Monday, December 1, 2014

Astronauts - Four Songs

When you read in a label's late-in-the-year press offering that one of their artists has followed up a release of a few months ago with a four song EP comprised of songs that didn't fit on the album but were 'just as good' as the songs included, human nature invokes a certain skepticism.  It is the same defense mechanism that gives you a warning flash when the salesman tells you that the brown sharkskin sports coat looks like it was made specifically for you, and would look great with the 'never go out of style' square toed dress shoes on the nearby rack.  The thing of it is, sometimes those kinds of proclamations are correct (not about the square toed dress shoes, however, just toss them -- please).  You see, the new Four Songs EP from Astronauts -- the folk, indie and electro-pop project of Londoner Dan Carney -- really yields no ground to the excellent Hollow Ponds (our review here).

Carney's songs are soundly structured and affectingly melodic.  But for me, their most striking attribute is their perfect balance.  He infuses his works with the exactly correct measure of airiness, weight, space and layers of sound.  The record's opening track, "Only Son" is one of my favorites.  Carney sets the stage with a droning but brightly colored riff, with his vocals low in the mix.  I can't really explain why, but the song strikes me as euphoric, and I never fail to hit the replay button a few times.  The following "Lion Tamer" begins with darker tones and a more experimental pop arrangement.  The delicate vocals and harmonic backing vocals float over the skittering beats, suggesting an inexpressible darkness and anxiety.  "Think On" has rightly been compared to the work of Elliott Smith and Nick Drake.  On an EP of well constructed songs, this one may be the centerpiece of the songwriter's art.  The closing "Death from the Stars" is an instrumental dream pop song that deserves to find a cinematic scene worthy of its contribution to the soundtrack.

Four Songs EP is available now as a digital download from Lo Recordings and various digital retailers.

Lo Recordings

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