Atmosphere – When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold

When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold

Job stated, “When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold”—a saying that can generate various interpretations; the obvious one being that when faced with a new trial or obstacle to shine through and overcome it. I’m guessing that when Atmosphere, the Minnesota duo of producer Ant and emcee Slug, were coming up with the title to their new album the aforementioned quote was used in their thought process. It provides a cohesive, interrelated, uniting feeling that gives life to Slug’s stories about people dealing with the harsh struggle we call life on When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold.

As already noted, this is an album that features some of Slug’s most compelling stories. Everything from a father’s little daughter, to a hard-working waitress, to a woman waking up after a night of questionable decisions, to the father himself, are all covered on this atmospheric, gripping album. Leaving behind the sample-heavy beats, Ant favors live music provided by studio musicians and live instrumentation. From the opening tinkling of the music box on “Like the Rest of Us” that leads to a lush piano part it’s clear that this isn’t your usual Atmosphere album.

The remarkable aspect of it all is that the music and lyrics come together in such a seamless and brilliant manner. A shining example is on “Dreamer” where Slug recalls a woman who has already lived a rough life but still continues to dream about lost hopes and desires. A rugged bass and dreamy guitar line provide an ample backdrop and everything reflects on the bouncy and joyful chorus which features Ant rhyming, “but she still dreams after she woke tight, hold on that hope/sometimes it can seem so cold, do what you gotta do to cope.”

The album has killer lines by Slug—that are honestly—sprinkled throughout the entire album. The opening song is about a dad in his mid-thirties coming to grips with its understated style, Ant raps “you gotta let people be hypocrites/count your blessings and mind your business.” The jumpy and upbeat “You” is a straight-ahead song about a female working as a waitress in a dirty restaurant. She deals with unwanted stares and attention, stingy tipping and annoying customers but in the end she desires that special time when she gets out and ultimately asks if this is the life she wants; Ant sings, “you love the people that love you, you hear the music they move to, you give your all to the fall through, but you don’t know you.”

Further highlights are everywhere but another standout is the expansive rising on “Puppets.” Built around hand claps, jazzy piano chords and spectral chanting the song develops to convey one of the most intense climaxes on the record. By the time Channy Casselle joins to sing the chorus the song is a boisterous and uplifting affair that is utterly dazzling. The following song, “The Skinny” features yet another startlingly catchy line by Ant as he raps, “your lips taste like his d*ck, I can always tell when he’s been in your whip”—the enunciation of the last word being particularly affecting.

It’s significant that everything the duo decided to employ worked in a very elegant, smart and outstanding manner. This is a matured and musical hip-hop duo and whether it is the fine contributions by Tom Waits and Tunde Adebimpe on separate songs, Ant’s soulful and majestic music, or Slug’s illustrious and poignant story-telling; it’s all superb. One thing is for sure, this is a ridiculously awesome album; one that has everything a music fan could want and through every brink, turn and riff it shines like gold.