Die Off Songbird
'Okay...let's see, where were we?" Oh yeah, second albums. Second albums are traditionally the point where bands decide if they are going to add a rapper or if they are going to get down to business. They've got one record and a zillion shows under their belts, maybe they've been knocked around a bit and hopefully everyone knows everyone else a little better. So it's time to live up to that early promise, to channel all of that stuff into an album that's tougher, louder, an album with some swagger...or, you know, get a white dude with dreads to hype the crowd. Fortunately Maps of Norway choose the former rather than the latter. And they called it Die Off Songbird. So, back to the cave with Minneapolis producer Mike Wisti, but this time work was done quick, a few sessions in January laying everything to tape. Not going to over-think things, just get it to sound good and go. The band let's the grooves run a little longer (the favorite set opener 'Strict Ritual' runs for 8 minutes) and the tunes have become a bit blurrier. Not so much of a fog though that you can't still have songs like 'The Runout', which is frankly a college radio hit if you ask me. Vocals and guitars lines come swirling in out of a gray montage of bass and drums. The rhythm section is still the fulcrum and guitar and vocals are still the lever. There are some atmospheric touches: some acoustic guitars, some bells, and a load of buzzing, wet synth blobs that gurgle all over the place. We're still living in the electric age. Hanson's guitar has more bite this time around especially on 'The Lights' - he's really squeezing out the sparks. Leigh vocals are the fourth instrument here, 'Polo Grounds' and 'Ex-Ghost' her voice is expansive over the punch of Helgeson's taut bass and Ball's stripped-down drumming. Second albums are a tricky thing to negotiate, and Maps of Norway handle it like old pros. You might find yourself stepping back a bit from the speaker and just trying to take moment to let it all sink in. - Chris Besinger.
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