Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review: Maps and Atlases, Perch Patchwork

Maps & Atlases

Perch Patchwork

4 out of 5 smilies

“I don’t think there is a sound that I hate more, than the sound of your voice.” Yikes. No, these are not the words of a recently burned high school boy, scribbling furiously on a scrap of crumpled college-ruled paper to his ex-gf of all of three weeks. Rather, this is the very first line melodically uttered by Maps & Atlases’ lead singer Dave Davison on the band’s debut LP, Perch Patchwork. But much like the songs that ensue, these lyrics prove to be more playful than contemptuous, setting the tone for the Chicago group’s entirely refreshing first full-length effort.

Maps & Atlases fit nicely under the banner of experimental pop, with an elusively familiar sound that refuses to confuse itself with stylistic orientation of any one group. Nimble guitar-work, quick percussive touches, and occasional orchestral flourishes mirror the bright inflection of froggy-voiced Davison, providing pleasant interplay between instrumentals and vocals. Neither the technically-sharp music nor Davison’s vocal contribution dominate the record, and both emit crispness in tandem that lends undeniable levity to the record, from start to all-too-soon finish.

As opposed to simply a collection of similar stand-alone songs,
Perch Patchwork is a decisively cohesive album. The breaks between songs are rarely recognizable, as one idea melds stealthily into the next. While the majority of tracks clock in just under the three-minute mark, the frequently seamless transitions give the impression of drawn-out, cascading arrangements. “Solid Ground” is the only song that feels anything like a distinguishable single, with instrumentals reminiscent of the inner tinkering of the Keebler elf workshop (definitely a good attribute). Surprisingly, even with the flowing continuations on the album, Maps & Atlases never truly achieve any sense of robustness or concreteness. Pop often gets slammed for its lack of substance, and if Perch Patchwork falls short anywhere, it’s in its failure to strongly defy this common conception. Nevertheless, while the songs can seem individually fleeting, the sum total remains a lovely work of sharply crafted music sprinkled with just enough musical treasures.
Worth a peek: “Living Decorations”; “Solid Ground”; “Pigeon”

--Scott Lensing


Ben said...

nice review, scooter. really really really love this record. excellent departure from the math-rock that was their two eps, but you can still sense that it is still the same band. catchier and poppier without sacrificing their technical abilities.

one of my favorites of the year, for sure.

jill said...

I caught them in DC last fall and they put on a good show. I'll have to check out their new album!