Maps & Atlases, a four-piece hailing from Chicago, have managed an unusual feat with their debut full-length, Perch Patchwork. They've built a sound that fits very nicely with all the current trends in what, for want of a better word, I shall call "indie", without ever sounding at all derivative. The accusation of "jumping on the bandwagon" is one that can quickly put paid to any fledgling band's ambitions and credibility, and while it is certainly one that can be leveled at a whole slew of recent bands, it's not a charge that Maps & Atlases need worry about.
Most of the elements of this record sound reminiscent of some band or other, but the end result is a truly distinctive record. In their approach to guitar parts and their a playfulness with the rhythm they put me in mind of the Dirty Projectors, yet the songs are too well crafted and the production's too polished for that comparison to bear any weight. And of course the easy leap for any reviewer will be to compare the vocals to those of Vampire Weekend, but on Perch Patchwork there's a sense of barely controlled chaos and a languid delivery that renders that comparison moot as well.
This album stands out from most of the other new records I've heard lately in another crucial manner; the more I listen to it, the more I hear in it. I often praise the bands that appear on these pages for creating records that stand up to repeat listening, and that could well skew your opinion on the state of new music today.
Everything that appears on this site has been run through the filter of my taste - I presume to act (as do all music bloggers) as an un-elected arbiter of what is worth listening to. I write about records that I like, or find interesting, and every so often something comes along that is so bad that I feel it deserves a public whipping, but there's a veritable morass of records that fall into the muddy middle ground; records neither good enough or bad enough to warrant mentioning. And it's when viewed against this backdrop of average and mediocre records that albums like Perch Patchwork really shine. I can't see it becoming an all time favourite - it's maybe a little too happy-go-lucky for my tastes - but it is very very good indeed.