Atmosphere – Mi Vida Local (Rhymesayers Entertainment)

Atmosphere are special. They give us special music consistently. Their latest album Mi Vida Local (2018) is one of their strongest in recent years. In the first single, ‘Virgo’, Slug ties in a reference to their previous record Fishing Blues (2016), telling us he’s “got the vision of somebody going fishing in the dark” before admitting: “When I start up the motor, it still turns over/ But nowadays, a little bit slower.” There’s no denying a change of pace in Atmosphere’s music. ‘Jerome’, the second single from the project (and the first track) sets this up nicely. Punchy yet jaded, unforgiving yet hopeful. This is Slug at his #DadRap finest – taking out the trash to preserve the future. But let’s be clear: this is not a tired Atmosphere wading through the motions. This is a weathered, smoother Atmosphere, with echoes of the reclusive, dismissive Slug from ‘Your Name Here’ (The Family Sign, 2011): “Remind me what your name is? You won’t find me in the known locations/ I’d rather be alone in my beautiful basement…”

‘Stopwatch’ brings us in to the dark heart of the album and an ominous dwindling of time that we’re running from. ‘Virgo’ through ‘Delicate’ give us the peak moments, just as ‘No Biggie’ and ‘Everything’ set the bar for Fishing Blues. That warbling note pervading ‘Virgo’ sets off a compelling acoustic, lending Slug’s lyrics an unmistakably fragile sound. ‘Delicate’ boasts more of those nonchalant lyrics (“And as the seasons go by, more friends say “Bye”/ Less luggage, makes it easier to fly”) with a catchy hook. And that soaring outro! If there’s a song that deserves the title of ‘most complete’ on MVL, it’s ‘Delicate’. With ‘Drown’ we are blessed with stellar guest spots from Cashinova, The Lioness, and the unmistakable deM atlaS. With ‘Anymore’ and ‘Earring’ (ft. Musab) we get a nice range of relationship blues from boredom to financial stress. In ‘Trim’ we get a sequel to the horny and frustrated ballad ‘Next to You’ (Fishing Blues). Slug has definitely traded in his coming-for-your-girl swagger for a self-deprecating stroll towards the mirror of his love life.

‘Specificity’ gets us back on course with that cutting pessimism spiralling towards panic (“Shit!”) with lines like “I wanna call the front desk and tell them everything’s messed up/ The whole world’s messed up.” In the end we’re left wanting more but instead we glide into ‘Mijo’, rich with that hopeful, melodic sound that we came to love in Lemons (2008). For me ‘Randy Mosh’ was the only let down. Other than the hook there was little to enjoy… but maybe I’m being a little unfair. My hopes were raised that bit higher for this reunion of The Dynospectrum. ‘Graffiti’ is nothing short of a show-stopper. It also provides perfect closure to the preoccupation with death that haunts the album: “I wrote this one when I was still alive…”

Slug has been leaving these deathly breadcrumbs for us since Southsiders (2014). In the opening lines of ‘Fortunate’ we heard Slug assure us: “I highly doubt that y’all think about sex/ Anywhere near as often as I think about death.” On ‘Everything’ (Fishing Blues) this is kept going with lines like “And if I could handwrite what they say when I’m gone/ It’s that he’s said everything that he could fit in his mouth.” In a recent interview Slug confirmed this, placing MVL as the final instalment of a trilogy concerning death. In the interview he also hints that the topic is now out of his system. Wherever they take us, we can rest assured that the next Atmosphere record will be just as special.

Album Rating: Highly Recommended.

Poor: 0-2 Stars / Favourable: 2-4 Stars / Highly Recommended: 4-5 Stars

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