ‘ooh-ing’ background vocals. There’s almost an early Pixies inspiration here, especially in the overall structure and vocal performance of the song.

The first half of the verse gives us a picture of a restless, troubled soul. Sleepless and in pain, they reach for that figurative “shot of novocaine” to soothe an aching heart or an overactive mind. As someone who also struggles with sleep, that image resonated deeply with me. The second verse adds to the character sketch, mentioning a well-known town that is “all they ever knew.” It hints at possible themes of stagnation, of the desire to break free from a life that feels too small.

As the song progresses, the second half picks up the pace and introduces a slightly more upbeat and assertive edge. It’s a subtle shift, but it adds energy and speaks to a possible turning point in the story. All in all, “Novocaine” is a great listening experience, combining nostalgic influences with a raw, recognizable emotional core.

“Don’t Make Promises” is one of those songs that marks a shift on the album, taking a break from the raw edge in favor of a more stripped back sound. The guitar tone here has a warmth and simplicity that creates a nice atmosphere – an acoustic feel without real acoustic guitars, which adds an interesting sound. If that makes any sense. The percussion work is just as great, with a gradual build-up that adds texture and a sense of building momentum. But it never gets really wild. But that’s just what the doctor ordered here.

Those ethereal vocal accents have become a signature element on this record, and they come to the fore again here. They offer a nice change from the rougher, rawer parts we’ve heard before, creating a great balance. But here it’s all a bit softer.

As the song progresses into the chorus, the vocal arrangement is really something special. That technique of repeating the main vocal line through a subtly altered version of what I will say is not an overlay, not a counterpoint singing, but a ‘co-signing’ vocal is brilliant. The shift from that initial, ethereal performance to a brighter, almost Beach Boys-inspired harmony is unexpected and grand.

Even if this song wasn’t that impressive thematically, the vocal part alone would make it a standout song. And I mean it here, about that one part of the vocal works during the course: if the rhythm was a little more upbeat, come on, you’d think it was Brian Wilson. Jordin just has an insane amount of versatility with his voice.

This debut is nothing short of phenomenal. There is a sense of consistency that emerges, with each song delivering something unique and memorable. It’s especially impressive for those of us who grew up with alternative music. Those grunge influences are undeniable, but there is a freshness to them that speaks of a clear evolution of the genre. They took familiar elements and reimagined them in some really cool ways, mixing in unexpected themes that kept me hooked.

But what is even more striking is the enormous range within this album. Not only does it deliver a heavy dose of grunge-inspired rock, Mapping the Sky has created an album that shifts effortlessly into ‘Here and Not Here’. The catchy melodies nestle in your ear and the guitar work is truly excellent – ​​a masterclass in both technical skill and emotion.

Yet it is the depth of the lyrics that really seals the deal for me. There is a thoughtfulness here that transcends genre, a keen eye for observation, and a gift for crafting words that I felt connected to me. It’s an album that I think will make you think while freaking out. Easy said. One of the best debut LPs I can ever remember.