With his latest, Astronautalis (aka Andy Bothwell) proves that defying hip hop conventions pays off.

From the outset, you pretty much know Pomegranate isn’t going to be a typical hip hop record. The beats and rhymes are there, but the album comes across lyrically and musically like it’s been tailored to indie rock or punk fans.

Opener “The Wondersmith and His Sons” combines Astronautalis’ densely packed lyricism and distinct rapping/singing style with a marching beat, as well as piano, guitar and stringed instruments. Things get even more interesting on “Two Years Before the Mast,” which features the vocal talents of Sarah Jaffe and a disco-influenced drum beat. On that cut, Jaffe and Bothwell spin what seems to be the story of a couple living on a ship, but who must hide their relationship from others on board for fear of punishment.

The remaining tracks are equally alluring in their rhyming schemes and musical structure, making it clear that Pomegranate is an exciting shift away from the artistic pitfalls that plague many sectors of modern underground hip hop.

Astronautalis plays the Badlander Friday, April 4, at 9 PM with Bleubird and Cars and Trains. $5.
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