Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Matt Oliver, Mastered by Sam Patlove
If we've asked it once, we'll ask it a thousand times: Where did Dave Davison come from and where is he continually coming from? These are natural questions that seem to formulate every time the Chicago musician and lead singer for Maps & Atlases writes and then utters those written words out and through a microphone. He cuts angles and diverts thoughts into eagle's nests and uncharted territories. He should be crowned one of the most innovative and exciting singers in America today and the same adjectives should be used in discussing a band that just continues to branch out into new oddities. The group's records never stutter and never waver, but jump around like the typical temperatures of a Midwestern springtime, dashing left and right, while sweeping us up in a general feeling of vacationing daydreams and alcoholic drinks that will catch you off-guard with their deceptive proofs. It cuts out an enchanting territory of a place that used to feel more like home than it does now, filled with people who used to feel more like friends and lovers than they do now.
Memories seem to be barking back at Davison, bassist Shiraz Dada, drummer Chris Hainey and guitarist Erin Elders, worried that they're morphing into untruths or distortions, as if everything they used to think they knew about themselves has very suddenly been stricken and rearranged. It creates an environment that puts the narrators of these songs into the basket seats of hot-air balloons, peering down over the edge and seeing the sterile fence lines and the peculiar walk between the enormity of it, the relatively perfect qualities of it, the smallness of it and the ugly confusion of it.
Davison writes from the vantage point of a man - a spectacularly bearded one - who sounds as if he's gotten into questioning perceptions and seeing how they're just messy, little spills that never get picked up appropriately - leaving some things permanently juxtaposed and out-of-place. He finds himself stumbling into very personal reflections of how everything gets so strewn and complex - and especially how everything tends to get so absurdly faded and barely recognized. There's much displacement in their songs, looking to the past and hometowns, places that were settled into and once very familiar, and finding that they're somewhat distorted, carrying with them some sadness - if only for the fact that they aren't part of a person's present any longer, just a dim recognition of a former presence. He sings on "Banished Be Cavalier," "You like to think of the names of the streets in the town where you came from and imagine the day when the signs were first hung/You're sure that you can predict/The value of the outdated rhetoric on posters your friends like to hang on their walls you've priced them all," and a part of those lines carries something of a fondness, while the other part carries something that skips a beat and carries a melancholy glare.
Maps & Atlases are infused with the tough Midwestern winters - a harsh coldness that brings curses to the lips of priests and grandmothers - as well as those months when the weather warms us, when we decide to do something with our old jeans, as we take a pair of scissors to the bottom halves of the legs and make ourselves attire to be cool in.