Atmosphere - The Family Sign (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


The Family Sign (2011)


Atmosphere's seventh proper studio release, The Family Sign, dropped on April 12 on the midwest indie rap label Rhymesayers Entertainment. Slug (Sean Daley), a proven lyrical acrobat continues to run laps around the average MC. He's always been known to wear his heart on his sleeve, but on the past release, When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Shit Gold (2008) and now on The Family Sign, Slug and Ant (Anthony Davis) are still showing all their cards, but the tone has changed from adolescent to adult.

The Family Sign is a logical progression from Lemons, with Slug exploring storytelling outside of the first-person point of view. Adding to the overall more mature sound, Atmosphere continues to tour and experiment with live instruments, with guitar and piano interlaced throughout The Family Sign augmenting Ant's signature beats.

Frankly, I'm so torn on this review. Let's just put it in straight up pros and cons:


  • Lacks "aggressiveness/hunger" that has been vacant since Seven's Travels (2003) and You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having (2005)
  • Lacks playfulness of Strictly Leakage (2007)
  • The Family Sign has an overall happy tone (see: "My Notes")
  • As Slug hits his mid-30s there is certainly a maturity that has grown in his music

  • Dope Ant beats (see: "She's Enough")
  • Clever rhymes (as per usual)
  • The packaging of The Family Sign is interesting and unique
  • The Family Sign has an overall happy tone (see: "My Notes")
  • As Slug hits his mid-30s there is certainly a maturity that has grown in his music

Yep, I have two points that are both a con and a pro. Of course, in big picture terms, it's great that Slug is (seemingly) happy and has matured. Long lost are the days of being tormented by Lucy Ford (whoever she may be). But it was that torment that provided the masses with such gems like "Trying to Find a Balance" and "Modern Man's Hustle". I miss that tormented fuck.

Noteworthy in the pro list is the clever packaging of The Family Sign. In the digital world we live in, it's good to see an artist getting a little creative with how the physical album is released. The cover art is interchangeable (I know that Deerhoof also did this, but still) and on both the CD and LP you can pop out the back to make it stand like a picture frame to sit proudly on your mantel/desk/nightstand/coffee table.

Musically, The Family Sign has its fair share of hits and misses. The highlight track is, hands down, "She's Enough". This track has the most aggressive beats on the album and is catchy as all get out. However, in direct contrast, following the best track on the album comes the worst. I HATE the song "Bad Bad Daddy". I'm sure the intended affect was straight-up sleaze. This song makes me feel slimy and I hate it. I can't really tell you too much more about this song because I honestly skip it every time.

I certainly don't have the ego to think that my review is going to sway you one way or the other. After writing down the pros and cons and thinking out the cons a bit more, I was leaning toward saying this album is pretty great. I wanted to share my favorite track of the album with a friend and was delighted to find out there was already a music video for "She's Enough". Watching this video made me fall in love with Atmosphere all over again. I'm sold. The Family Sign may lack the raw, aggressive hunger from Slug in his twenties, but it still strikes that chord that proves Atmosphere is still in the game.

Even if you don't pick up the album, please do watch the video for "She's Enough". It's good. Trust.