History, Mystery, and Gifts: Writer’s Block, Pt. 2 by Map (Review)

Produced by Fine China’s Rob Withem, this 5-song EP is an excellent introduction to Josh Dooley’s dreamy indie-pop.
History, Mystery, and Gifts - Map

I wouldn’t be surprised if the name Josh Dooley doesn’t mean much to you. Dismayed, but not surprised. Thing is, you’ve probably heard him without even knowing it. Over the last two decades, he’s leant his considerable talents as a guitarist and songwriter to the likes of Starflyer 59, Fine China, and Pony Express.

But first and foremost, Dooley is the frontman for Map, a sort of revolving-door project that has counted Frank Lenz, Jason Martin, Jeff Cloud, Andrew Prickett, and the late, great Richard Swift among its members and collaborators. And ever since 2000’s Teaching Turtles to Fly, Dooley has put out one release after another filled with dreamy indie-pop à la the aforementioned artists and highlighted by his nimble, dextrous guitar-playing.

Which brings us to this particular five-song EP that feels like something of a renaissance for Dooley et al. In other words, when Dooley sings “It’s been awhile/Now it’s time to start again,” it feels like a statement. Of course, in starting again, Dooley isn’t exactly stripping down his sound or going in a completely new direction from scratch. This isn’t “Map Unplugged” or anything like that, but it does feel like Dooley getting back to his roots.

And by “roots,” I imagine artists like The Boo Radleys, The Smiths, Rialto, and even Talk Talk, which would explain the elegance and sophistication at work in songs like “Begin Again” and EP highlight “Lost Time.” Meanwhile, both “Crisis” and “Playing with Fire” feature some fine ’80s-ish synth flourishes courtesy, no doubt, of producer Rob Withem (Fine China).

Put simply, if you’re unfamiliar with Josh Dooley, then History, Mystery, and Gifts is a great way to (finally) get acquainted. And from here, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

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