Astronauts
Hollow Ponds


4.4
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
July 22nd, 2014 | 82 replies


Release Date: 07/21/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: For when you feel most alone

Everyone possesses an innate method for handling depression – something deep inside that enables the mind to defy desolation and conquer feelings of hopelessness. For many people, that outlet is music. Just look at Justin Vernon, for whom we would be without Bon Iver had he not concealed himself in a remote Wisconsin cabin for three months to brood over the loss of his band and girlfriend. It’s cathartic, and it’s safe to say that some of the most poignant music ever created has emanated from the personal and emotional wreckage of its writers. Enter Astronauts, the moniker for Dan Carney (previously of Dark Captain). As Carney lied in a hospital, bed-ridden due to a severely fractured leg and in a nearly delirious morphine-enhanced state of mind– he began to fantasize about Epping Forest, a section in northeast London not far from where he was hospitalized. His condition caused this place to take on a mystical quality, and he fantasized about walking freely there – limbs intact. As these ideas gathered steam, they became Hollow Ponds as we now know it: the setting for Carney’s often bleak and highly contemplative indie-folk debut.

Hollow Ponds is an album that closely identifies with its cover art. Intensely atmospheric, it broods over an acoustically minimal soundscape while echoing creator Dan Carney’s forsaken demeanor. It rarely conveys anything approaching enthusiasm, dwelling in the dark and dampened corners of a mind trapped inside a hospitalized body. The bleakly repetitive ‘Everything’s a System, Everything’s a Sign’ is a direct product of Carney’s sullen tone. Even if it isn’t a shining instance of his diversity and brilliance, the way it cycles through the chorus of “you can’t just do what you want” bears down on the listener, drawing him or her into an eerie atmosphere that is conducive to Hollow Ponds. Tracks such as this set up the record’s marquee moments, and in this case ‘Flame Exchange’ embodies everything Astronauts hopes to be; dourly plodding forth atop pristine acoustic plucking before swelling strings and woodwinds cause all emotions to run high – “feels like I’m about to capsize…need some solid ground under my feet.” The lyrics serve as a microcosm of Hollow Ponds, an album that is emotionally unhinged and hanging in the balance.

All one needs to confirm this is the icy, abandoned aura of the title track. Introduced by way of high-key classical piano notes, electronic ambiance slowly washes over the track and serves as an entropic force that launches the experience into a relative state of disarray. As the ambiance subsides midway through ‘Hollow Ponds’ and gradually gives way to earthy substance again, the track returns to normalcy. The song reaches its peak when Carney proclaims “I’ve been too long caring, been too long confused…too long standing like a statue, too scared to move.” It’s the epitome of discontent, summarizing the bustling negative energy residing within the murky depths of Hollow Ponds, which surfaces like a mythological beast – sparsely asserting its presence in between moments of calm. It’s also a metaphor for Carney’s immobility, comparing his bed-ridden state to his fear of moving on in life. If Astronauts’ debut dug into Carney’s emotional depths with even more frequency, then it could have easily been standing on the doorsteps of perfection.

There’s a lot more to Hollow Ponds than densely emotive atmospheres, though, which is a double edged sword. While on one side it wields Astronauts’ proud highlights, on the side it shows an artist whose ambition is divided between music of a dark and brooding alt-rock nature, and that of a more traditional acoustic singer-songwriter approach. While ‘Flame Exchange’ and ‘Hollow Ponds’ indisputably deliver the album’s most instrumentally heartfelt and lyrically candid moments, there’s still plenty to be gained from the so-called “light side” of Carney’s composition. Opener ‘Skydive’ succeeds in a more delicate, uplifting vein; thriving on buoyant acoustic guitar strums and Carney’s entrancing vocal performance. Then there’s the way that ‘In My Direction’ conjures images of a hike through thick woodlands, following the skipping rhythm like stones hopping across a flowing brook. There are most certainly missteps and falters along the way, such as the generally indistinguishable ‘Try to Put It Out of Your Mind’, but most often Carney proves capable of delivering upbeat song structures alongside dejected tones whilst making it all sound harmonious. It’s not a compliment that can be paid to very many debut-crafting artists, and it’s something that Astronauts can hang its hat on for future albums to come.

When all is said and done, Hollow Ponds is a definitive cut above your run-of-the-mill acoustic folk debuts. Although it can at times blend together, there are intangible factors to be considered here – most notably the emotional weight and prominent atmosphere. Through Astronauts, Dan Carney has set in motion a project that possesses an incredible personality of its own. If he continues to channel his emotions into Astronauts, then it will become a cathartic vessel that we’ll all want to return to in the future.




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user ratings (57)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2014


16789 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4 | Sound Off

I swore I wouldn't give out 0.1 increments, but I didn't know how else to accurately rate this.

Fans of darker indie-folk, this is a no brainer.

Digging: Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy

Gyromania
July 22nd 2014


15967 Comments


3.8 so it's a 4. idk, i don't think we can accurately say 'oh yah it's down to this exact decimal place'

anyway, song you posted is really good

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2014


16789 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4 | Sound Off

First time I've used 0.1 increments since returning, I even apologized and I still get criticized? It's an unforgivable sin, I guess.

Gyromania
July 22nd 2014


15967 Comments


lol nah man, i'm just being fussy

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2014


16789 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4 | Sound Off

It's okay I forgive you - I'm glad you like the song. Album definitely has some powerful moments.

YourDarkAffected
Contributing Reviewer
July 22nd 2014


1684 Comments


dude, this review is awesome. Probably one of the best I've read from you.

Slut
July 22nd 2014


2476 Comments


"dark atmosphere gives the album a sense of isolation."

seems interesting

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2014


16789 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4 | Sound Off

Decided that this is better than I initially gave it credit for. Bumped review to a 4.2, reads closer to that anyway.

bakkermaarten007
July 22nd 2014


3654 Comments


"Fans of darker indie-folk, this is a no brainer."
Cool, thank you.

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
July 22nd 2014


20077 Comments


great review sowing. love me some folk so i'll check this out

Digging: Circa Survive - Descensus

bakkermaarten007
July 22nd 2014


3654 Comments


Could be a Jesse Lacey folk album. It makes sense that you like this.

henryChinaski
July 22nd 2014


2840 Comments


Lots of Sowing reviews lately or am I just too slow? Loving the artwork. That song is good too. Nice write-up. Will check out.

Digging: Pianos Become the Teeth - Keep You

Tyrael
July 22nd 2014


20946 Comments


Hmm

Would I like this, sowing?

Digging: Azealia Banks - Broke With Expensive Taste

jkr5001
July 22nd 2014


27 Comments


This sounds great. I need to check it out. Thanks for reviewing/putting it on my radar.

thelastsignal
July 22nd 2014


1504 Comments


Nice one, Sowing. I need to check this; sounds like something I've been needing more of in my life. It's been nothing but metal for me lately.

Digging: Achilles - Hospice

jacobbd
July 22nd 2014


3 Comments


This guy sounds exactly like Jesse Lacey...

ExplosiveOranges
July 22nd 2014


3640 Comments


Nice review, Sowing. Might give this a spin soon.

Digging: Bloodbath - Grand Morbid Funeral

Amphoteric
July 22nd 2014


2014 Comments


Flame Exchange is good

13km
July 22nd 2014


47 Comments


Good review, I'll check this one out.

Digging: Bob Dylan - The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series 11

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2014


16789 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4 | Sound Off

Thanks for all the feedback everyone.

I know I've been writing a lot lately - but great albums just seem to keep coming up. I'll slow down significantly in the fall when work starts again : (



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