Review: Astronauts – Hollow Ponds

It’s heartening that one of the most intriguing indie-folk albums of the last few years was written whilst its songwriter was awaiting surgery following a badly fractured leg. Formerly of alt-folkers, Dark Captain, Dan Carney has made the best possible use of his time which – whilst at least partially informed by the frustration of his partial disability – sparkles with inventive arrangements and infectious songwriting.

Astronauts Album Cover

The single ‘Skydive’ went viral earlier this year and yet the song itself is a deceptively slight thing; an alt folk number which is content to murmur and glide in the background before burrowing under the skin. The kind of song which would normally be placed towards the middle of the album to tide you over until the exciting denouement. However, this is an album which gets better the deeper you look.

‘Everything’s A System, Everything’s A Sign’ is a more immediate highlight. It actually sounds like a Hood track; complete with shuffling hip-hop beats, bleak, rustic guitars and Carney’s weary voice nagging at the ears persistently. ‘Vampires’ brilliantly walks the tightrope between edgy and playful whilst the plaintive, haunting folk of ‘Flame Exchange’ is an eerie standout. Foraging further, ‘Slow Days’ and the title track revel in slow burning moodiness whilst ‘Openside’ temporarily replaces the subtle melancholy with wild, underground guitar noise and a foray into free jazz.

The second half may not be as addictive as the first but it does give licence to a more improvisational, free flowing approach. This makes ‘Hollow Ponds’ a restless record which demands attention and rewards the listener for it. Carney’s leg is a lot better now too but if he fractured the other leg and it led to him producing a similar quality record, this reviewer, for one, won’t be complaining.

Web Sites:
Lo Recordings Artist Page
Astronauts – Everything’s A System, Everything’s A Sign

Further Listening:
Hood, M. Craft

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