The Northampton native keeps the transcendent flows of his earlier EP, Start Something, but fleshes it out with stronger rhythms and catchy beats. At times, Create loses its thread and could use a stronger core, but overall, it shows great growth, and more importantly, is a good record.
While Chapman carried over two songs from Start Something, “Lost My Soul” and “To The Sky”, We Can Create really owes itself to the big single, as Chapman seemingly took the nice beats, rhythmic vocals and smooth melody of “Soul” as the template for his new album. Both songs were re-recorded, and while “Lost My Soul” feels essential unchanged (which is really a good thing), “To The Sky” has been improved, with its excellent keys and tempo matched with a more defined beat, and tweaked so that it’s not too too bright. Those imports are some of the best pieces on We Can Create, along with “Eloise” and “Liquid Sugar”. “Eloise”, one of the three singles off this album, takes Maps’ transcendent nature and marries it to pure catchiness, making a great mix of the two. “Liquid Sugar” flows like its name, bright in a choral, aural way. The chorus is particularly stronger than the verse, but “Sugar” is mostly chorus.
The chorus-over-verse attribute comes other places on the record, such as “Back + Forth”, whose good, solid beats lack a place to go during the verse. But the main thing holding back We Can Create from true greatness is its occasional lack of substance to go with the transcendence, like with its first two pieces, “So Low So High” and “You Don’t Know Her Name”, or another one of its singles, “Don’t Fear”. There are also a few mixing missteps, like the over-emphasis of Chapman’s low-key, conversational voice (which others might say is reminiscent of Luna and Dean & Britta’s Dean Wareham) on record-finisher “When You Leave”, or the overly-layered-with-special-effects latest single, “It Will Find You”, whose catchy beats and nice haunting atmosphere are left a little dragging.
James Chapman recorded much of We Can Create on his trusty sixteen-track recorder at home, before moving on to a studio, and sometimes that shows through, with a replacement of substance for style and added effects. But compared to 2006’s Start Something, Chapman’s Maps are headed in the right direction, and going there fast. And We Can Create proves that getting there really is half the fun.