Atmosphere The Family Sign Album Review
Atmosphere has been putting together quality albums for years. Each album is a triumph of musical ability, lyricism, and rhythm structure. And, once again, the duo from Minneapolis has set the bar with The Family Sign.
The mood set by Atmosphere’s new album is more serene than in the past. The melodies within the songs are more elaborate than most hip hop tracks, but with the same blues overtone that has graced Atmosphere’s albums previously. The general rhythm structure throughout the album is slow, which enhances the blues sound. Tracks with piano, undistorted guitar, and choruses that are sung instead of rapped also aide in creating a mood for the listener that is more thoughtful and introverted.
Lyrically, it should come as no surprise that the stories told within each song develop impeccably. In addition to having the proper song structure, each story unfolds as if it were being read from a book. Historically, Atmosphere has always managed to turn good songs into great songs through their story telling style, and this phenomenon certainly occurs within The Family Sign.
The album opens up with a track entitled, My Key The song has a heavy, clean guitar and a small trap set for the rhythm. The melody on this track is relatively simple, which helps the listener understand the story their hearing. The story is somewhat abstract, in that it can be interpreted many ways. Is it a story about a criminal? Or is a story about a man who feels like he is always on trial? Or is it something else entirely?
The second track, The Last to Say, displays one of the more melodic songs on the album. It starts out with a very clean, wholesome sounding set of electric guitars, in addition to a subtle piano melody. The rhythm is carried by a softer kick drum which is no more complex than a metronome. While that may seem like a statement of disapproval, the simplistic rhythm style for this song certainly enhances the atmosphere that the song creates (no pun intended).
Track three, Became, has a familiar set of instruments. The piano is the dominant melodic element, but the bluesy guitar is there, along with a trap set for the rhythm. The story told on this track is one of the more intense stories. It’s almost a real-life version of Little Red Riding Hood, as the main character spends the song scouring the woods for a friend who’s run off. As the search progresses, the man looking for his friend finds a few set of footprints-one human and two or three wolves. The story is one for interpretation, and has very little to do with actual wolves hunting a man. The combination of the story and the melody on this track create a perfect ambiance for the listener to discern the actual message.
In the last few years Atmosphere has been touring with a live band behind them instead of electronic beats. This experience had a very beneficial impact on this album, aiding to Atmosphere’s ability to create this entire album with a live band. However, by having a live band, Atmosphere is somewhat limiting the sounds and melodies they could create. At a time when all other underground hip hop artists are desperately trying to do something brand new on each track, Atmosphere has taken a different approach. Instead of forcing themselves to write music that’s exclusively out-of-the-box, Atmosphere focuses on what they do best (the combination of music and story-telling), and enhances the listening experience by doing it better than anyone else.
Other tracks that deserve to be singled out include, Big Bad Daddy, My Notes, and Cut You Down. Big Bad Daddy had to be inspired by someone Ant or Slug ran into at a bar. The song is about a bad father, who brings his kids to bars, sets them up in the corner with a little money and proceeds to get hammered and ask the waitress for a lap dance. It’s unlikely that the lyrics described one of them, as the song ridicules this character by exaggerating his unattractive qualities.
My Notes is a shorter song, meant to be the last song people here on the album. It has a strong piano presence, as well as the familiar clean blues guitar and trap set. The lyrics describe the purpose of Atmospheres music as being almost second nature to them. One specific lyric states, I heard a bird cry, it was pathetic. Man if you can fly spread feathers like a message. This lyric seems to indicate that the purpose for Atmosphere’s music is to spread their message, and if only they could have wings too, they would show those birds how to use them.
Cut You Down is not on every album. It is the second Bonus Track in the Deluxe addition. It is not wholeheartedly necessary to fork over the extra bucks for these two songs, however, Cut You Down is a great song, worth listening too. It is a darker song, which immediately sets a mood of intensity, fear of the unknown, and paranoia. It is carried by a heavy blues guitar and a subtle trap set. The story told is of a man who must have agoraphobia, terrified of the public and desperate for personal space. No issues get resolved, as the song ends with the same paranoia it begins with.
The Family Sign, is an incredible collection of music. This album is especially significant because it is one that fans can share with people who don’t value hip hop. The addition of a live band and more complex melodies make the rapping less of a deterrent to non-hip hop fans. The lyrics create rhythm in addition to their story-like content, and the production quality is off the charts. Atmosphere has done it again with an incredible Full Length Album that no music collection would be complete without.