Thursday, November 29, 2012

Albums2010 #60: Seven's Travels

Atmosphere finally made a good record. Actually, although this is the first album of theirs I've ever listened to all the way through, I'm willing to bet that statement shouldn't include the word 'finally.' While hip-hop might not be my favorite genre of music in the world, I've develop an appreciation for the depth of the genre that might not be immediately obvious to people listening to Top 40 Radio. Atmosphere was mind-blowingly good when I saw them live last summer at 80/35 in Des Moines so reviewing an album of theirs was made my must-list months ago. I'm only sorry it took me this long to get around to it.

Seven's Travels, their 2004 album is awesome, plain and simple. Laid back, introspective, indy hip-hop at it's finest, its tracks interspersed with interludes on a plane on it's way to a destination (presumably Minnesota, if the last track 'Always Coming Back Home To You' is any indication). The overall sound feels pretty laid back but the lyrics tell a different story- Slug's lyrics (the rapping half of the duo- the producing DJ half of the duo is DJ Ant) are nicely introspective, but darker themes hide behind the jazzy, laid back beats- but the key to this albums' success, I think is that the anger and pain of failed relationships (which seems to be a theme here) doesn't overwhelm the music itself. Which is good.

National Disgrace is one of the tracks that made me sit up and pay attention. Dedicated to a variety of celebrities who dedicated themselves to being total fuck-ups to entertain the masses- but the rapid-fire lyrics bounce along and the song is a lot of fun even as it bemoans/accepts the loud, arrogant messiness that seems to be part of our national character sometimes.

Trying To Find A Balance, which is the second track on the album is what really made me pay attention to these guys. I had heard of them in a vague way without actually listening to any of their music. They opened up their set at 80/35 with this and had my full, undivided attention after that. From the guitar hook that anchors the track to the driving, bad ass lyrics that fill the sing, it was just plain face meltingly good.

Third favorite track is the last one- appropriately titled 'Always Coming Back Home To You' which is a- well, I don't want to say it's a love letter to Minnesota and the charms of Midwest living because that lacks a certain amount of street cred but that's exactly what it is. For one brief, glorious moment Atmoshpere takes the Midwest and makes it badass. That's an achievement worth enjoying- even celebrating.

Overall: I will be listening to more Atmosphere. Ranks right up there with Hieroglyphics, Aesop Rock, Talib Kweli and Lupe Fiasco as hip-hop/rap that I enjoy and actually has depth to it. My biggest complaint about rap these days is that's gone away from the hardcore social commentary that made it great, become a caricature of it's own success and now... well I don't even know what it is now. Step outside the mainstream of the genre and you'll find a surprise or two- Atmosphere is one of the best- and it's the best musical surprise I've had all year. **** out of ****.

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