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Mapache’s “Swinging Stars”: An oasis of reflection

This summer was a tense one as Mapache, a California-based cosmic folk-rock, Americana band, teased us with single after single before releasing their fifth album, “Swinging Stars” on Aug. 18. 

Led by the singer-songwriter and guitarist duo, Sam Blasucci and Clay Finch, Mapache has played together in some capacity since the two met in their high school guitar class. After going away to attend separate colleges, they found themselves back together in Los Angeles where they recorded their first four albums together: “Mapache” in 2017, “From Liberty Street” in 2020, “3” in 2021 and “Roscoe’s Dream” in 2022. 

Now living in two different towns, Blasucci and Finch have developed their own individual voices and sounds. This is on display in “Swinging Stars,” as most of the songs in the album were written independently by each of the artists, then refined and re-worked collaboratively before recording. 

For previous albums, Mapache had a more laid-back approach to recording. They took on a different path with “Swinging Stars,” by renting the Panoramic House in Stinson Beach, California, for a week-long immersive album-building experience. The Panoramic House has an artist resident program, hosting artists like The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile and others for “project based stays.”

Mapache hunkered down for a week with Dan Horne, their trusted producer and their drummer, Steve Didelot. In their confinement, Mapache recorded and produced “Swinging Stars,” which is arguably one of their most cohesive and variable albums to date. 

Mapache starts the album off slowly with “Sentir.” The breathy, Spanish vocals are accompanied by sparse instrumentation that gently prepares the listener for the hypnotic journey that awaits. 

The album picks up speed during “French Kiss.” The bouncy, cascading piano part repeated during the intro and in-between verses maintains a soulful energy while the vocals take a backseat. The song depicts the euphoric, childish feeling of genuine love instrumentally and lyrically. 

The dynamic shift perpetuated by the drums between “Sentir” and “French Kiss” displays the variability of Blasucci and Finch as musicians and songwriters. 

Their lyrics are minimalistic throughout the album. They are short but poetic and sweet. Through their compatible vocal harmonies, a feeling of reflection is pertinent throughout the album. The yearning for love, the loneliness and helplessness of change and growth, and the more serene moments of solitude and confidence are explored throughout the album. 

Around the halfway point, “Home Among the Swinging Stars,” provides the listener a break from words with a refreshing flute melody accompanied by a simple guitar line. The discrete chimes occur infrequently on this track, providing an air of mystery. This track leaves the listener yearning for more. 

The album ends with, “Where’d You Go?” with lyrics reading, “Now we live in a precious time / Where days have ends unknown /And I miss that old friend of mine / It seems I’ll never know.” This track is a reflection on change in relationships and the melancholy feeling of losing a lover or a friend. 

With many other noteworthy and whimsical tracks like, “People Please,” “Reflecting Everything,” “What a Summer” and “Encinal Canyon,” Mapache’s new album is a gold mine for the psychedelic, cosmic-folk-loving music junkie. 

“Swinging Stars” is available on streaming platforms like Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal. You can learn more about the band Mapache on their website, linked here.

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