Maps & Atlases

Beware and Be Grateful

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The sophomore outing from idiosyncratic Midwesterners Maps & Atlases builds on the angular math pop of 2010's Perch Patchwork by dialing down the difficulty of the arithmetic. Beware and Be Grateful's success lies in the group's ability to make its many quirks accessible, and while there are plenty of cerebral moments to be found, there's a warm organic center to each track that ultimately wins out. Bookended by its two most affecting cuts, the sneaky TV on the Radio-meets-Fleet Foxes love song "Old & Gray" and the measured, stoic closer "Important," Beware and Be Grateful relies heavily on the syncopated beats, dry Soweto-inspired guitar leads, and incredibly malleable vocals of Dave Davison that made Perch Patchwork such an intriguing, and occasionally polarizing, experience. On first listen, tracks like "Be Three Years Old" and "Bugs" spiral into the abyss, but as the foundation crumbles beneath them, a new one is quickly laid in its place, a trick that Maps & Atlases' moodier U.K. doppelgängers Wild Beasts have been perfecting since their 2009 debut. This kind of attention to detail can often result in overwrought, overly mapped and cluttered slabs of soulless technical prowess, but the quartet knows the difference between a hook and lick, and applies that knowledge liberally on this extremely likable set of clever summery pop songs.

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