Atmosphere – The Family Sign

written by: April 26, 2011
Release Date: April 12, 2011


When an artist has a kid, usually their music has that inevitable release of “humbled” music, singing of their newfound enlightenment and zest for life. This wasn’t true with the Minneapolis-based musicians Atmosphere in their new Family Sign record. Since the last time we heard a full-length release from the duo, vocalist Slug and his wife have had a second child and so has another member of the band. And though the child is mentioned once or twice, it certainly doesn’t overbear in the content of the record. Because of this, it’s safe to say Atmosphere has consistently considered the intentions of their fans when they put together their new release.

Atmosphere kept the material close to what’s been relevant since their start a few decades ago. Take it as a blessing, because had it been any other way, the album couldn’t have been as classic as it is: fire-spitting hip-hop with a taste of something fresh and interesting. The band is always keeping it exciting and hearty as they bring together pieces of story and metaphor when they compile words and song alongside their signature piano beats. So if that’s what fans are looking for, they won’t be disappointed.

Though the music is a taste of their past, it’s progressed since their last When Life Hands You Lemons… work. What used to be centered upon the glories and consequences of the party scene is now focused on a more detached yet reminiscent angle.

Though it sounds the same as classic Atmosphere, its mood is notably low and somber as opposed to uplifting or ironic. It’s not a bad change, though. There’s maturity in the band’s evolution as musicians and songwriters.

A man getting lost in the woods is actually about life decisions. An alcoholic father taking his kids to the bar is actually about a second generation of rappers that Slug is embarrassed by. And a bad party scene is actually about not breaking personal character. Deconstructing these ideas is part of the beauty in Atmosphere’s art. It’s true to their work in The Family Sign just as it has since the beginning.

The Family Sign is a complete set from start to finish. From “My Key” to “My Notes,” a variety of stories and emotions put together a well-rounded compilation. Six of the songs in the thick of the record are almost scary to listen to for several different reasons.  “Millenium Dodo,” “Bad Bad Daddy” and “Just For Show” are confrontational songs filled with resentment and bitterness. The only thing gained from these songs is an interesting story with another fine metaphor. If they were lightened in tune and in lyric, they might be easier to listen to, but that could also kill a piece of its truth. The main fault with the record is its tendency to cause discomfort with the listener. It continues with “Who I’ll Never Be” and “I Don’t Need Brighter Days,” which each have their own take on the darkness but still contribute to the overall theme.

The simplicity is made complete when taking into consideration the album art with a baby’s fist in front of the white background laced with gold.

The beauty lies in the place where all there needs to be is a light guitar, some piano and the ever-familiar rap vox. Though the motive becomes a little distorted in the midst of the ominous tracks, by the end of the record, we’re reminded that this alone is all the fans need to feel the raw emotion every single time.

Atmosphere – The Family Sign Tracklist:

  1. “My Key”
  2. “The Last To Say”
  3. “Became”
  4. “Just For Show”
  5. “She’s Enough”
  6. “Big Bad Daddy”
  7. “Millenium Dodo”
  8. “Who I’ll Never Be”
  9. “I Don’t Need Brighter Days”
  10. “Ain’t Nobody”
  11. “Your Name Here”
  12. “If You Can Save Me Now”
  13. “Something So”
  14. “My Notes”