Atmosphere - When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold
When my boyfriend came home with When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, he sat me down and played me the song "Yesterday", he said I had to listen to this song, that it was one of the most beautiful Atmosphere songs he has ever heard. I sat and listened to Slug start off the song by saying "I thought I saw you yesterday/But I didn't stop/Cuz you were walking the opposite way" then eventually going into the chorus "Yesterday/Was that you?/Looked just like you/Strange things my imagination might do/." I listened and though yes the song was pretty with nice piano production from Ant, I started fuming in my head because here I thought my boyfriend was thinking about an ex-girlfriend. I built up a dramatic story in my head, "Why was he playing this song for me? What an asshole!" By the time Slug gets into saying "But who am I joking with/There's no way that you and I will ever get to reopen it/It doesn't matter/This is more than love," I was ready to let him have it. Before I get the chance to verbalize my jumped-to-conclusion, Slug says "I thought I saw you yesterday/But I know it wasn't you/Cuz you passed away, Dad." Damn.
As much as I can enjoy Slug's tales of broken women and one-night stands, I am even more interested in the softer, less self-absorbed Slug that shines through on this album. While Slug's lyrics on the album might be overly sentimental, I don't mind, it shows growth and a little bit of vulnerability that is more about reflection of life instead of his usual women-problems and self-esteem issues. On the surface the album speaks to the daily struggles of regular working-class women and men, parents, fighting to make it through crappy jobs and heavier subjects like addiction and loss. Somehow you can't help thinking though that the songs are really about Slug, and maybe that just comes from being used to Slug rapping mostly about one thing, himself. Though the songs might not be personal sagas in Slug's life (though like "Yesterday" some clearly are), the tone of the songs convey empathy and acceptance instead of the usual anger and judgement towards the people in his songs--or life.
The other half of the praise is owed to beat-magician Ant. Slug and Ant are so in sync with eachother these days that they have even started to look alike. Ant's production is lighter for the most part, using a lot of live instruments, guitar, piano, horns even some chimes, which has been a progression from the last album and through recent Sad Clown EPs. On "Dreamer" and "You" Ant blends some old-school synth beats to create almost a Gnarls Barkley kinda-feel. There are still some grittier signature Ant beats on the single "Shoulda Known" and "In Her Music Box", though still more synth-focused than previous production work. The only lull is in the middle of the album with tracks like "Me" and "Wild Wild Horses" being less memorable and falling pretty flat. Overall though, Ant takes chances that pay off.
Not only should Atmosphere be given praise for producing one of the years best albums thus far, but also for providing one of the year's best album titles. When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold might not be the best album Atmosphere has ever done, but it's up there. I know fans of the brooding, man-scorned Lucy Ford/GodLovesUgly-era Slug might disagree, but the addition of more live instrumentation and change of lyrical topics is a natural growth for Atmosphere that seems long overdue.
- Nicole Coxe