Indie album Atlas captures universe through music


Album cover taken from Sleeping at Last’s website. // Name: Atlas: Year One // Rating: 4/4 // Musician: Sleeping at Last // Genre: Indie Alternative/Rock // Record Label: Independent //Price: $15.99 // Tracks: 30 // Run Time: 2 Hours 8 Minutes


Atlas: Year One is Sleeping At Last’s newest album, and it lives up to its name, mapping new territory in music.

Atlas delivers a vast arrangement of sounds, with haunting vocals by Ryan O’Neal, and eclectic arrangement of instruments. This orchestral-led album uses an incredible number of musical styles to create an album worthy of the title. Bold and eloquent, Atlas truly maps the world of music.

While most songs on the album maintain a fairly slow tempo, Atlas keeps it interesting with a number of instrumental and vocal features.

Although strings and choirs provide the musical backbone for the album, Atlas features a number of other instruments, including the harpsichord, xylophone, guitars and a number of percussion and winds. O’Neal’s lyrics also interject themselves in a number of songs, telling stories that resonate with the fundamental nature of loss and life.

To quote O’Neal’s Saturn, “How rare and beautiful it is, to even exist.”

Clocking in at 2 hours and 8 minutes, Atlas: Year One is a collection of thirty beautifully complex songs that are well worth the time to enjoy. With lyrics like poetry and a combination of pulsing rhythm and intricate orchestration, Atlas will more than satisfy those with a taste for instrumental music and the quiet, lyrical poetry of other indie groups.

The structure of Atlas: Year One is unique because of its composition. There are five groups of songs indicating different elements of the universe – Light, Darkness, Land, Oceans, and Space- and each is composed of a number of songs named after parts of their element.

Space is arguably the most beautiful and eclectic set of music in Atlas. The arrangement of songs based on the features of planets parallels Gustav Holst’s Planets, a collection of orchestral pieces that represent the characteristics of each planet through carefully selected instrumentation. For instance, Holst uses blaring trumpet sforzandos in his iconic piece Jupiter, coupled with a strong base of strings and vibrant woodwind arpeggios to create a piece that is as dynamic as the planet itself.

O’Neal uses a more subtle approach. His Jupiter begins in a spacey pianissimo, building through gradual crescendo via the introduction of new layers of sound, from piano to strings, into guitar and vocals.

However, while each piece is complex in the layering of sound, dynamics and mood, Holst is far more aggressive and inconsistent in his piece; the mood changes dramatically throughout the different movements of the song. O’Neal takes a softer approach, using softer sounds to capture the softer side of space, while staying consistent with his musical theme.

One of the most powerful features of Atlas is its ability to elicit an emotional response from its listeners. Senior Carolyn Ford said of Saturn, “It’s…calming, and kind of sad. The words are really pretty.”

The music is carefully arranged in a way that seems to unfold before the audience, slowly revealing the vastness of the universe in little fragments of notes and lyrics. The music begins to feel so immense and powerful that whatever reality you might find yourself in will begin to feel smaller. After all, how big can any earthly problem be next to the vastness of the universe?

The Atlas album is so well crafted, the only obvious complaint is the length of the album. Atlas is very long, and it is difficult to listen to in one sitting; the full effect of the music comes in pieces. However, the album is in reality a collection of smaller EPs, and so its length was only a consequence of compiling the numerous EPs into one album.

Overall, Atlas is an elegant and vibrant collection of songs from the mind of Ryan O’Neal. The combination of lyrical poetry and vividly layered instrumentation will not disappoint even the most refined musical connoisseurs.