Review Summary: “Touch fire, just to taste the truth”
Astronautalis is a bit unconventional when it comes to musical style. While most bands spend the majority of their careers struggling to master just a single genre, Astronautalis has already become fluent in more than one. But perhaps more importantly, he is able to coalesce his styles of choice - including but not limited to, rap, indie/alternative/talk rock, and electronica - into a cohesive package that begs to be listened to over and over again.
“This Is Our Science” is the fourth album from the Minnesotan poet, and easily his most accessible. Not because Astronautalis is conforming his music to a more generic and bland format like many bands do after not seeing commercial success early on. Rather it’s because he’s become so good at genre bending that the listener is no longer jarred, even a little bit, when he deftly shifts styles.
But what I haven’t begun to get into is the fact that on top of all I just described, Andrew Bothwell is a phenomenal lyricist as well, painting pictures with words of everything from historical fiction, to philosophical struggles, to love won and lost. And because he has such a wide pallete of musical accompaniment to choose for his words, each and every song is crafted to enhance the emotional impact that Bothwell was going for.
While opening track “The River, The Woods” uses a mixture of tightly wound rap verses and passionately sung choruses to promise someone he loves that they will face the unknown together, second to last track “Life the Curse” is a slow-burning indie rock masterpiece that waits halfway through the song to explode into electronically driven nostalgic cry for a return to times past. Then in a completely different mood entirely, Astronautalis bellows like a southern preacher – a la Listener and Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse) in his crazier moments - to discuss the length that human beings will go to find the “thing to which we’re blind” or, as it’s more commonly referred to, the supernatural.
And it’s not just the tracks I mentioned above that stand out. Each and every song on this album has an emotional impact on the listener. Whether it’s Astronautalis working in tandem with Tegan Quin (Tegan and Sara) on the venomously told story about an ex during “Contrails (feat. Tegan Quin),” or the bittersweet story of a night shared by two young lovers tenderly relayed on “ Secret on our Lips” - every single piece leaves a mark.
It would be remiss of me however, to not mention the masterpiece of the masterpiece, title track “This Is Our Science (feat. Isiah and POS).” The songs starts off slow enough before breaking into an intense rap-rock interplay that lays out the poet’s philosophy.
“Touch fire, just to taste the truth / say ‘you’re gonna die young.’ So are you. / We chase the lightning, ‘cause we need to move/ This is our science, we’ve go nothing to prove.”
Astronautalis’ modern day take on the “ignorance is bliss’ philosophy comes clearly down on the side of obtaining knowledge despite the pain, and it comes in loud and clear. Clearly he’s tortured - as many of us are - with what this world is and our role in it. The difference is he’s willing to bare his soul and put it out there to the backing of phenomenal music.
“This Is Our Science” may only be 38 minutes in lengths, but I would set aside at least 76. You’re going to want to hear this more than once.
“This Is Our Science (feat. Isiah and POS)”
“Life the Curse”
“The River, The Woods”
“Contrails (feat. Tegan Quin)”
“Secret on our Lips”