Astronautalis: Super Star Freestyler

KralTunes for @tonightatdawn

“If Beck were a decade or so younger and had grown up more heavily immersed in hip-hop,”

Thats how hip hop veteran ASTRONAUTALIS’ (Charles Andrew Bothwell ) style has been described since his debut waaaaay back in 2003.  While the proclamation  is not without warrant, it certainly is not completely justified, as this newest release, DANCEHALLHORNSOUND, is not with its’ issues.

Described as a ‘modern age mixtape’, things start out strong with ‘Do You Believe In Life After Thugs‘ ; booming beats and punk-ish verses (“They autotune the artist/Turning all the hardest to the harnessed”) give you the goose pimply feeling that you may be in for a heck of a ride.  Unfortunately, a majority of the album that follows is as generic as they come.  It isn’t bad, it’s just uninspired and all too familiar sounding.

Glimmers of hope do shimmer every now and then, as tracks like ‘Trouble Hunters’ offer up a danceable groove with a Revolutionary-era lesson:

“Brother Benjamin is off in France.
We’re taking Trenton back again.
The garrison of Hessians will fall.
They say Delaware will freeze a man.”

(Not the worst, but certainly no masterpiece).

It’s during the second half of the album where ‘Astro strikes some gold as a ‘mixologist’  with ‘Mr. Blessington’s Imperialist Plot’, a mashup including samples from Lady GaGa.  Here, his creativity shines, and the release picks up some steam.

From there, Bothwell reveals the ace up his sleeve as he comes forward with his freestyle skills on a trio of tracks.  The first, ‘Voicemail Freestyle: P.O.S & Jake’, sees Bothwell take a child’s suggestions (Legos, Cameras, American Idol, Chandelier) and create a fully versed, well-fashioned rap.  Indie rockers TEGAN AND SARAH challenge him to repeat the formula on ‘Voicemail Freestyle: Tegan & Sara’, and he rises to it.  The final spoke in the wheel, ‘Voicemail Freestyle: Rookie Sensation Mike Wiebe‘, is a marathon of demands from Mike Wiebe. With references to the metamorphosis of Willie Ames from sexual deviant (Zapped) to Bible Man AND the cop show HUNTER…IN ONE’re asking for too much, Mr. Wiebe!! — but dammit, if Astronautalis doesn’t deliver the goods!

Aside from the voicemail double dares, there are treats to be found, such as the breakneck verses of  ‘Seaweed Sheets‘ and the grimey beats of ‘Down And Out In The Bold New City Of The South:”.

At 14 tracks long, DANCEHALLHORNSOUND can definitely be trimmed down to 10 songs. Astronautalis’ freestyle talent is the real draw here and is worth the listen when the listening is FREE on Bandcamp.

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