Even in the coddled, closed off loveliness of Pittsburgh’s bustling music scene, things aren’t exactly handed to young musicians looking to make a name for themselves. To self release an album and tour subsequently is, in and of itself, a massive undertaking. But, in terms of the obstacles facing an up and coming band as they prep their first proper album, a plucky sense of ambition usually isn’t one of them. Getting proper studio time? Sure. Getting the album pressed? What the hell. Finding a quality venue for the release party? Of course.
Pittsburgh born and bred indie folkers Colonizing the Cosmos triumphantly chose to take the high road with their debut LP The First Frontier, producing a sprawling, fifteen track self-proclaimed concept album about, you guessed it, the cosmos and beyond. The start value for a “concept album,” however loose that concept may be, is high to begin with. If the music wasn’t so damn expertly crafted, inviting and jubilant, I’d say these fellas were ambitious to a fault.
With that said, the album crackles as a lush orchestra of banjos, guitars, cellos, leg slapping, hand clapping, dulcimers, and a wide array of horns. Make no mistake; The First Frontier is a fully formed document of The Cosmos’ warming charm, played comfortable and loose while betraying the meticulously honed chops of this folkie trio.
“The Phononauts” opens the album with piece of vaudevillian magic before snapping into a giddy strut, coupling nicely with “Moon Shine Moon,” a quiet yet upbeat lullaby humming with cello strums and snare brushes. “Come on With Your Hands and Join the Band!” splashes down with a banjo and an entire audience of hand claps before segueing into the instrumental jam “A Man and His Culture,” a noodly bluegrass gem that doesn’t over stay its welcome.
The track sequencing, something essentially important to a concept album, is subtle in its change of moods, instruments and influences: “Wood and Stone” utilizies synth flourishes in between a sparse folk backdrop touching on the less somber portions of Sufjan’s Illinoise, the exuberance of “Stars in Jars” recalls a down to earth Polyphonic Spree, perking up the proceedings just enough to shed a healthy light on the final four tracks.
That down home charm shimmers through out The Final Frontier like the flickering silhouettes of a towering fire, blazing away in the middle of a grass field. I can see Colonizing the Cosmos circled around the flame, lying on their backs and playing their songs to the heavens. A love letter to the unknowable magic of the endless celestial expanse, The Final Frontier proves The Cosmos are insatiable romantics of the highest order, painting their blissful folk across the night sky with studied abandon.
Album on sale here: http://colonizingthecosmos.bandcamp.com/