Atmosphere returns with moving album

The indie-rap group Atmosphere, best known for tracks like “You” and “Sunshine,” has returned with The Family Sign, a deep, emotional rap testament that tackles the issues of love, family and domestic abuse.

Photo courtesy of Warner Music Group and Rhymesayers

Atmosphere described The Family Sign on its MySpace Music page as “being okay with losing friends and strengthening your bonds with others, celebrating the person who’s been the most positive in your life, your kids, your homies, leaving the people you need to behind and bringing the ones you love with you.”

The album serves as a coping mechanism, both for Atmosphere and listeners.

Accordingly, The Family Sign shows the progress Atmosphere has made between albums. Its sound has transitioned from something upbeat and fun into something more mellow and mature that tackles bigger issues.

This isn’t to say the band’s older work is any less invigorating. The Family Sign simply shows the band has developed and perfected its craft and related it to its current life experiences and struggles.

Take “The Last to Say,” for example, which delves into issues of domestic abuse.

The analysis of a troubled and unhealthy relationship has light piano and guitar accompaniment with a strong emphasis on lyrics.

The instrumentals give the song and message musical and emotional depth, but the music is soft-spoken enough that the focus remains on the message of the song.

Rapper Slug’s unique voice captures the dilemma of a woman debating her return to a destructive relationship as he sings and since you gotta justify returning, you convinced yourself that he’s just a hurt person.

He also delves into the struggles of a child witnessing physical abuse between parents, proclaiming the anger lives on through their son cuz he saw / he caught it all / a childhood of watchin’ ma and pa get raw.

Slug brings to light an issue rarely discussed in the music world, while also managing to captivate his audience through his rhythmic, beautiful instrumentals and sincerity.  

This sense of honesty and simplicity is maintained in “Just a Show.” Slug plainly states, You don’t really want me to go, it’s just for show.

His acknowledgement of the importance of putting on a facade for the sake of pride in a relationship captivates the listener with its mellow aura and reggae feeling.

She’s Enough” does the same. It has a catchy beat you can’t help but bob your head to, but it also maintains emotional depth.

The track proposes one girl is more than satisfactory and is all a guy needs.

When it comes to lyrics, the hip-hop-meets-indie group incorporates a clever sense of humor to make light of bigger issues in “Became,” which tells the story of a wolf, presumably a representation of a male sexual predator who chases a desirable girl. Slug raps salivating, want to take you to the stomach / in the cartoon you would’ve turned into a drumstick.

Atmosphere keeps the album interesting in terms of instrumentals in songs like “My Key” and “Millennium Dodo,” which have psychedelic feelings fitting for an updated version of the ‘60s drug culture and make the album seem like it has a dash of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

Overall, The Family Sign is an emotional testimony of the day-to-day struggles that mainstream artists gloss over in favor of catchy beats.

Atmosphere manages to entertain while also preserving its musical integrity through complex lyrics paired with interesting and simplified instrumentals.

The piano and guitar give the album an artistic feeling while the slower-tempo raps give the listener time to absorb what is being said.

Atmosphere’s latest will captivate listeners of varying tastes with its well-balanced combination of hip-hop and indie music, and the relatable theme of life’s struggles.