I will freely admit to the fact that I’ve cycled through a number of embarrassing trends and styles since my early teens. One of the few fads I’m not wildly ashamed of is my appreciation for hip-hop and rap.
In the early 2000s, I happened upon hip-hop groups like Black Star, Mars Ill and Deepspace5; this somehow led me to my initial discovery of Andy Bothwell, better known as Astronautalis. At the time, all that I was able to obtain of his were live recordings of 10+ minute raps, performed freestyle based on topics shouted out by audience members.
The thing I appreciated about the groups was their non-traditional approach to hip-hop. Even late 90s/early 2000s albums were attempting to combine “indie” music sensibilities with lyrics that just so happened to rhyme and were sung quicker than in other genres. It wasn’t happenstance, though; rather, it was deliberate and thus, striking.
I met and had a pleasant exchange with Andy Bothwell in the “rap tent” at Warped Tour 2004. Even to an awkward-looking teen, he was engaging and cordial. Downright nice, even. He had my immediate respect.
But for a number of years, and for one reason or another, I didn’t follow his music as closely as I had back then. When Pomegranate was released in 2008, I tried to make it a point to track it down, but failed to do so. It wasn’t until last year that I really gave his recent discography a good listen, and my Lord, I’ve been missing out this whole time.
This is Our Science isn’t explicitly hip-hop. It’s somewhere between alternative hip-hop and indie rock. The closest comparison I can make is to Yoni Wolf and company in WHY? But even that isn’t the best example. Atmosphere is another logical comparison, but I think he’s mostly a hack.
“Thomas Jefferson” screams with a wailing guitar and dusty western piano bar keys. And like the sandy musicality, the lyrics match the soot:
The ox and yoke know every note I hum /
Written in the grass by the midday sun /
The lamp lit ahead of me with the earth between my feet /
I’ll sing a song into the breeze, let it fold the wheat
“Midday Moon” has a certain GAYNGS vibe about it, except for that whole 69 BPM thing. I don’t know, it might actually be 69 BPM, do I look like a metronome to you? Rhetorical. Best song on the album.
There is deep sorrow within this record, though. “Measure the Globe” and “Life the Curse” hit hard. But sadness can be quite beautiful, and never more apparent than on This Is Our Science.
Also, he’s from my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. Big ups for being born there, Andy. Respect.
Standout tracks: “This Is Our Science” and “Midday Moon” and “Life the Curse
Weakest track: “One For The Money” (a 10 second interlude included here, because I like most everything else about this album)
RIYL: Intelligent or alt. hip-hop. Black Star, WHY?, Doomtree.