I've been singing the praises--here, here, and way back in '05 right here--of Astronautalis for years now, but it's only recently that the Seattle-via-Florida emcee really hit his creative stride. His dismantled hiphop rhymes filtered through a solid mass of introspective indie rock has always been an acquired taste. It either hits you like a ton of bricks, or sails wide and comes nowhere close to making an impact. I'm in the smacked-in-the-grill-by-bricks category, a longtime fan who has abused this humble soapbox of mine to repeatedly swoon about the ways of Astronautalis.
Let's keep swooning.
Pomegranate (out today!) is the latest from Andy Bothwell (the man behind the Astronautalis moniker), and it documents time spent in his former stomping grounds of Denton, TX, where he collabroated with John Congleton (Explosions in the Sky, Modest Mouse) to further eschew his hiphop leanings and create something far more unique than just about anything else out there. I suppose the most untouchable of the Anticon crew, Why?, would be the closest comparison, but with his gravely delivery, Bothwell is closer to Tom Waits, had the junkyard troubadour been raised on a steady diet of '90s indie rock and the Def Jam catalog.
As a whole, Pomegranate is just as ambitious as his other recordings, but this time around (possibly with the direction of Congleton) Bothwell is more focused and direct than ever. Less attention is placed on navel gazing lyrics, and instead the record is assembled like a series of short tales--about everything from heartbreak and loss to opium runners--that work together to form one mighty collective work. I wish all records were this exciting.
Astronautalis - "Two Years Before the Mast"
Astronautalis - "Trouble Hunters"
Photo: Jostin Darlington