Astronaut Meets Appleman, the latest album from Fife-based King Creosote (aka Kenny Anderson), marks a change of direction from the gentle, electronic beauty of Diamond Mine, his Mercury-nominated collaboration with Jon Hopkins, and the optimism of From Scotland with Love. Though, those familiar with Creosote’s less celebrated work, such as 2012’s That Might be It Darling, will recognise the theme of endings and regret that characterises the opening half of this album. By the end of the album, though, it is clear that this is an album of renewal, not despondency, about facing up to failure and disappointment and learning how to carry on.
The album’s opener, You Just Want, begins with moody, ominous guitar and bass lines accompanied by breathy backing vocals. This sets the tone for the dark and melancholy first half of the album. The opening lines heighten this mood: “When you just want someone to lie there and be used as a slave/ Can I be him?/ When you just want someone for their being and not so much for their brains/ Can I be him?” The lyrics take on a darker, self-punishing twist with a declaration of an inability to provide emotional support: “When you need someone to cry on in the depths of despair/ I shall be elsewhere.”
Melin Wynt (welsh for windmill) continues with the theme of fracturing relationships with the lines: “Don’t be the one to slam the door/ As I won’t let you back in.” Beyond this, the song somehow manages to combine gentle guitar and piano, soaring bagpipes and a critique of wind turbines into something beautiful. Wake Up to This contrasts a jaunty, upbeat melody with the despondent lines: “The match kept dry to reignite my hope for us just went damp/ But I deserve the flood, I deserve the flood.” Faux Call, opening with a mournful violin solo, continues the theme of regret with the lines: “I’m so sorry I let you down again/ And this was my call, now I’m stalling my pretence at being just friends.”
From here the album takes a more positive turn, starting with the album’s highlight Betelgeuse, a song of hope and renewal. Starting with a tinny, distorted vocal accompanied by a rich violin solo before opening out into a rich and hopeful melody. This transformation serves as an audio representation of the theme of rediscovering purpose and direction that are made clear in the lines: “It’s taken my favourite month to realign the stars/ Oh I have travelled far to douse the astro-fire within my heart.”
From there the album continues in a more optimistic fashion with two upbeat power pop about finding a sense of perspective on life’s disappointments. First, Love Life, with the repeated refrain: “A love life is only a love life.” This is followed, after the ambient interlude of Peter Rabbit Tea, by the similarly upbeat though bittersweet Surface.
The album ends with the gentle, low-key beauty of Rules of Engagement. A gentle harp and accordion accompany Anderson’s beautiful, plaintive and world-weary vocals. It is a fitting end to yet another wonderful King Creosote album.
Astronaut meets Appleman is released today via Domino Records