Prior to their first full-length, Perch Patchwork (Barsuk Records), which came out last week, Maps & Atlases had gotten away with a discography of just two EPs in four years. That's because each EP, not to mention each song, is an internal combustion of melodies and percussion fueled by technical and mindful musicians. With Perch Patchwork, an evolution toward a more lush, pop-oriented aesthetic has taken hold, the band's math-rock intensity having apparently waned. But Tuesday night at the Firebird the Chicago four-piece proved they can successfully blend elements from both styles to create challenging, melodious pop.
Lead singer Dave Davison's distinctive croon immediately projected over the audience as Maps & Atlases started their set with the bouncy melody of "Israeli Caves." It's one of the simpler songs on the new LP, following a recipe of three parts breezy pop, one part math rock, and one part funky fresh.
"The Charm" was a knockout. Davison sang, "I don't think there's a sound that I hate more than the sound of your voice," as Chris Hainey's drums and Erin Elders' guitar slowly built momentum. Right before the climax, Elders and bassist Shiraz Dada abandoned their posts to take up auxiliary percussion and form a bombastic drum circle with Hainey.
I didn't expect to hear "Glamorous Glowing" in this setting -- the track was recorded by Davison's solo project Cast Spells for their 2009 EP Bright Works and Baton. But it was nice to have an alternative take on the song with the muscle of Maps & Atlases behind it.