Maps and Atlases - Perch Patchwork (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Maps and Atlases

Perch Patchwork (2010)


Maps & Atlases built a years-long buzz with their sprightly, outre math pop/rock that reminded us of a time before Minus the Bear went all in on the coked-up sex party thing. But even M&A themselves seemed to carry a desire to explore more pop-oriented structures, and the company they're keeping with Barsuk makes that all the more logical. The band's label debut and long-awaited first full-length, Perch Patchwork leaves behind the easier categorization of their yore and sprawls out greater to a certain success. This time around, the band have a greater concentration on styles that only lightly littered their past endeavors, pillaging larger cues from Afro-pop, folk, indie and, yes, of course, math pop/rock. And it's all splayed across an album that sounds earthier and more organic than usual.

Vocalist/guitarist Dave Davison is lobbing a softball for remarks when he sings the first real line of the album (some "la la"s usher in the album on opener "Will") in "The Charm": "I don't think there is a sound that I hate more / than the sound of your voice." But Davison's own voice is really a unique, refreshing one, a froggier, higher-pitched David Byrne of sorts. Layers of drums are piled to an increasingly staggering degree in this particular track, and it better sets the tone for the quietly complex polyrhythms driving the rest of the record.

"Israeli Caves" offers some of the front half's prettier and more memorable moments, with backing female group vocals straight out of Graceland, a steady click-on-the-rim/kick drum combo, acoustic fingertapping and Davison testing out his vocal highs. It's a major-key, majorly loaded affair that momentarily feels Christmas-y and consistently sounds huge yet crisp at the same time. Maybe it's just that the band share a similar stable of influences, but "Banished Be Cavalier" has that Vampire Weekend-esque baroque feel, while a more directly Graceland-ish guitar tone does bubble up in "Pigeon."

No matter the occasional flagrant similarity, there's enough originality--as well as technicality and quirk-laden melody--to make Perch Patchwork both an enjoyable debut and a respectable progression for the Chicago act. It's simple arithmetic, really.

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