Maps and Atlases - Tree, Swallows, Houses
Record Label - Sargent House Records
Release Date - 2006
Chicago, Illinois indie rock quartet Maps and Atlases are not your average indie-rock band. There are no dime a dozen, disco-inspired guitar licks and no sort of pseudo-pretentiousness surrounding any of the seven quirky tracks that make up Maps and Atlases’ debut EP, Tree, Swallows, Houses. Chicago is no stranger to quirky, indie-rock bands with a penchant for complex guitar work (Joan of Arc anyone?), and there are numerous bands from all over America now trying to follow in the mighty footsteps of the legendary Kinsella project. However, many of these upstarts fail to fully coalesce their many ideas into coherent song structures, but Maps and Atlases not only achieve this goal, they do it flawlessly.
The most striking aspect of Tree, Swallows, Houses is the highly technical guitar work performed courtesy of Erin Elders and Dave Davison. These guitar virtuosos cited Spanish flamenco guitarists as the inspiration for the development of their two-handed tapping style in a recent issue of Guitar Player magazine. Elders and Davison seamlessly blend their spastic guitar parts to create the driving force behind songs that are both highly technical and experimental, yet retain a sense of melody that will engage the average listener.
Maps and Atlases waste no time introducing listener’s to their blistering fast style with “Every Place Is A House”, and Elders and Davison quickly assert their guitar virtuosity within seconds. Frenetic drumming and blistering, melodic finger tapping propel the track while Davison’s smooth vocals and cryptic lyrics serve as prefect compliments to the otherwise frenzied pace of the track. “The Ongoing Horrible” finds Maps and Atlases toning things down considerably in comparison to the opening of their EP. The experimental guitar work and percussion is still there, but it is toned down and the instruments are sparser, giving Davison the chance to bring his vocals to the forefront and giving the instrumentation a more organic feel. Where “Every Place Is A House” and “The Most Trustworthy Tin Cans” are displays in well-constructed displays of frenzied experimentalism, “The Ongoing Horrible” is a case of where “less definitely is more” and offers a brief respite from the intensity that is thrown at the listener almost immediately.
Tree, Swallows, Houses is an album that cannot be fully enjoyed with only one listen because there are so many ideas being thrown at you at once; it really takes multiple listens to pick out the subtle nuances that make up each track. The thing that sets Maps and Atlases apart from their peers is the fact that they can take multiple musical ideas and create coherent song structures. Many bands that try to take from the spastic, free-form indie-rock Joan of Arc perfected end up focusing on the technical aspects and trying to sound overly quirky, and end up creating disjointed songs that lose the listener within a few tracks. Maps and Atlases are heads and shoulders above other bands in their genre and prove they are they are a band to watch out for in the years to come. This EP won me over and now Maps and Atlases is one of my favorite new up and coming bands and I cannot wait to hear a full-length from them. If this album is only the starting point for Maps and Atlases, this is a band to keep an eye on because they will get better with each release, and may someday be mentioned among the Chicago indie elite.
this band owns. one of the best EP's ever.
i saw maps + atlases at fordham univ in the bronx, NY in a small coffee house located on campus.
all i can say is wow. these guys are the next generation of music. it's about time!
they're awesome. they've played down here in bloomington a handful of times since the start of the school year--and are even playing here tonight.. but, i'm under 21.. so i can't go. but, i know i'll definitely be seeing them around as often as they've been in and out of bloomington this year.
Well done, Rich. This was a good read. I need to check this out when I get home.
Thanks Steve! Definitely check them out these guys are insane musicians and its only their debut EP. Thanks to everyone who commented my review, I am glad you enjoyed it and it makes me happy to see this band getting some well deserved attention!