Astronautalis

Astronautalis

Once you find out that Astronautalis was born to a Texas train man with a nose crooked from bar fights and a pretty Kentucky girl who ran away from home at 17 to become a photographer, it becomes clear that he didn't stumble into the life of a drifter, he was born into it. With a poet uncle who lived off horse betting and hitchhiking, grandfathers who were spies, sailors, and test pilots, and over 500,000 miles of touring under his own belt, you have to wonder where the tales in Astronautalis' music end and the life of Andy Bothwell begins. Currently settled (for now) in Minneapolis, by way of Seattle, by way of Dallas by way of Jacksonville Beach, FL; Bothwell has spent almost every waking moment of the last 7 years, on the road, playing shows, earning scars, collecting/giving tattoos, grinding out a cult like fan base, and living up to his proud, storied, and whiskey soaked blood line.

Having started in music over 15 years ago as a battle rapper, Astronautalis' roots are planted firmly in hip-hop. However, the sounds and styles on his albums are an animal not so easily caged, and his latest release, "This Is Our Science" is no exception to that tradition of wild genre bending. Like previous records Bothwell uses that limitless approach to aid in his vivid storytelling, but where "This is Our Science" takes a turn from tradition, is in the subject matter itself. While previous records read like historical fiction, documenting the lives of the bygone, the footnotes, and the forgotten, "This is Our Science" is pure autobiography. While there are flash references to scientists from the Age of Enlightenment and old dead French mountaineers, these ghosts serve merely as parallels, rest stops in the story of the last 7 years of Bothwell's romance with the road.

To help shape this memoir, Bothwell called in help from the cadre of musical friends he has made in his travels across 4 continents, and created a sound as diverse as the cast that behind it. Once again under the guidance of Grammy nominated producer John Congleton (Modest Mouse, Bill Callahan, St. Vincent), "This is Our Science" finds rock darlings like Tegan Quin (Tegan & Sara), Radical Face, (Electric President), members of Midlake & The Riverboat Gamblers all waltzing in time to the work of P.O.S. (Rhymesayers), Alias (Anticon/Sage Francis), Cecil Otter (Wugazi), Lazerbeak (Doomtree), and more of indie hip-hop's finest. The resulting album is the full realization of everything Bothwell has been chasing after for 7 years. Neither a rap record, nor a rock record, it is a work that finally captures the vein popping intensity and high melodrama of his famous live shows. All the while, maintaining the steadfast literary tradition and masterful storytelling of his previous studio albums.

From the pounding drums and thick synths of the record's opener, "The River, The Woods", the roots in rap are clear. But, that foundation quickly crumbles as the choir swells on the dark electronic gospel of the title track, "This is Our Science". After the banging funeral dirge of "Thomas Jefferson" (featuring Doomtree rapper Sims), the record blazes into the thick of Bothwell's vagabond life with heart breaking road ballad of "Measure the Globe". While songs like undeniably catchy, "Contrails" (featuring Tegan Quin) and the epic rock anthem, "Secrets On Our Lips" carry an astounding pop sensibility, there is something unnerving behind those big choruses and driving drums. In fact, there is something hiding behind every corner of this record, and much like the road Astronautalis traveled to make it, there is no map, no guide book, no way to prepare yourself, all you can do is press on forward and see what is waiting for you just around the bend.

Sarah Jaffe

Sarah Jaffe started work on "The Body Wins" the day she bought a bass and a drum set at a pawnshop. That day. She wrote the rhythmic "A Sucker For Your Marketing," and her second full-length began to take shape. It had been building up inside her; she just didn't have an outlet. Jaffe had been writing songs on her acoustic guitar since she was a teenager. She knew everything she could do on it, and everything she couldn't do. It wasn't a creative tool for her anymore. It was a fork or a spoon.

When Jaffe started playing guitar, everything was a discovery. Every chord she played, she thought she had made it up. Not knowing how to play bass or drums, but forcing herself to try, brought that back to her. And so there was "A Sucker For Your Marketing," a song she may not have been able to write before, but needed to. Maybe not that song, exactly, but Jaffe had pent-up creative energy inside her, after spending most of the year traveling and touring behind her debut ("Suburban Nature"), seeing and feeling things, soaking up the world.

Plus, there was a side to Jaffe that didn't exist on "Suburban Nature," the part of her that liked to dance and listen to hip-hop and cover Robyn songs live. That's not to say "The Body Wins" is a party record. It isn't. But it has a pulse to it, more than a heartbeat, not quite a breakbeat. "Glorified High," the first single, perfectly captures that, the energy she'd built up and the energy that had always been there, with a chorus that smacks you in the chest and lingers like a hug.

It would be nice to say that, after that first day of writing on bass and drums, everything fell into place quite easily. Maybe in the movie biopic version it would. But when Jaffe entered the studio with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, The Walkmen), who had worked with her on "Suburban Nature," she'd only completed a handful of songs, and bits and pieces of a few others. Congleton told her to send everything she had, "even the stuff you're embarrassed about." So she did.

"John is clearly a master at what he does," Jaffe says. "But, to me, his true genius is the fact that he knows when something is good, and knows when something can be great when you think it's absolute rubbish. I can imagine when you work with as many artists as John has worked with you inherently become a psychological handyman. He didn't baby me when I had my freakouts about not having enough songs. He simply said, go home and write. And I would. Or when Robert [Gomez] or Scott [Danbom] were laying down their instrumentals, I would go in the room next door and quickly finish a song, or write a part. Just being around all that creative energy, it was a thrilling pressure. And it worked well with me."

Going in, Jaffe also knew she wanted to work with her friend Fiona Brice, an orchestral arranger, composer, and violinist who tours with Placebo. Along with the playing of Jaffe's crack backing band (featuring members of Midlake and Centro-matic, among others), Brice's touch to Jaffe's songs adds a rich, lushness that makes every song sound huge, even the quieter ones. It permeates everything, like the sort of set decoration Wes Anderson uses, present even when it's not.

"The Body Wins" may sound different to those introduced to Jaffe through "Suburban Nature." It should. But it's not by any grand design to change. It's where she's at now, a product of everywhere she's been since "Suburban Nature" -- literally and figuratively -- and a hint of everywhere she might go from here.

Transit (hip-hop)

Transit is a hip-hop artist who moved to Calgary from Victoria in 2007. He has gained notable buzz from media outlets such as Much Music, Maclean's Magazine, Q with Jian Ghomeshi and many more. His new album "Stale" was released January of 2013 and climbed all the way to the #4 spot on the iTunes Canadian hip-hop charts on it's opening day of release.

Transit has recently collaborated with notable artists such as Jann Arden, Madchild, Grieves and Kyprios. However, his popularity extends past the music industry, as seen by his recent selection to the short-list to be Calgary's first ever Poet Laureate.

After recently completing a Western-Canadian tour with Zion I in January as well as an European tour with Apathy & Celph Titled, this Calgarian based emcee is gearing up to release his fourth album "Superman Took Steroids" featuring the lead single "We Don't Say It Anymore" in collaboration with Jocelyn Alice.

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