The Constellations

Southern Gothic

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On this dance-heavy debut, the Constellations attempt to do for Atlanta what Beck once did for Los Angles -- that is, give voice to a city's cultural makeup by paying special attention to its funkier side. Atlanta has already been chronicled by everyone from Butch Walker to Big Boi, but the Constellations take their own approach, hewing close to a brand of psychedelic hip-hop that makes room for electronica, cabaret, and pop. Overseeing the musical melting pot is vocalist Elijah Jones, who raps with a casual, world-weary cadence and sings in a competent baritone. Backed by Animal Collective producer Ben Allen and multi-instrumentalist Devin Donnelly -- not to mention guest rappers like Cee-Lo, who trades verses during “Love Is a Murder” -- Jones sketches a broad picture of a city filled with neon, sex, late-night revelers, and last calls. At times, he loses track of Atlanta’s identity and resorts to clichés that could describe any metropolis -- “this city is on fire!” goes the chorus to “Take a Ride” -- but he nails it during songs like “Setback,” where space age synths underscore images of street violence, and “Stand Right Up,” which turns a Tom Waits sample into a play-by-play beat poem of Atlanta’s seedy nightlife. Like Atlanta itself, Southern Gothic is gorgeous in some areas and forgettable in others, but the highlights far outweigh the missteps.

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