Sunday. The day of rest. And with it being the first Sunday of the month, there’s a hazy, hungover vibe around the centre of Manchester as people realise how much of this month’s pay cheque they’ve already spent. So, there is a somewhat sigh of relief as the small yet perfectly formed audience crawl into The Ruby Lounge this evening to find that tonight’s opening act is a man and his guitar backed by two violinists and a cellist that go by the name of Olympian. A blissful start to the evening as frontman Aron sing’s in a deep yet delicate northern accent as he gently but lovingly finger picks his guitar while his all strings backing piece fill out his songs with grace and cinematic beauty. A refreshing opening act.

Next up are Farewell Jr. who play an endearing set of epic indie folk, their songs dynamic and unpredictable, starting small as a mouse and ending up big as a house. They’re a great live band to watch, as on the one side of the stage, members switch up between guitars, bass and keyboards and the other side, we have a drummer and percussionist both harmonising sweetly, triggering samples and bringing a very second album Bon Iver tone the band’s set, also helping build their swirling melodies to climatic crescendos. Talented musicians, well arranged songs, very much a band to keep an eye out for.

And tonight’s headliners, the band we’ve decided to get out of beds for, Chicago’s Maps and Atlases. It’s funny to think that my first review in these very pages was of this band when they last played Manchester just under a year ago down the road at the Night and Day Cafe. Their last UK tour was in support of their then recently released second full length ‘Beware and Be Careful’ which saw their quirky, alternative indie pop at its most breezy and instant. Since then, it seems that they’ve been touring the world over and with this being as part of a European jaunt, it seems that this tour almost acts as a farewell to their current album cycle in the hope they’ll head back into the studio to conquer another effortless collection of experiment pop songs.

Tonight’s set mainly leans towards their debut LP ‘Perch Patchwork’ a striking debut that goes from intense yet stunning composition of ‘The Charm’ to playful guitar riffs of ‘If This Is’ and ‘Living Decorations’. There is a also a nod to their earlier math-rock root’s as they open with the tropical twiddles ‘Pigeon’, showing off front man Dave as one extremely talented dude, they also pop in three tunes from their incredible second EP ‘You and Me and the Mountain’ which go down a treat with tonight’s crowd as we marvel in their effortless musicianship. But for those who still haven’t quite shaken off their hangover’s, unprepared for the band’s more out there moment, they provide some light relief with some choice cut’s from their latest album, ‘Winter’ being a glorious little pop song with a brilliantly catchy guitar line, ‘Remove And Dark Years’ giving off a more laid back vibe but equally as instant and to my delight, a wonderful rendition of my favourite tune from the new record ‘Silver Self’ which is a proper little groover and get’s head’s bopping around the room.

As my younger sister once said, “Maps and Atlases are musical wizards”, and tonight was in some ways a more refined and less dramatic magic show; four guys making music to dance to, sing to, stroke your imaginary beard to and overall, to marvel at.

Olympian | Farewell Jr. | Maps and Atlases

Benjamin Forrester

I joined the Silent Radio family near the very start of my move to Manchester in 2012 and I'm still having the best time! During my stay here I've been in two noisy bands, had a not so noisy solo project, made a zine, started a blog and started a radio show. It's been productive to say the least and it's all been intersperse with a shit load of gig going and beer drinking. I would love it if you followed me on twitter @dr_brainless for excitable tweets about playing, watching and living new music.