Though it’s a nightmare for some students, art school was productive for experimental folk artists Maps & Atlases. The quartet (vocalist/guitarist Dave Davison, guitarist Erin Elders, bassist Shiraz Dada and drummer Chris Hainey) formed at Chicago’s Columbia College in the fall of 2004, releasing a series of rare underground EPs before finally working their way to broader public consciousness with 2010′s major label debut, Perch Patchwork. That album was a great leap forward, but Beware and Be Grateful goes even further, forging a more driving, diverse sound.
The album opens with “Old and Gray,” an experiment in inventive production that employs layered vocals and dense, gently percolating instrumentation. “Fever” and “Winter” are a double dose of pop gems that marry spirited guitars with blinking electronics. Only closer “Important” plays is straight, laying a gentle vocal melody atop a bed of keyboards to offer a tender farewell.