Thursday, March 18, 2010

Music Review - Atmoshpere - When Life Gives You Lemons

When one mentions rap, a few things usually come instantly to mind. Loud beats, overwhelming bass, obscene and often derogatory lyrics and a violent, thug-like attitude and mentality. It's much less common to find a rap artist who is actually that, an artist, without the posturing and strutting of the gangster side of rap; but that's precisely what Atmosphere is.

This album takes more from old time jazz/rhythm and blues than most rap does, with the inclusion of mostly real instruments ranging from steel lap guitars to jazz guitar to more normal synths and beats. The tone of the album is often dreary, nostalgic and bleak, and the lyrics deal with topics ranging from single parenting, how to deal with the loss of loved ones and simple everyday people trying to survive and live their dreams in an often hard and cold world.

The beats here are soft and lacking in the massive low ends of typical rap (though bass is still a very prominent feature), recalling more the style of Mobys more recent efforts. The vocal delivery ranges from soft whispering to an occasionally more angry and forceful delivery and there are often female backing vocals.

The two high points of the album for me would be the nihilistic Painting, with its steel lap guitar and soft beat and Guarantees, a simple song consisting of only mellow jazz guitar riffs and vocals. Both songs contain the real-world, urban and none to hopeful feel of Atmosphere. Other good tracks include the friendly and almost bouncy Yesterday, a piano and drum oriented track about the loss of ones father; and You, which tackles the common theme of single (mostly women) parents working hard to support their dreams and makes excellent use of soft background synths and a catchy chorus.

While not an entirely family-friendly album (there's several uses of harsh language and subject matter) this is a low-key, intelligent and often relaxing album about life and the people, dreams and struggles who inhabit it.

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