When Maritime emerged in 2003, the quartet faced an almost crippling level of expectation. Davey von Bohlen had been the charismatic frontman for The Promise Ring, widely regarded as one of the most important bands in the nascent Emo movement. Drummer Dan Didier had been the velvet hammer that propelled The Promise Ring’s beautifully irregular heartbeat, bassist Eric Axelson had provided the malleable and powerful bottom for The Dismemberment Plan and guitarist Dan Hinz powered a tackle box full of Weezer-esque Power Pop/Punk hooks with The Benjamins.
As a result, Maritime’s initial releases — 2003’s Adios EP and 2004’s Glass Floor — were slightly underwhelming, but perhaps only because they offered the unexpected sound of transition, maturation and growth when most were just looking for the Promise Ring Mk. II.
With Maritime’s fourth full-length, Human Hearts, the band delivers not on the unrealistic expectation of their formation, but on the potential hidden between the lines of those first releases. Which is not to say that Maritime (minus Axelson and featuring Justin Klug on bass since 2006) has been lacking with their subsequent work — 2006’s We, the Vehicles and 2007’s Heresy and the Hotel Choir were deliberately crafted and deservedly well received.
Human Hearts, released back in April, benefits from a breezy swing and relaxed exuberance that push the album beyond anything they’ve done to date. Human Hearts’ 10 tracks represent some of the most dynamic and spontaneous music that Maritime has ever produced, from the propulsive New Wave bluster of “Paraphernalia” to the tribal Pop/Punk of “Black Bones” to the expansive Jimmy Webb/Shins/Smashing Pumpkins mash-up of “Faint of Hearts.”
Von Bohlen’s lyrical tongue is still firmly in cheek, the more encrypted aspects of his message safe from all but the most intuitive Indie codebreakers, but never has he had such a dynamic and jubilant soundtrack for his brilliantly puzzling wordplay. Leave it to Maritime to make a completely accessible album that draws on their every strength without compromise or homogenization.
MARITIME plays Fountain Square's MidPoint Indie Summer Friday, Aug. 12 with guests THE DUKES and THE YUGOS. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.