Staying Awake to Abandon Kansas

Sometimes a great album comes seemingly out of nowhere and grabs me by the throat, firmly but gently, and says “dude, come along for this ride, all right?  I know it’s late.  I know you want to go to bed.  I know you have to get up early tomorrow.  But this will be worth it.  Trust me.  And anyway, I’m not letting go of your throat, so it’s not like you have any say in the matter, right”?  That was Ad Astra Per Aspera.  I had never heard of this record or Abandon Kansas.  My nephew mentioned them, barely, with not even a recommendation.  Just a band he had heard of that he was supposed to check out.  A passing comment.  Okay.  But I liked the name “Abandon Kansas”.  So, I checked it out.  No expectations.  No preconceived notions.  No intention to care.  I’ll just click play and sample it for a minute.

Throat grabbed.

I get really excited by those moments.  Its how I felt the first time I heard Springsteen in junior high.  The Alarm’s Declaration did it to me in high school.  Separation Sunday by The Hold Steady forced me to take a long detour home from Zia records the night I purchased it on a whim.  And here’s the thing – it’s not like Ad Astra Per Aspera is a ground breaking piece of art.  Honestly, I’ve heard this before.  It’s rock/pop with soaring anthems and melodies and lyrics that delve into pain and spiritual exploration.  It sounds like they have set up camp somewhere between The Killers and Needtobreathe, and shared a few s’mores with those guys.  But they do what they do well. And what they do fits into my wheelhouse of like.  Groundbreaking is not a requirement for greatness in art.  The above records and artists I mentioned were transformative for me.  Abandon Kansas is not that.  I’ve heard better records this year.  But this made me feel alive in a moment when I didn’t even know I needed (or wanted) to feel alive.

And maybe the moment is the thing.  Maybe it’s timing.  Part of what makes music resonate so deeply is its connection to a moment in time.  The unknown need it unexpectedly fills, or awareness it creates.  I could write a book about the hundreds of songs that I attach to a specific life moment and the emotion attached to that place and time.  But sometimes the moment is just the simple suddenness of hearing something great for the first time just when you were ready to close up shop for the night.  A lyric like “if pain produces harmony then we all have a note” sung over a simple marching rhythm, forces you to put your appointment with sleepy time on hold.  I need to march on with these guys and find out where they’re going.

So, all of that to say, I really enjoyed this Abandon Kansas album.  And now they occupy one of the “I remember the first time I heard that” moments in my brain.  It’s getting crowded up there.  Check these guys out.  They are from Wichita Kansas, though I’ve heard rumor that they may have abandoned it.  Part of what makes the album great is that it is hard to recommend just two or three songs over two or three others.  It’s a solid listening experience start to finish.  But I will say check out “Heaven Come My Way”, “Where Else Can We Go”, and “A Conversation with the Sky”.  And “Like It or Not”.  And “Learn”.  Seriously, I’m practically throwing darts blindfolded.  It’s all good.


~ by themattmorrisshow on November 18, 2011.

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