Maps & Atlases, XOYO, London
Monday 07 February 2011
If there is one band of the moment who prove that geek is most definitely chic, it is the Chicago "math-rock" quartet Maps & Atlases.
As the name suggests, precision, timing and carefully composed structure have provided the basis of the Maps sound since they formed, in 2004. Nowadays their music is decorated with joyous folk riffs, fluttery bass lines and liberal bouts of jangly percussion, and all of these are showcased straight away with the set's launcher, "Pigeon".
The packed audience is on-board from the off – clapping along, cheering and shouting requests. The band's debut album, Perch Patchwork, released in summer 2010, was the culmination of seven diligent years (with a couple of critically-acclaimed EPs along the way, one of them selling so well it went out of print). On record, they have one of the most exciting styles on today's indie scene. The smiley exuberance of this show makes it sound even better.
Crowded on to XOYO's mini-stage, the band – fronted by Dave , who sports a long, wizardly beard, 1970s dad glasses and a cowboy shirt – look like they met in a geography class at college. To be fair, so do most of the audience. Musically, aspects of country are blended tightly with folk, good old-fashioned rock'n'roll (yet another good example of why rock is not dead) and Dave's distinctive, high-pitched Americana vocals, which bite to the crowd's delight on the self-indulgent ballad "If This Is". All this is underpinned with fluid organic melodies and driving drums – if Kings of Leon were happier souls, this might be the kind of gig they would play.
Rounding off the set with the forthcoming single, "Living Decorations", Dave tells the adoring crowd that he loves London and hopes they will have the band back again. As his words are followed by an encore that sees the band perform an impromptu acoustic number in the middle of the floor, it seems highly likely he will get his wish.
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