Maps & Atlases | Beware And Be Grateful

Barsuk (2012)
By ANNIE ZALESKI  |  April 17, 2012
3.0 3.0 Stars

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Early in their career, Maps & Atlases reveled in being math-rock whizzes fond of sparkly percussion, frantic tempos, and finger-tapped guitars. Gradually, however, the Chicago band channeled their love of textured sounds and corrugated riffs into more streamlined indie rock— culminating in the tropical feel and Vampire Weekend-isms of 2010's Perch Patchwork. The band's second album, Beware and Be Grateful, is even calmer. But despite the darkly romantic '80s-Britpop quaver of songs like "Remote and Dark Years," Grateful isn't exactly straightforward. If anything, the panoramic scope of the arrangements, abundance of layered voices, and varied instrumentation call to mind the clatter of avant-pop troupe Dirty Projectors. "Fever" combines new-wave signifiers (breezy keyboards, electric drums) with chattering riffs and a laissez-faire tempo; "Be Three Years Old" merges squirrelly percussion with island-vacation guitars; and "Silver Self" combines a cappella folky harmonies with chunky funk rhythms. Dave Davison's peculiar slurred-soul vocals, which resemble Cee Lo Green with a head cold, are ideal for this sonic stew, even if they become grating over the course of an entire album. In fact, that's Beware and Be Grateful's main flaw: an occasional quirk overload.

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