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Maps of Norway

Die Off Songbird

(Guilt Ridden Pop; US: 25 Nov 2008; UK: 29 Dec 2008)

Maps of Norway, a Minneapolis band, plays a kind of stringent New Wavey rock, big on drums-n-echo, but elevated by Rebecca Leigh’s warbling voice, pitched just right in the mix. Leigh sounds a bit like a peppy version of Blonde Redhead’s singer; her voice has a classically-trained precision. In their instrumentation, the group sounds like a slightly clumsy version of the Raveonette’s upbeat stomp. The extended instrumental tracks and interludes show a band willing to explore texture and timbre, though they end up with a surprisingly mainstream sound—“Strict Ritual”, the album’s 8-minute centerpiece, becomes a repetition of unremarkable beat. The instrumentation strays into a synth-driven sound on tracks like “The Light”, on which they’re a more relaxed Killers. At its best, the band seems to hint that guitars could be used as instruments of anthemic reach, but breaks them up either into short, clipped phrases or shards of distortion, before they can reach it. And throughout, the group’s saved from mediocrity by Leigh’s spooled-out and energetic voice. For once, a singer sounds happy to be behind the microphone.

Rating:

Dan Raper has been writing about music for PopMatters since 2005. Prior to that he did the same thing for his college newspaper and for his school newspaper before that. Of course he also writes fiction, though his only published work is entitled "Gamma-secretase exists on the plasma membrane as an intact complex that accepts substrates and effects intramembrane cleavage". He is currently studying medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia.


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