The enigma of a question mark known as Astronautalis will take the stage tonight at Czar Bar.
For the last few hours, I've been trying to think of a way to introduce and explain Astronautalis - one of the best-kept secrets in indie hip-hop -- without using a phrase as cliché as "one of the best-kept secrets in indie hip-hop."
Well...shit. Looks like it can't be done.
That's not to say that Astro himself (born Andy Bothwell) is a cliché. He's dedicated the last six years to being the exact opposite. The problem is, he really is one of emo rap's shining lights -- but the same could be said for his impact on indie rock, alt-country and 18th century pseudo-historical folk. Labeling him hip-hop is like calling a Snuggie "just another blanket." They're both just so much more.
Astro spent nearly a decade gaining credibility with the Scribble Jam crowd as a first-class freestyler, but after he left that scene, he practically pioneered his own genre. Over the course of three full-lengths, Astro's growling, throaty baritone and eccentric songwriting style have transformed him into an amalgamation of spoken-blues storyteller, shoe-gazing indie rocker and, of course, marble-mouthed rhyme-spitter.
For example, Andy bookends his latest album, Pomegranate, with the Tom Waits-worthy folk tale "The Wondersmith and His Sons" and the straight-up back-and-forth rap of "The Story of My Life," featuring P.O.S. Somewhere in between is the album's highlight, the anthemic, Revolutionary War-themed "Trouble Hunters." The song, the subject matter and the album as a whole are a weird combination, but somehow, it works.
Like any good indie rapper, Astro's a funny dude, especially onstage. His live show is equal parts stand-up comedy, performance art and DIY spectacle, and he still throws in some crowd-generated freestyle for good measure. And then there's his latest project with rapper Bleubird know as Boyfriends, Inc. I guarantee you'll watch this LOLcat tribute at least five times today:
So what if he can't be classified? In Astro's case, the mystery's part of the fun.