February 22, 2013

"Symptoms," by Atlas Genius

If you're sweaty, feeling clammy, perhaps a little nauseous, and just ate month old seafood then you're probably showing symptoms of food poisoning. You should probably find a bathroom. Maybe take some Tums or something. Hey, don't look at me like that - I'm no doctor.

On the other hand, if you're feeling chipper and keen and love good bass and acoustic guitar, then you probably just have good taste in music. The first of this week's two free tracks - released Feb. 19th to the iTunes Store - is a bass-ridden, electric piece by Atlas Genius. This indie rock band hails from South Australia and is made up of the three brothers Keith, Michael and Steven Jeffery pictured to the right, and their keyboardist Darren Sell. They released their first hit single, "Trojans," back in 2011 and it has since gained a lot of traction on Sirius XM.

I tell you what, folks, I love free music, but after researching and listening to that single, I enjoyed it so much that I actually made an iTunes purchase (gasp)! Click the link above and jam to that tune.

But of course, we move to the main dish, the topic at hand: the freebie. Off of their first, full album, When It Was Now, released this Tuesday, these geniuses have put up their track "Symptoms" for free download.

The thick, synth chords introduce a great bass hum with a subtle syncopation at the start of this track. I really dig Keith Jeffery's mellow, slightly distorted voice guiding us through the lyrics of the first verse - even if I can't quite understand all of them. At the chorus we get some great harmonies and an elegant electric guitar riff that have got me bobbing my head and humming along. We get a lot more of the same until there's a great drop at the third chorus. All the electronic bells and whistles fall away to acoustic piano and guitars, bitter harmonies and a persistently driving hi-hat - what a fantastic effect. We get a great build into the final chorus, and just like that it's over. And, unfortunately, I feel empty.

I like this song - I really do - but I don't get it. The music video suggests some kind of unrequited summer love, but you'd never garner all that from the lyrics. The tune is catchy, I love the bass and the harmonies, but I don't gain anything from having listened to it all. It's like binging on a pack of Little Debbie snack cakes - when you finish eating you realize it was all empty calories.

Maybe this track is just beyond me and I just didn't interpret the lyrics well. But if the meaning of a song isn't clear - if it didn't make the listener feel anything - then it's not great music. It's just a catchy tune.

For me, "Symptoms" was kind of a bust, but When It Was Now has got a lot of potential to be a great first album for this group. In fact, I would officially call myself an Atlas Genius fan. Give their album a listen and consider it buying it, really. I would do it myself, but I'm a poor college student, and this poor college student gives "Symptoms"...

3 out of 5.

Bonus Track: Sign up for their email newsletter and get an acoustic rendition of their song "If So" off of their album for free! I give that one 4 out of 5 - absolutely beautiful.

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