Parts & Labor Mapmaker

There are very few bands that can be said to have a sound all their own. By refusing to limit themselves, however, Parts & Labor are one such band. In 2006, they released Stay Afraid to critical acclaim from most music publications. A full year later, they’re back with Mapmaker and have somehow improved upon their sound. Combing the best elements of drone and noise, indie pop and punk rock for inspiration, Parts & Labor don’t follow any rules. Electronic manipulations buzz and rumble, colliding with busy guitars and frantic drums but they somehow leave room for amazing verse-chorus-verse pop songs. "Fractured Skies,” with its cheery brass and catchy melody, opens the record perfectly as a true noise anthem. Things get crazy abruptly as "Brighter Days” begins with volatile noise washes then breaks into hectic punk rock. Elsewhere, "Ghosts Will Burn” holds back on the explosions, allowing the synths to guide the melody. They even pull off a killer cover of the Minutemen’s "King of the Hill.” By embracing variety while maintaining a core identity, Parts & Labor are a seemingly unstoppable, consistently inventive force. As a result, Mapmaker is one of the most refreshing and joyful listens since, well, they released Stay Afraid last year. (Jagjaguwar)