September 16, 2010

Test Spins: Atmosphere

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In today’s boastful money-flaunting, gun-toting hip hop world it’s great to sit back and hear lyrics that tell real stories. Unfortunately, much of the time they must come out of the mouth of rappers like Atmosphere’s front man Slug (Sean Daley). On the duo’s new album To All My Friends, Blood Makes the Blade Holy, the group reinforces stereotypes of white rap; Atmosphere lacks the edge and style that make hip-hop an appealing genre.

All of the blame cannot fall upon the group’s lyricist Slug; his partner and DJ/producer, Ant (Anthony Davis) is virtually incapable of providing a proper canvas upon which a decent song can be made. The instrumentals on tracks like “The Major Leagues” seem like a failed attempt at alternative rock and those on “The Best Day” verge upon high-school musical theater, all while weak-throated vocalist Slug just needs some floor shaking bass upon which his pre-pubescent voice wouldn’t seem quite so feeble. Much of the album features interesting guitar licks and piano progressions, most notably on tracks like “The Loser Wins” and  “The Number None,” but Slug doesn’t have the tenacity to shape the tracks outside of their pleasant melodies. Ant needs to work more with his vocalist’s limitations and try to provide the edge that Slug so clearly lacks.

Atmosphere’s lyrics are hit-or-miss to an extreme.  Slug can at times find a laid back flow, but much of the time it sounds like he is constrained by his stories, searching for any rhyme at all to continue his tangent. None of his lyrics, though, are witty enough to be memorable. Tracks like “Shotgun” prove that even when provided with a blank track to come in on he can’t produce anything better than: “You m****f***** ain’t on my shelf, I should jump back and try to French kiss myself.”

Overall, To All My Friends, Blood Makes the Blade Holy does not even hold up to some of Atmosphere’s previous albums like When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. On all of Atmosphere’s work, the duo lacks a certain X factor, but on this album especially, the group comes up short on many fronts.


Original Author: Adam Lerner