The Shamelessly Enjoyable Maps & AtlasesApril 20th, 2011
Maps & Atlases – The Bowery Ballroom – April 19, 2011
Perch Patchwork, the debut album from Maps & Atlases, is perhaps the best record you didn’t hear in 2010. With folk-rock immediacy and lush arrangements, it’s an album in the truest sense, diverse yet cohesive. The songs range from radio friendly (“Living Decorations” and “Israeli Caves”) to experimental (“Carrying the Wet Wood”), but none stray far from pop palatability. And whether frontman Dave Davison’s expressive blend of singing and croaking endears you to the music or pushes you away, it is undeniably unique and memorable. So, on Tuesday night at The Bowery Ballroom, it may come as no surprise to fans that Davison, positioned center stage, is the lasting image from the show.
Beginning with his solo introduction on “Pigeon” and ending with barely audible vocal flourishes on the show-closing “Was,” Davison’s appearance, unkempt with arguably the longest hair in the room, and musical contributions stood out. This is not to say, however, that the rest of the band faded into the background. Shiraz Dada (bass) and Chris Hainey (drums) commanded a rhythm section that navigated through shifting time signatures while Erin Elders deftly finger-tapped complex guitar riffs. These talents emerged on selections from earlier, math rock-centric EPs You and Me and the Mountain and Tree, Swallows, Houses, but also during the larger portion of material from Perch Patchwork, especially the showstopping “The Charm.”
Nevertheless, Davison, with few words for the audience but visible gratitude, provided the night’s best moments. During an adamantly called for encore, he explained that while Maps & Atlases rarely do covers, they decided to perform the Elvis Costello song “Radio Radio.” And although the selection seemed odd at first, Davison’s adaptable voice handled the melody surprisingly well. It’s this apparent connection to classic-rock roots mixed with technical proficiency that makes this band challenging yet shamelessly enjoyable. —Jared Levy