Maps and Atlases Return to Grand Rapids with New Music from Beware and Be Grateful

Maps and Atlases with Charles the Osprey & Elliot Street Lunatic
The Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids
Jan. 22, 8 p.m.
$10, (616) 272-3758

Less than two weeks before embarking to Europe, Chicago's Maps and Atlases will navigate around the lakeshore toward Grand Rapids to begin a modest four-day stint in the Midwest – all terrible puns barred.

Grand Rapids functions as a starting point for the band, having released its first piece of widespread material, 2006's EP Trees, Swallows, Houses, on vinyl through Grand Rapids' Friction Records.

Homage is paid to the city that helped develop the band's career via the sounds of the latest and second full-length, Beware and Be Grateful, released April 2012.

The album's concepts first originated in the back of vocalist/guitarist Dave Davison's head as he walked dogs in Chicago as a job. Bits of existential and visually representative ideas developed without intent.

"There's kind of a balance of this feeling of alienation and also connectivity that festers through the album," Davison said.

During another walk with a friend, Davison happened upon a street vendor selling cheap Casio keyboards among other equipment, and conception then began.

"It ended up being a little bit carried away and we made these really crazy keyboard things, and the album's not really keyboard heavy ... but there was this really strange keyboard-y feel to the demos that actually had a weird influence over the way of thinking about it," Davison said.

One could say the album plays out as the band's folkiest to date, rather than a wayward step into an electronic nightmare. Davison's emphasis on deliberate musical exploration within each and every song holds true from beginning to end. Opening with "Old and Grey," the track substitutes string-heavy guitar work with aptly placed piano and background keys before jumping into the subsequent "Fever," which boasts a delicate '80s-synth feel. Fast forward to the median "Silver Self" and the track instantly morphs from Davison's lonesome voice to a bouncy tune with a frenetic guitar solo of two and a half minutes.

"When our band first started, the concept of putting a guitar solo in a song was not something that seemed really compatible with what we were doing ... but with this album, there are a couple guitar solos," said Davison. "[Silver Self] was really fun to make, and I think that it definitely falls into the category of a different kind of song for us."

The album concludes with "Important," a song that nearly epitomizes the album's title and intent. As Davison lyrically expresses the importance of an unnamed person alongside hints of brass and tapping drums, feelings of caution and hope are evoked by the low hum of a keyboard proceeding Davison's last statement, "when the curtain closes, you'll find all you're looking for."

Maps and Atlases will be supported by Grand Rapids' Charles the Osprey and Lansing's Elliot Street Lunatic for a night of familiar fun with new music.

"We've been meaning to come back to Grand Rapids for a while and I'm glad that we could pull it together and start off this little run there," Davison said. "They're one of the first places we were able to get shows and stuff, so we've consistently been returning and hanging out there."