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Album Review: “Lower Than Atlantis: Black Edition”

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Since the band’s inception in 2007, Lower Than Atlantis has seen many forms. The debut EP, Bretton, showed a hardcore punk band full of angst and fury. As the band progressed, the hardcore influences became downplayed until Changing Tune saw the band find a more pop-oriented sound. After a split with Island Records, the band built their own studio, recording their 2014 album Lower Than Atlantis, an album that found the band sounding more comfortable in their own musical skin than they had in years.

Now, a year later, the band has revisited the self-titled fourth album with Lower Than Atlantis: Black Edition.

Disc one of this collection is the band’s self-titled album. The music shows a variety of influences, showcasing chugging distorted guitars on “Here We Go”, a dance-pop feel on “Ain’t No Friend”, and a strong pop sensibility on songs like “Emily” or “Live Slow Die Old”. There is a little bit of something for everyone to be found on this album.

Fans of the band, though, will be far more interested in disc two of Black Edition.

The first five tracks of the disc show the band up to their normal shenanigans. “Get Over It” brings a harder rock sound while the lead single from the album, “The Reason”, showcases the band’s catchy pop side. “I’m Partying”, “Superhero”, and “Sewer Side” show the band in the midst of their balancing act between these two sides, mixing heavy distortion with the pop sensibilities many alternative rock acts can only hope to find.

What follows these tracks is an interesting collection of songs that successfully showcases the band’s musical abilities in an unexpected way.

Through a series of covers, the band makes their way through hits from artists that range from Vanessa Carlton to Incubus. While the studio recorded cover songs, particularly Incubus’ “Wish You Were Here”, show the band taking few if any chances musically, the real highlights of these covers are the Live Lounge segments from BBC 1. In these two tracks, the band manages to create beautifully stripped down versions of Clean Bandit’s “Real Love” and a brilliant version of Nico & Vinz’s “Am I Wrong”. These songs show fans as well as newcomers to the band a group that is far more vulnerable than anything heard on Lower Than Atlantis.

For those who are craving more of this vulnerability, the last four tracks are alternative stripped down versions of tracks from Lower Than Atlantis originally heard on the digital download of the album’s deluxe edition. Those chugging guitars from “Here We Go” are traded in for sparse acoustic strumming while “English Kids In America” plays more like a reflection on past events than the celebration of youth found in the original. “Words Don’t Come So Easily” replaces effect-heavy guitar with a warm trumpet sound. By the time the slow keyboard chords begin on “Ain’t No Friend”, you feel that the band has the ability to delve into emotional territories that will push the band even further in future albums.

Lower Than Atlantis: Black Edition is more than just a collection of b-sides and oddities. The album shows a smart and creative group with a wide-ranging musical ability. They may have started as a hardcore punk band, but there is no doubt Lower Than Atlantis can do whatever they want musically.

Written by Nathan Badley

When Nathan is not writing about music, he might be writing material for his often neglected blog at nathanbadley.com. Or he might be writing something else. Or podcasting. Or playing music. Most likely he is just watching TV thinking about how he should be doing those things. You can tweet him @badlandsbadley and congratulate him on his mad 3rd person writing skills.

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