The new album from the Twin Cities hip-hop duo Atmosphere shows 20 years of kinsmanship. That can also mean a none-too-exciting comfort.
Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg and friends were only in high school when they released 2010’s Avi Buffalo, under the same name. With song titles like “Summer Cum” and “Where’s Your Dirty Mind?” the album garnered a lot of interest, in addition to a deal with Sub Pop and touring with Modest Mouse and Blitzen Trapper. The refreshing, melodic, honest-yet-hazy California take on lo-fi seemed to be what everybody wanted.
With a similar sound to The Shins, The Flaming Lips, and Real Estate; and with a voice eerily like Ben Gibbard’s or Jonas Bjerre’s (MEW), Avi Buffalo stands out because of its precious youth and unrelenting horniness. The Long Beach singer/songwriter/guitarist has had the last four years to get through a growth spurt, letting his sound and intent mature a bit… well, kind of. The result is this month’s sophomore album At Best Cuckold, an album some of us weren’t sure would come to fruition.
What we are dealing with here is a same-but-different type of situation. At Best Cuckold attempts (and mostly succeeds) at maintaining the same density and timeless melodies favored on Avi Buffalo. The ten songs, produced by Avigdor himself, take us on a psychedelic trip with some piano, horns, saxophone, and clarinet thrown in. Flirting with the idea of ballads all album long, I was surprised (and loved) the unexpectant jam session that shows up on the last half of “Oxygen Tank.” Zahner-Isenberg’s falsetto takes off on “Memories of You,” gently reminding us how young he still is, through lyrics like, “…my boner presses, up against your chest, I let go…”
I don’t think Avi would want you to mistake this album as emo, but a lot of moodiness does show itself. While a solid second-effort for sure, maybe the nimble musician could use another four years. »
– Kelly Kovl