Sound — 7
Atoms For Peace formed in 2009, but did not officially go by the name Atoms For Peace until mid 2010. The band has played several live performances since forming, originally performing mainly Thom Yorke's solo material. In late 2011 Thom Yorke and Flea stated they were finishing up an album. In September 2012, the single "Default" debuted on iTunes, and the entire album because available as a stream online on 02/18/2013, one week before the album officially releases on 02/26/2013. As a concept, the album is very interesting. Their first song ideas started with Thom playing electronic music he had been creating for the rest of the members and then they went about trying to recreate it with real instruments. When listening to the album you will hear that sometimes live instruments are playing the parts, and other times it is programmed but often the line is fuzzy where the real and the programmed begin and end. From a songwriting standpoint the album sounds a lot like recent Radiohead releases and Thom Yorke's solo material. The instrumentation is where the album has a more diverse sound; especially noticeable are the contributions by Flea on bass and the percussion work of Brazilian percussionist, Mauro Refasco. This is a pretty chilled out album, at times feeling melancholy, at others content, sometimes even a little uncomfortable but always chilled out.
These songs don't really come off like electronic music, and in my opinion this is because of the definite groove apparent in each track thanks to Flea and Mauro Refasco. While there are a LOT of electronic elements in the tracks, there is also a lot of real bass, a lot of real percussion, real guitar and very human vocals. It brings a more human face to music that was originally composed as electronic music. I honestly didn't expect to enjoy this album that much as it had been described to me as a project with Thom Yorke and Flea working on electronic music. While that definition might technically be true, it does a huge disservice to this album as these songs are beautifully composed, multi-textured and very human. I have played the album from front to back 4 times now, and will probably hit the play button again when it finishes this time.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are all performed by Thom Yorke, and I'm assuming they were written by him as well. If you've listened to Radiohead or Thom Yorke's solo material then you pretty much know what to expect here. He has a very haunting almost ethereal type of voice that seems to just kind of drift through his songs. There are no complaints from me on his vocal performance spot on job. The lyrics from "Judge Jury And Executioner" follow: "Don't worry baby/ It goes right through me/ I'm like the wind and my/ anger will disperse/ Thin persecutors/ Your twisted whispers/ A horned reptile that is crawling upon the earth/ I went for my usual walk/ just tell it like it is/ tell it like it was/ judge and jury, executioner/ judge and jury, executioner/ judge and jury/ when darkness follows/ and no tomorrows/ it's all been decided/ all spies deceptive/ all bouncing voices down the echo chamber/ don't worry baby/ it goes right through me/ I went for my usual walk/ I went around the block/ I just can't talk or reason with my executioner/ judge and jury, executioner/ judge and jury/ been wasting trails/ you talk in layers/ I went for my usual walk/ don't worry, laugh about/ just can't talk or reason with my executioner/ judge and jury executioner/ judge and jury/ don't worry baby/ it goes right through me/ I'm like the wind and my anger will disperse". This is pretty much standard fare for Thom's writing surreal and abstract with an underlying anxiety.
Overall Impression — 7
It is really difficult trying to pick out a favorite song from the album. The ones I am enjoying the most at the moment are "Before Your Very Eyes", "Ingenue", "Reverse Running" and the title track "Amok". I'm not really finding any tracks that I don't enjoy, but if anything I would say that I've heard the track "Default" quite a bit from the time it was released as a single so I am a little tired of it, but that is from my own repetition more than anything to do with the song. Really, and I can't explain why, this album reminds me of the album "Kid A" by Radiohead more than anything else. This is a solid release and definitely worth picking up when the official release date comes around in the meantime, I'm going to continue enjoying streaming it online.
You can stream album in full here.