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The Smith Street Band
From enormous festivals like Reading and Leeds (UK), Groezrock (Belgium) and Splendour In The Grass (Australia) to stageless squats and dive bars all around the world, The Smith Street Band have seen it all and they’ve poured those experiences into their boldest and most ambitious release to date — their fourth album, More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me.
Debuting at #3 on the ARIA Album Charts (Australia) More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me is at times dark, ferocious and heavy, while also being joyful, cheeky and full of the underdog spirit that made the band who they are. This record embodies the cohesion and growth shown by the band both musically and lyrically. Known for their breathless touring schedule the album was pieced together in the stolen downtime between their famously frenetic live shows.
The album’s twelve tracks follow lead singer Wil Wagner, more relatable and vulnerable than ever, as he tells the story of a relationship. While their past albums have had stories scattered through the songs, More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me follows a powerful narrative that is defined by Wagner’s heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics and frantic delivery of the words that mean so much to him.
On top of Wil’s growth and development as a songwriter the band are in powerful form after years of consistent touring. They have expanded their unique sound to fit in choirs, string sections, even synthesisers and electronic drum kits. This is The Smith Street Band at their passionate, heartbreaking, hope-tinged best.
Recorded in California at Panoramic House, the record also features a world class cast behind the desk. The sessions were produced by longtime friend and collaborator Jeff Rosenstock, engineered by Jack Shirley (Joyce Manor, Deafheaven, Hard Girls), mixed by John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., The Hold Steady) and mastered by Greg Calbi (Bob Dylan, Ramones, Bruce Springsteen).
More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me is an exploration into love, anxiety, relationships and nostalgia, following on from where 2014’s breakthrough album, Throw Me In The River left us.
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.
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