Inspired by the recent viral ‘Kanye Madness’ phenomenon, earlier this month the Southsiders gang got together to do our own, more indie-minded bracket – ‘Atmosphere Madness’. 64 tracks, carefully selected from every Atmosphere project up until Mi Vida Local. The 64-song bracket aimed to reflect the entirety of the duo’s work, ensuring each aspect of their discography was adequately and proportionally represented (as best as possible).
Running through the full bracket was a long process and we eventually wrapped up around 2am with ‘GodLovesUgly’ coming out of the ‘Minneapolis’ bracket to claim final victory.
Throughout there was plenty of disagreement, debate and drinking. The majority of ties failed to reach a unanimous decision and from the jump there were some huge upsets. We’ve listed out our individual thoughts on the bracket below but feel free to download it and try yourself (below). Let us know what we got right and what we got wrong with this one!
As the least in tune with Atmosphere out of the Southsiders, I hope I brought a different perspective to the proceedings and perhaps caused a few upsets. Having not heard every song in each bracket I could come in with fresh ears and with less emotional attachment to sway me. That being said my top pick would have been ‘Modern Man’s Hustle’ which I had known from before. Ant’s sample of Little Feat’s ‘Long Distance Love’ is sublime and Slug’s powerful annunciation round things out to great effect. In the other brackets I picked ‘Trying to find a Balance’, ‘GodLovesUgly’ (the eventual winner) and ‘Travel (Remix)’. I gained a much greater knowledge of the entire back catalogue and left a list of plenty of tracks and albums to get better acquainted with (along with the makings of a hangover).
Whisky flowed, music was blasted and voices were raised as the debate raged into the wee hours. When you have five friends as passionate about music around one table it is not hard to understand how much music means to each of us. I encourage you to host your own event and do the same. We have more in the works and, as I write this, cannot wait until the next one.
You think the Brexit negotiations have been difficult?! Stick five hip-hop heads in a room with beer and plenty of whisky and watch the ‘madness’ unfold, because that’s exactly what it was, madness. Despite going in to this exercise with my own proclivities on what should win, I was surprisingly swayed several times on songs and in particular an album, You Can’t Imagine… David’s admirable zeal for that album made me a believer of it’s undeniable cohesiveness.
‘Sound is Vibration’ against ‘Happymess’ straight out the gate was difficult for me. Although ‘Happymess’ progressed, my love for ‘Sound Is…’ has to be noted. The progressive nature of the song is infectious especially the layered vocalisation from Slug and Spawn towards the latter stages, you can’t help but sing along and nod your head to that crisp beat. ‘Godlovesugly’ is without fault a deserving victor however, ‘God’s Bathroom Floor’ should never have been knocked out by ‘Don’t Ever Fucking Question That’…
Just before we got started, Tiernan jokingly put it to me that, as I had selected the list of featured songs and populated each bracket and fixture, I had somehow pre-determined the winner to fit my own assertions – nonsense!
It’s a testament to the strength and consistency of Atmosphere’s body of work (and my strict moral code…!) that I genuinely went into this with ZERO idea as to which song would come out on top.
I have my own favourites of course, but the most rewarding aspect of this six-hour verbal melee was hearing everyone’s stories, memories and moments that shaped their listening experience.
I was gobsmacked when ‘Flicker’ was dismissed in the first round, stunned when nobody gave a shit about ‘Lyndale Avenue User’s Manual’, emboldened when I took David to task over his inflated perception of ‘Pour Me Another’…
But ultimately, I was invigorated when I heard the thoughtful arguments, impassioned wit and palpable gratitude from my peers for this inimitable Minneapolis duo, and more broadly, hip-hop music.
‘GodLovesUgly’ was the eventual winner. I reaffirm my earlier statement that I had no idea which song would emerge victorious. But when GLU was the last track standing, I slapped my forehead like a beleaguered detective who failed to catch the criminal that was under his nose the whole time.
Of course it was ‘GodLovesUgly’ – it had to be! It’s the quintessential Atmosphere song – from content, to sound, to aesthetic, to feel…it’s all there.
We all spit pieces of ourselves across the table that night, sharing bits of our brain over beer and bravado. And in the end, while we may still have been the same group of ugly motherfuckers – we departed with a deeper understanding of the beauty in madness.
This was a great night and like the others have said there’s much to be enjoyed about real-life discussion and debate. I was swayed at several points by the passion of my fellow Southsiders. We all watched as personal favourites got knocked out but no-one could argue with ‘GodLovesUgly’ taking the crown. For me it was sore to see ‘Lovelife’ (as much as I love it) beating ‘If You Can Save Me Now’, but the Ant bracket was so damn strong.
There was an unspoken agreement, I think, that Atmosphere’s everlasting anthem ‘Trying to Find a Balance’ might win solely because of its importance. From drawing us in as young heads to closing shows with a party, it may as well be the sound of our youth. Having said that, the winner of the Slug bracket, ‘One of a Kind’, did surprise me a little. I’ve always appreciated Slug’s embattled indie-rap mode but the room showed more love than I was expecting. The more we played it out in the room I realised this was our anthem. And this is the beauty of these ‘Madness’ nights: you are constantly reminded how diverse these artists are. The winner came from the Minneapolis bracket and it was more than worthy. There is literally nothing we can fault with this song. It is the prototypical Atmos joint. “And if you didn’t hear, then fuck whatever’s heard…”
I can’t argue with GLU coming out as the overall winner, despite the fact there were at least 2-3 tracks I’d personally have ahead of it. My personal bracket came down to ‘Sunshine’ vs. ‘Little Man’ with ‘Sunshine’ just about edging it because, for me, it’s the quintessential Slug – simple yet devastating, hopeful yet laced with regret.
Out of the communal bracket I was shocked when ‘Flicker’ lost to ‘Like Today’ – a monumental mistake but there’s no accounting for taste. Finally this exercise reaffirmed in my mind that You Can’t Imagine… is actually the great underrated masterpiece in the Atmosphere canon. Every track works, no space is wasted and it comes together as easily their most cohesive and meticulous project.