Like his 2006 album The Mighty Ocean and Nine Dark Theaters, Astronautalis' latest is a collection of stories about growing up, rebelling and dealing with adult responsibilities. But this time the central character isn't Andy Bothwell, the guy behind the microphone and the Astronautalis name—it's America.
Bothwell extensively researched U.S. history for lyrical fodder about this country's historical heroes and villains. And he's distanced himself from his freestyling indie-rap roots to become more 21st-century folk balladeer than MC, switching from rap to talking blues to singing throughout the album. Just as ambitious as the lyrics are the John Congleton-produced beats, with members of The Paper Chase, Midlake and The Polyphonic Spree marrying strings and woodwinds to synths and drum machines. Standouts include the courtroom drama "The Case of William Smith," "The Wondersmith and His Sons," the story of a man following in the footsteps of his swindling father, and "The Trouble Hunters," a rabble-rousing reminder that George Washington was a badass before he was the white-haired dude on the dollar bill.
Going from battle rapping to the Battle of Trenton isn't the most obvious hip-hop career path, but the results on Pomegranate are amazing.
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