New Music: Friday Roll Out! With Morning Bells, Atmosphere

How many more times will I focus on 2019 ending? Probably just a couple more but who’s counting? Well, just me. Today I’m sure ends our New Music: Friday Roll Outs for the year but we’ll have more in 2020. Just make sure you’re on your suit & tie shit come the new year.

A quintet out of Raleigh, North Carolina comes in the form of Morning Bells, releasing its debut EP Fall From The Velvet Sky which seems to be a grandiose affair. The band is quick to list an assortment of mainstream influences, and while it’s totally plausible, the band’s trajectory doesn’t seem to be aimed at mainstream grandeur.

By no means am I saying the 5-song EP is filled with mediocrity, far from it. In fact, they’re good. Really good. I’m reminded of the Basquiat film and Brian Kelly’s “She Is Dancing,” which made an appearance on the soundtrack. There’s no comparison of the two artists, just a similar aesthetic, one in which the Morning Bells could find success in. While aesthetics are shared, it’s obvious the songs here are penned with much more eloquence. The band creates songs that are poised and distinct, always controlled allowing the beauty to emanate from instruments, much like on “Through The Dark.” But that’s not to say the group is unable to cut loose. “The Truth is” moves at the same pace from beginning to end and there’s a familiarity to the song that may ring of Gibby Haynes/Paul Leary/King Coffey songwriting but Morning Bells show restraint, and allows the majesty of the song to cascade brightly.

Fall From The Velvet Sky is a well-structured introduction to the band’s music which I’m sure will be followed soon by more of the same.

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For some, release dates don’t seem to matter anymore. Should we even care? Possibly not since the internet always makes things readily available at the snap of Thanos’ fingers. Sometimes, I welcome these little surprises, which I what we get today.

While it’s been a minute since I last listened to Atmosphere, circa 2016’s Fishing Blues, ANT and Slug did release Mi Vida Local in 2018 although the tightly wound album’s feel found a heaviness within Slug’s lyrics, as can be heard on the poignant delicacy of “Delicate.” Today though, Atmosphere dropped the surprise release Whenever (Rhymesayers) which takes a different approach. While still prevalent are ANT’s beats, there’s an assortment of instrumentation that allows a much more organic feel here.

On Whenever though, the mood has shifted since Atmosphere’s last release. Here Slug weaves his words swimming with optimism but keeping his pessimistic one-eye clearly open. While the vibe of the 12 tracks isn’t exposing bangers to set dancefloors on fire, that doesn’t mean they don’t bring the heat. Atmosphere opens with “Bde Maka Ska” that’s swimming with guitars throughout before the drumbeat comes in. The song is like heroin in the syringe to make your head nod. ANT’s nimble keyboard work allows the track to turn into something quite different from previous joints. The tone is set from this point on as “Push Play” has Slug waxing poetic, wrapping words around ANT’s sweet beat here. And it continues on, volleying rhymes with like-minded artists Musab and Muja Messiah on “Dearly Beloved” before walking into darker territory on the title track which features the renowned MURS, as well as Gifted Gab and Haphduzn.

It’s easy to find solace in Atmosphere’s music, and after over 20 years, it might be difficult for the group to keep its own creative consistency…but they’re able to drop quality material year after year. Whenever is no exception, it’s dope AF.

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