Maps & Atlases

Beware & Be Grateful

Written by: PP on 20/08/2012 03:13:26

Experimental indie rockers Maps & Atlases have been causing a buzz in the underground for some time now, so it feels only natural for us to take a look at why exactly that's happening. Their sophomore album "Beware & Be Grateful" offers some insight on why Maps & Atlases are quickly growing into a cult band within those in the know. One, they have intricate, twinkly indie rock melodies that draw their inspiration from math rock and experimental rock, and two, they have an excellent vocalist in Dave Davison, whose voice and style has considerable similarity to the awe-inspiring storyteller frontmanship of The Hold Steady vocalist, Craig Finn.

In fact, if it wasn't for the quirky instrumentals and the indie rock flavored overall mood, you'd have a seriously difficult time distinguishing between Davison and Finn. Both share an impeccable sense for unusual lyrical topics and an ability to swiftly alter the rhythmic tempo at which these are delivered for maximum impact. Consider, for instance, the following from "Remote & Dark Years", one of the album highlights, which starts off with a speedy remark of "I couldn't help but notice that near the corner of your mouth there was a piece of food escaping, it was trying to stay out. I started thinking about myself like I always seem to do, I couldn't stop myself from saying what might seem theatrical to you, it's just that." before slowing down into an emotional plea of "I don't want anymore remote and dark years" in a chilled out, casual chorus section, which allows the band to experiment instrumentally while Davison holds a pause in his lyricism (which continues in an even stranger direction just after).

This is but one example where Davison's lyricism shines through small observations of everyday life that begin to stick out from the record after a few careful listening sessions. Because let's be honest here: at first you'll be almost solely focused on their slick, effect-laden guitars that seem to follow no traditional structure, but instead explore a wide variety of styles and sounds in a display of pure artistic ambition and freely flowing inspiration. This is something few artists achieve, let alone in this coherent and convincing manner. Because not only are these songs quirky and inherently weird, they are also oddly catchy and captivating each in their own, unique manner. Alternative rock, folk rock, indie rock, experimental rock, math rock are all equally explored, usually at the same time, which results in some straight-forward verses like those on "Vampires", but also lends itself for sparkling instrumental experimentation like the stuff on "Be Three Years Old", that puts the early Foals material to shame with its butterfly like flickering guitar work floating somewhere far above the rest of the soundscape.

Basically, "Beware & Be Grateful" is a depth album that takes some time to appreciate properly because of the inherent complexity of the music found within. But then again, if my Hold Steady references intrigued you, spending hours on a single release at once should be like second nature to you. Just don't go into this record expecting a quick math rock fix or anything like that, because then you'll be disappointed.


Download: Remote & Dark Years, Be Three Years Old, Vampires
For the fans of: The Hold Steady, Craig Finn, This Town Needs Guns, Foals, TV On The Radio
Listen: Facebook

Release date 17.04.2012
Barsuk Records

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