Astronauts release the first single “Civil Engineer” tomorrow from their forthcoming second album End Codes due in April. All very well and good you may ask but why should I care? Let me explain…
Astronauts is the solo project and vision of Dan Carney, ex member of Dark Captain. Formed in 2013, this London-based songwriter is currently signed to Lo Recordings and not to be confused with the American surf rock group of the 1960’s with the same name. If you have come across the band before it might have been for their beautiful debut single “Skydive” or debut album Hollow Ponds. If so, time to get excited as this new single is very much in the same vein and will not let you down. If not, then let us look at this single a bit more closely.
The indie/folk sound is still very much to the fore on ‘Civil Engineer’, but offset with a more electronic edge. The first thing to grab me on listening to this was that electronic keyboard refrain that permeates the track as a whole. It has the style of an early 90s console game, fun and upbeat, but somehow (to these ears at least) never verges on annoying. This is underpinned with a driving guitar and drums holding the refrain aloft, allowing the bass to carry the tune.
Then there is the opening lyric, ‘I am a civil engineer, I work in quality control.’ I have to admit that is a first in my aural articulation and certainly a subject matter I haven’t heard covered in song before. Maybe with good reason, as there is only a small percentage of the population that could possibly sing along with any meaning. However, most people have never shot a man in Reno either and that never stopped Johnny Cash from being popular. In this case the subject matter is used to great effect as a metaphor for life… the creation, destruction and rebuilding of the average person’s emotional relationships.
The vocals have a Jose Gonzalez quality about them. Double-tracked to provide a ‘harmonious talking’ effect, they start to soar when the backing harmonies appear. This is a song that builds and builds, not in a grandiose way, but with subtle variations and layering which can be quite wonderful to behold.
The accompanying video by Manana Films really compliments this song well with the opening ‘cartoon’ landscape giving way to the ‘uncool’ dancing behind an exercise show on TV. All deliciously ambiguous enough to interpret meaning how you want and yet totally in keeping with the ‘style’ of the song. It has a ‘Nordic Noir’ feel, especially in its colour palette and leaves you with the same disquietening realism. Certainly ‘something to recognise’ as the song repeats to its end.
I would acknowledge that this song is certainly worth your time and at four and a half minutes is not really going to wreck your day if you don’t agree with my conclusions. One song does not a great album make, but this certainly is a great step forward toward one. Let us hope that in April it contains many more of these gems.
Astronauts on the web: