Atmosphere - Southsiders Review
Posted by Bill Wannop on 05.06.2014
Atmosphere is back with their eighth studio album, Southsiders, which pays tribute where the group originated. Is the group able to bring listeners into their world and create another great album to add to their catalog, or does the album leave the majority of listeners out in the cold?
Atmosphere has always been a group that has not followed the masses and basically paved their own path in music. The group, composed of rapper Slug and DJ/producer Ant is well known in the hip hop world, having made a name for themselves by releasing their albums independently throughout their decade long career. This has allowed the group to have full creative control over their sound. Returning with their eighth studio album (coming three years after the critically acclaimed The Family Sign), Southsiders is a somewhat themed album and refers to the south side of Minneapolis, where the group is from and currently resides. Is the group able to bring listeners into their world and create another great album to add to their catalog, or does the album leave the majority of listeners out in the cold?
1. Camera Thief
2. Arthur's Song
3. The World Might Not Live Through The Night
4. Star Shaped Heart
5. I Love You Like A Brother
8. Mrs. Interpret
10. Kanye West
11. We Ain't Gonna Die Today
12. My Lady Got Two Men
14. January On Lake Street
15. Let Me Know That You Know What You Want Now
Fans of Atmosphere will immediately be familiar with the albums tone and theme right from the opening track, “Camera Thief”. With this opening track Ant producers one of the best beats of his career, which plays for amount a minute before Slug comes into the track with some great lyrics. The theme of the track has Slug transitioning between various images and topics in his head from his past decisions and life choices.
“Don’t sign the lease, just cop a corner for you to curl up and try to sleep.
Those cheap police won’t find my wings, I keep my dreams inside my dreams.
And if I had a time machine, I’d probably use it like a vacuum and try to clean.
It kinds seems like more than a handful of these regrets have been circumstantial.
Now give me all the cash from the drawer, touch that moustache down on the floor.
And I’ll be in court, holding a pitch fork before I let the contest outlast the sport.”
“Arthurs Song”, again has Ant dropping a great backdrop with a sampled vocal and piano beat for Slug, who details his loves for different addictions in life. He outlines how he has had love and addictions for alcohol, drugs and music. He ends the track stating that his music is his outlet and helps him to
overcome all life’s difficulties.
One of the great things about Atmosphere albums, is that while the theme of some of the tracks are clear, the meaning or the specifics of the tracks can be mean different things to different listeners. “I Love You Like A Brother” is a prime example, as a more mellow beat from Ant has Slug talking about his love for what I interpret to be his fans and music in general. Different listeners may take different meanings from the track, however.
Deep tracks keep coming on Southsiders, as Slug lets go of his emotions and lets the listeners feel his pain on “Flicker”, which is about passing of his good friend Eyedea, who died in 2010:
“Ya I been drinking, you already know, do I smell like escape, probably so.
I found your tape in my old collection, put it in pushed play then I poured a fresh one.
I looked back with a hesitant laugh, then reality, its dark down memory ave.
All the trials and suffering we shared with each other, a lot of people thought we were actually brothers.”
It is this vulnerability and passion that make Atmosphere’s music so powerful. Many listeners will relate to his problems, and he crafts his stories and messages so well. The majority of tracks are not specific enough for the listeners to be locked with the problems of Slug, but instead are interpretive to the listener, who can put his own meaning, and fill the song with their own problems as the sound provides their therapy. “Fortunate” is in this vein, as slug lets some great lyrics flow over a nice piano beat. Similarly, “My Lady Got Two Men”, while specific in its title has Slug again showing his vulnerability as he tells the tale of the women he loves being stuck with another man, and concludes with Slug questioning who the girl really loves more.
While not every track on the album is a hit, there are several tracks that are not bad, but simply do not live up to the previously mentioned tracks. “We Ain't Gonna Die Today”, “The World Might Not Live Through The Night”, “Star Shaped Heart”, really pale in comparison to the other tracks on the album. Tracks like “Southsiders” and “Kanye West” have a more mainstream appeal to them, in which Ant provides much harder beats for Slug to flow over. While the tracks have a more mainstream sound to them, Slug never sacrifices his lyrics and is able to still paint a vivid picture of the good and bad of his hometown.
It has been over three years since the last Atmosphere album, and listenting to Southsiders you can truly hear why the wait was so long. Slug meticulously selected every word and sentence on the record, as you can truly tell he spend countless hours on every track. The interludes of the train rolling through Minneapolis provides even more of a backdrop to the theme of the album. Slug does not simply put words together because they rhyme, he puts words together that have meaning. There are so many instances of symbolism and interpretation in this album, that the listener will be hearing new details and meanings behind the songs after many listens. Ant is the perfect match for Slug, giving him the perfect audio background to complement his sound and message. The album is deeply introspective and provides a very detailed look into the life of Slug. Due to the fact that the album is themed around Southside Minneapolis, the sounds may throw some listeners off, however, listening to the sounds of that area it is clear that Atmosphere planned everything out perfectly.
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The 411: Ant is the perfect match for Slug, giving him the perfect audio background to complement his sound and message. The album is deeply introspective and provides a very detailed look into the life of Slug. Due to the fact that the album is themed around Southside Minneapolis, the sounds may throw some listeners off, however, listening to the sounds of that area it is clear that Atmosphere planned everything out perfectly.