Tree, Swallows, Houses review by Maps & Atlases

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  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.3 Good
  • Users' score: 9.2 (17 votes)
Maps & Atlases: Tree, Swallows, Houses

Sound — 8
Experimental rock with math rock components and neo-punk psychedelics are some of the entities thriving through Maps And Atlases melodies in their latest release Tree, Swallows, Houses on Sargent Records. The Chicago, Illinois based foursome place multiple musical ideas in spastic free forms which have correlations to avant garde artists like David Byrne, Pere Ubu, and Brian Eno. The synth textured guitar tones produced by guitarist Erin Elders and lead singer/guitarist Dave Davison are eclectic and have a raw-like meandering slightly reflective of iForward and Deerhoofs. The flailing rhythm parts generated by drummer/percussionist Chris Hainey and bassist Shiraz Dada fill in the gaps and create a jumbled effect so the movements sound like a shamble of sound waves. With disoriented sounds and intertwining melodies, Maps And Atlases songs show an appreciation for skittish tones, avant-jazz improvisations and punk spontaneity. Tracks like The Sound They Made and Stories About Ourselves share Portastatic's knack for pasting collages of melodies together. Big Bopper Anthems have neo-punk psychedelics and math rock hooks while the eclectic soundscapes of Songs For Ghosts To Haunt To have synth textures with a likeness to Ambulance LTD. On first listen, the album seems completely befuddling but little by little the pieces start to make sense and you begin to appreciate what Maps And Atlases mean to do with their music. It's modern day avant garde with aspects of punk, math rock, and experimental jazz. It appeals to intellectual processes which is precisely what David Byrne's always strived to do in his recordings. Tree, Swallows, Houses manages to achieve that task.

Lyrics — 7
The lyrics talk about the band's life whether it's about being on the road, working in a band, or dealing with everyday routines. The lyrics reflect the band member's lives like in the song Every Place Is A House when Davison sings, Feet on the dashboard on the way home/ Clipping your nails like a metronome/ Pretending every place is a house. The lyrics have a common phrasing, down to earth thinking and concentric to their narrator.

Overall Impression — 7
The music contrasts the lyrics in that the lyrics are commonly phrased but the music is intellectually eclectic. Davison's vocals also give the lyrics a folksy hoarse texture liken to Mac McCaughan of Portastatic which is chafing while the music is spangled and embellished by multiple melodies and a fanfare of tones. These contrasts worked for David Byrne and McCaughan so maybe there is substance to this type of musical disparity and union. The band's website describes their music as lyrical images strung together like soup cans chasing a Cadillac. If you can imagine that then you have an idea of what Maps And Atlases sound like.

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Wow! i thought i was like the only person in the world who listens to this band. AMAZING cd. My personal favorite is Every Place Is A House
    indeed..very good band..great sound. just reminds me of summertime on the back porch with some sweet iced tea overlooking a flowing field or farmland. personal favorite is "Songs for Ghosts to Haunt To" or "The Most Trustworthy Tin Cans".
    Incredible cd. I agree with the review...but i'd rate the album higher if i were basing it only on technique. They're very talented for such a young band.
    Brilliant album. I saw them live a few years ago and they were amazing. I just picked up "Perch Patchwork" today and it is so different than this album but still great. They can't fail.