Friday, January 2, 2009

Best of 2008: #16. God is an Astronaut - God is an Astronaut

Note: Due to the density of albums being presented over the upcoming weeks, I won't be posting links with them. If you want a link for any of the albums shown, leave a comment and I'll see what I can do.

For a band that has carved out such an impressive niche for themselves, God is an Astronaut have included a lot more variety in their works than would be expected of them. Generally, if a band can be considered among the best at what they do in a genre with little competition (in this case, electronically-based post-rock), then there is little need for them to change their sound over time, as they are different just by virtue of releasing the same thing, over and over.

And though this statement may be contested, God is an Astronaut have done a great job of evolving their sound over successive releases, pruning it to the point where each album has a sense of individuality to it. All is Violent, All is Bright was a realization of the sound hinted at in their debut, The Beginning of the End, with a bleaker, more hopeless tone to it. On Far From Refuge, they moved away from an emphasis on synthetic sounds, and instead focused on the guitar to drive their songs forward. The result was vastly different than their previous efforts (or as vastly different as it could have been expected to be), while still keeping the same familiar feel to it that all of God is an Astronaut’s albums have had to date.

On their self-titled album, God is an Astronaut move back to the more direct amalgamation of synthetic sounds and guitar-driven post-rock that resonates in their earlier works. The whole of the instrumentation feels more in tune with the use of electronics, without the noticeable differentiation between the two as seen in Far From Refuge. As far as variety goes, as a self-contained album, God is an Astronaut does quite well for itself. Rarely does a song ever feel like a repeat of another one, and while a few do go overlong (as does the entire album, actually), generally the overall quality of the song makes up for it. However, there isn't much innovation to speak of to the group's classic sound; songs like "Zodiac" and "Shores of Orion" come off as new thanks to their emphasis on different drum and guitar effects, but they are more of an exception to the norm. The changes shown here are much more subtle, like the band is just developing naturally, building off the strengths and weaknesses of prior releases and recording the end result as it comes to them.

So is this a great leap forward, or a step or two back for the band? Ultimately, it’s neither. While God is an Astronaut doesn’t feature much in the way of innovation, it’s still an excellent example of a great band doing what they do best. And when the final result is this exceedingly listenable, the question of whether or not anything new is being accomplished ceases to be important.

No comments: