[6 January 2009]
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.