"Accessible" is a term that is sometimes shunned in the musical community. It has connotations of selling out, of dumbing down. And at times these connotations are well-deserved.
And at times they are not.
Maps & Atlases began as an impressive math-rock outfit, displaying technical capabilities that match up to their influences, such as Don Caballero and Hella. Then the band took a different route. A more accessible route. This more pop-oriented direction was perfectly displayed at their Lincoln Hall show on March 11th.
Playing songs from their debut album Perch Patchwork, Maps & Atlases showed a rare maturity, allowing the songs’ melodies and character to take over from the more dazzling physical abilities of previous recordings. This is not to say that the technical playing of the group takes a backseat. All four players are astounding musicians, with Chris Hainey multi-tasking drums and xylophone simultaneously, and Dave Davison faultlessly singing his incomparable drawl while finger-tapping his guitar.
Personally, I couldn’t have been happier, since they played all five tracks from my favourite release of theirs; the 2008 EP You and Me and the Mountain. Most notable was the decision to play an encore of three songs unplugged in the middle of the audience. Rare do we hear math pop and intimate in the same sentence, but it really was.
The show ticked all boxes, including some I never knew existed. This confidence in a simpler song. A beautiful coalescence of technical and approachable. An element of sing-along I had never noticed before. And their Elvis Costello cover created a mass-swoon among the girls in the audience, which must be applauded.
Let’s hope the charming pop elements continue in M&A’s future, which is sure to be a bright one.
Check out more show reviews:
Flogging Molly at Congress Theater
Louis and the Hunt at Schubas
The Pogues, Titus Andronicus at Congress Theater
The Island of Misfit Toys at Schubas
Akron/Family at Lincoln Hall