Saturday, September 10, 2011

Astronautalis - THIS IS OUR SCIENCE


Fake Four Inc

The first word that comes to mind when I think about Astronautalis' latest effort, THIS IS OUR SCIENCE (Fake Four Inc, out September 13, 2011), is "unexpected." Not unexpectedly good, because I expected it to be good, at the very least, but it's so much more than that. Even stylistically speaking it is not [initially] unexpected. 
What is unexpected about THIS IS OUR SCIENCE (I promise, when you listen to it a time or two, you'll be spelling it in all caps, too) is all the points hit between. It's not an album that starts or finishes strong, it's more of a shockingly cohesive greatest hits album that stays remarkably strong throughout. Even the two songs I did not exactly dig at first ended up worming their way into my heart on the second listen by the strength of their lyrics (because the second listen is reserved for just sitting, soaking and actually hearing the words). And upon that second listen, I got to really hear the story within the mix, which itself granted understanding of why the songs sound as they do and almost immediately flipped them from being songs that didn't do too much for me, to two of my favorites. So, don't overlook thatthis is essentially a book of short stories put to (quite spectacular) music with one of hip hop's greatest troubadour as your narrator. 

One thing I must say about THIS IS OUR SCIENCE is in regard to its place in Astronautalis' catalog by way of my personal experience with him as an artist. Which starts with me confessing  that I was never all that into 
The Mighty Ocean And Nine Dark Theaters (2006,Fighting Records), at least not at first. I loved some of the songs on it on their own merit, and absolutely adored a few others when performed live, but the studio album as a whole just didn't really grab me. It has only been in the past couple years that I've really grown to appreciate it for the [damn fine] album it is, largely due to things that happened in my life that, I suppose, finally put me in the right mindset to 'get it,' for lack of a better term. To get why it played the way it did, to get why there was such restraint throughout as opposed to the way the same tracks came off live, boiling over with passion and electricity. It's since become one of my top ten favorite hip hop albums.

All of which is to say that Astronautalis has been slowly building towards making the album I have always wished he would make. 
His last effort Pomegranate, felt like he was really starting to write songs with that built in passion I so longed for. There was less of the "Okay, this is great stuff, but I want to see him belt this out live," because that raw energy was finally coming through on the albums. In both style and content, THIS IS OUR SCIENCE is the next step on that path, beautifully binding those elements from his previous work into something that both shimmers and smashes in turnThe songs range from quiet, almost trancelike dirges, to raucous booze soaked southern ass hallelujah choir songs. And I don't mean boring, Catholic humming kind of choirs, but a hundred Dirty South Big Mamas with voices bigger than Jesus smashing down the building they're in kind of southern ass hallelujah choir. -- Hold on, Holy Water just started playing. It's the track after his collaboration with Tegan Quinn of Tegan and Sara, which is excellent, but this one right here ... hot damn, babydoll. If this song doesn't get you excited, someone snatched up your heart. What was I saying? -- And while I cannot wait to hear all of these songs performed live, I can confidently say that I cannot recall when last I was so completely satisfied with an album. Am I saying it's perfect? Of course not. I could sit here and pick apart some of the (very) few complaints I have about it, but at this point, I have listened to it so many times and enjoyed it so much, that they're more or less lost to me. 

I had a sneaking suspicion that this would be a contender for Album of the Year here at MOVEMENTmagazine, and I honestly cannot imagine another contender cropping up before year's end that could even come close to competing with this gem. 
Do yourself a huge favor and go buy this album and experiment for yourself with OUR SCIENCE.