Atmosphere-The Family Sign [Album Review]

“In the three years since Atmosphere last dropped a full length record on the world, they’ve been far from stagnant, staying at the top of their game in every respect. For the better part of two years, Atmosphere toured the globe in support of their critically acclaimed – and #5 Billboard Top 200 charting – album, ‘When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold’, which brought their combined album sales up to the 1.5 million mark. And in their “spare” time, the group returned home to Minneapolis in 2009 to record their 2010 double EP, ‘To All My Friends, Blood Makes The Blade Holy’, an homage to their friends.

In 2011, Atmosphere is taking that feeling one step farther with this long awaited LP, ‘The Family Sign’, a tribute to their true extended family: their fans, their loved ones, and each other.”

With it being officially released here in the UK just two days ago, we were lucky enough to be hooked up with a copy of this album weeks before (thanks to Sam!), so click on below to read OTU’s thoughts on this long awaited album.

My Key kicks off the album, with the short track putting us in a sombre mood which sets the tone of the album from the offset. We then get taken into a track telling us a story about an abusive Father, who also beats his wife.

“Let me be the last to say, please don’t stay.
Let me be the last to say, you won’t be okay.
Let me be the last to say, please don’t stay.”

The above is the hook that closes out the song which, along the production, does a superb job of capturing the pain the son is feeling.

Just For Show initially sounds more upbeat, but we then learn differently with it telling us about a relationship in turmoil. We’re told he doesn’t really believe that his girlfriend wants to end things, the production on this matches the hope that he has. By the sounds of things though, he’d be better off letting her go, the relationship sounds rather unhealthy! Click here to see the official video for that, my fellow writer Murray had a hard time deciphering the clever metaphors behind this (something that’s prevalent throughout the album) with the video being shown through the perspective of a dog, things become even more complexing. What’s surprising is the track that follows this: She’s Enough is an ode to a significant other, being with that person who you want to spend the rest of your life with. Perhaps this is to show how things could be so much better if you bite the bullet and get out of a relationship you know that has no future, as there could well be something better around the corner. Whilst it doesn’t really fit in with the overall tone of the album, I found this track to be one of the most enjoyable to listen to.

Not being someone who was very familiar with Atmosphere’s previous work, I was caught off-guard as to how good Slug is lyrically and in particular the brilliance of his story-telling. The tracks Who I’ll Never Be and I Don’t Need Brighter Days prove this beyond any doubt. The former has Slug telling us about an aspiring female singer, who he can hear through his apartment wall, she’s unaware her neighbour can hear her as he fantasises about being with her. He’s fallen in love with her through her songs, but doesn’t want her to know as it’ll ruin the fantasy, yet he pictures the day he’ll be with her:

“Sometimes she’ll search for a line
and I wish I could give her one of mine.
But it would all unravel
if she found out I was in the shadows.
So I suppress what I obsess,
but your biggest fan wanna sing a duet.”

The acoustics on the production really suits the incredibly personal mood of this song. The latter track (I Don’t Need Brighter Days) is my favourite on the whole album. The production on it is amazing, which in addition to the content, makes it sound like the album’s really about to ‘kick off’. A defining moment for the concept of the album.

What follows is more jovial in production, Ain’t Nobody has that moment of relief and clarity that you have when you know you really don’t want to be in the same presence of someone you once loved, not because it hurts too much – but because you genuinely feel nothing for them anymore. The up-beat tempo of this track helps signify this. Your Name Here fluently follows, with us being told about a chance encounter with a former friend, or flame. Gathering by the title of the track, I guess you can apply to anyone you’ve ever grown apart from.

Something So and My Notes close out the album with a far softer mood than expected, but also gives you a happier feeling too compared with the rest of the album. It shows that families and relationships aren’t all doom and gloom, with the following lyrics from My Notes resonating with me especially:

“I heard a bird cry – it was pathetic
Man, if you can fly, spread feathers like a message”

Even though I felt tracks like Bad Bad Daddy weren’t executed very well, and (as previously mentioned) I found trouble with deciphering the meaning of certain songs like Millennium Dodo and If You Can Save Me Now, this is more than just a solid album. We were told before the release of this album that it’d be about “being okay with losing friends and strengthening bonds with others, celebrating the person who’s been the most positive in your life, your kids, your homies, leaving the people you need to behind, and bringing the ones you love with you” and it certainly delivers that. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more mature and intimate release all year, if you’re after an LP that’ll make you think and appreciate what you have in life: then this is the album for you.

Purchase Atmosphere’s The Family Sign from iTunes and all good retailers now!

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