Living In Symbol
With so many different facets affecting what makes music stick with us, it’s hard to understate the importance of feeling. While pulling from countless influences across classic rock and its many revivalists, Astronauts, Etc. produce a record that uses its sound in magical ways. Though they don’t always bring out the writing as much, there’s always a strong emotion that lets every song feel intriguing.
Electronics clash with the ringing piano chords as the album opens with a sweeping majesty on “Symbol Land” and a dreamy energy engulfs the slow sway of vocals. Though it never tries to go too over-the-top, there’s an endlessly entrancing quality to the writing that keeps it fun. “Shut My Mouth” however takes a much more driving rhythmic approach as it oozes out a soft but moving groove. While Astronauts, Etc’s vocals lull you in and have you in a daze, the slow cross-fade of rustic tones with shrieking electronic elements make the song harsh and frantic. The mix of nu-vintage rock comes out “The Border” as the aesthetic overtakes its subdued bass lines for a song that is constantly smooth. Though it understates so much of its melody, there’s so many memorable moments you won’t mind.
After a bit of a slow start, “The Room” becomes this hazy and retro dream of a track, that is filled with romance and a powerfully visual sense of lyricism. More than anything it’s the way how each instrument and vocal is given a texture here that makes the track so mesmerizing. “9 Fingers” takes a similar approach to its arrangements, but does struggle a little more to make each of its hooks really stand out. This said, the beauty they pull from their sparing piano breaks are heavenly in their wet and lo-fi tones.
“Fly Over Me” moves into a more demented and almost Lynchian territory, while slowing to a bass-crawl so simple it often leaves a lot to be desired. Over time however, the uptick of Astronauts Etc’s magical effects and their light harmonies lets the song bring a startling mood to the track. The bass and pianos have a fun call-and-response on “Visitor” that lets the vocals be the mediator and translator between it all. With the strings rising even higher, the track is a much stronger ambient track that sticks with you more than more meandering tracks.
Hitting an almost hokey and Mac DeMarco meets Paul McCartney drive on “Who I Talk To” there’s a fun melodic focus here that makes the track feel like a long-lost love song. Luckily here, it’s actually its use of well-familiar ideas that makes the unusual directions of the song so fun. With the drums hitting like an absolute knockout on “Stray Observations” the sense of place and time is foreign and exciting. As the lyrics paint a picture of a new world (whether emotional or real), this song really shifts the sonic possibilities of the record around.
As if replicating the feeling of being in love, “Kelly On The Moon” mixes a bit of hypnotic feelings with a totally dazzling wash of effects. Even its riffs feel unique enough to make this overt romanticism feel like one you’ve never quite felt before. Though it’s not the strongest track on a mix of harmony or melody, the subdued solos and whispered hush on “Idleness” carry it until Astronauts Etc’s keyboards hit their emotional peak.
Words by Owen Maxwell