The first time my ears ever did a double take was listening to Maps & Atlases. I had just gotten home from school, and an old buddy I used to go to shows with sent me a message on Facebook or MySpace saying, “Dude, you have got to hear this band from Chicago.” My friend couldn’t really tell me what they sounded like, so I had my assumptions. The only bands I could think of from Chicago were Wilco and Fall Out Boy. (I’m still impressed that fifteen-year-old Bo knew who Wilco was.) But this guy didn’t usually send me music unless it had really made an impression on him. Like every version of myself I’ve ever been aware of, I began googling Maps & Atlases into oblivion.
Instead of clicking on the first song that popped up, I looked for a title of a song that piqued my interest, and then I looked up the lyrics. “Artichokes” instantly blew me away. The best comparison I could create in my head at the time was that Maps & Atlases sounded like Animal Collective if they were trying to write pop songs that turned out better than their other albums. What caught my attention right away was the percussive nature of each part being played on every instrument. The lead tapping guitar melody sounded like something out of a Tera Melos song, but again, I couldn’t quite lump Maps & Atlases into a group of relatable bands.
I never seemed to catch Maps & Atlases when they came through Memphis or Nashville, which was the worst kind of a music nerd’s bummer. I had kind of lost track of the band up until last year when I happened upon Maps & Atlases’ latest studio release, Beware and Be Grateful. I was instantly hooked again after I heard the hilarious yet unfathomably relatable song, “Remote & Dark Years.” Once the foundation of the song is laid with the dissonant cacophony of a piano’s damper pedal cracking the protagonist’s skull open, you’re spontaneously slapped with the stream of consciousness lyrics that are some of my favorites ever.
“I couldn't help but notice
that near the corner of your mouth
there was a piece of food escaping,
and it was trying to stay out.
I started thinking about myself like
I always seem to do.
I couldn't stop myself from saying what
might seem theatrical to you. It's just
I don’t want anymore,
I don’t want anymore.
No more remote and dark years,
no more remote and dark years”
Come Friday night at 8:00 P.M., you should be at Barefoots Joe to see Maps & Atlases and Keeps. Not just because they’re fantastic bands, but because I still have no idea what magic powers Barefoots' Joseph Smith used to get them here. Also, if you’re unaware of the band Keeps from Nashville, let me inform you that they are, in my opinion, the finest dream pop outfit Nashville has to offer. The show will be rad. You are rad. Come to the show.
Bo Kitzman is a senior at the University of Memphis' Lambuth Campus. Bo likes music and sports, but playing music is his favorite. You should buy Bo burritos. Bo loves burritos.
Photography provided by Maps & Atlases.