Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Music Review - Atmosphere - The Family Sign

Atmosphere has released another stellar album of rap/hip-hop, following their outstanding 'When Life Gives You Lemons,' and their whimsical freebie 'Leak At Will.' This record is full of blues, jazz, piano, soft rhymes, brilliant storytelling with very few weak points to be found.

As stated above, the music here comes from all live instruments; Atmosphere is now a full band and has very little sampling (beats, synths, etc). This lends a very organic sound to the music which is very common in the genre. Bluesy electric guitar leads, soft jazz riffs and acoustic playing take center stage, with lots of jazz/blues piano following. The mix is perfect, clear and not overwhelming with the bass.

The lyrics here are, as per usual, brilliant. From  real-life anecdotes to more allegorical stories, every line is well thought out and perfectly placed. There's no forced rhyming or out of place lines anywhere to be found here, and the storytelling ability of Slug remains one of the best features about Atmosphere. Lyrics have always been Atmospheres forte, and this is no different. These are lyrics which have real meaning.

The tone of the album is very laid back, relaxed and even depressive, as seen in the second track 'The Last To Say,' where slide guitar and mellow guitar chords and a soft beat combine into one of the best tracks the group has ever released. Other songs are more upbeat, like 'Just for Show,' and the mostly-acoustic 'Ain't Nobody,' with it's bouncy beat and quirky keyboards.

The high moment of the album, however, would have to be 'I Don't Need Brighter Days,' with it's atmospheric keyboards, huge guitar leads and heavy beat; this is definitely the epic of the album and shows a potentially brilliant sound for the band.

While weaker moments are here ('She's Enough,' 'Millennium Dodo,' and 'Bad Bad Daddy,') the majority of this album is packed with catchy tunes backed by a real organic and home-grown feel. No gangsters, drugs or women to be found here; instead, it's family, real life, real struggles and real hardships, which, as Atmosphere has a knack for showing, can sometimes be much more gritty than the stylized world of hip-hop. 'The Family Sign,' is one of the better albums to come out of any genre in recent times, and I highly recommend this to anyone in search of well played, well thought out, creative music.

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