From boyish charm with songs like “Baby” to the more bare-skinned, smoky stylings of “Blue Flame” and “Knock,” it seems the members of Astro have grown up right before our eyes. The first subunit of the group Moonbin & Sanha, capitalizes on this newfound maturity with the mini-album “In-Out,” showcasing both sexy, unhinged love and ear-tickling tenderness.
While the thematic cohesiveness of the album itself is a bit underwhelming, the duo certainly makes up for it musically, visually, and vocally. The main theme of the album centers around loneliness and uninhibited yearning. Honestly, for such a bloody, sexy title track I am struck by the understated beauty of the rest of the songs on the album. “Eyez On U,” “Alone,” “All I Wanna Do,” and “Dream Catcher” are all softer tracks with a lilting breathlessness, a far cry from the careless descent into lovesick longing of “Bad Idea.”
Don’t get me wrong, “Bad Idea” is alluring, sexy, and it does not sacrifice vocals for stunning visuals. However, conceptually and musically it stands out from the rest of the songs on the album. The video is a nightmareish trip of not quite awake and not quite dreaming about a madness-inducing unrequited love. Contrast is the highlight here visually and thematically. Dark rooms are filled with alcohol, lasers, and smoke. In contrast, brightly lit hallways give some scenes a surreal, dream-like quality on the fringes of reality.
Tempted by a nighmareish “bad idea,” the lyrics explore a slow descent into a dark loneliness they can not seem to escape, eventually leading to a fistfight. (Moonbin’s psychotic smile is a bit frightening.) The music is equally moody, albeit a bit repetitive. Stripped, acoustic sections are placed aside bass-heavy funk choruses. Both of the members have impressive visuals and vocals, but the music really does it for me overall. It’s so nice to hear more real-sounding bass tracking. It gives the album an extra added impact and depth.
The remaining four tracks are much more on the lovesick puppy spectrum of love. “Eyez On U” and “All I Wanna Do” are fun and hopeful while “Alone” and “Dreamcatcher” are melancholy and wistful. The choruses of both sound remarkably similar to me but with different texture and timbre in the verses. Lilting and fun, the music is funky with a killer bassist throughout (kudos to both the bass player and/or whoever did the mixing for this album.) Not surprisingly, the texture of “Alone” is similar to “Eyez On You” and “All I Wanna Do,” but with more piano-driven accompaniment. All three songs highlight the pensive, dream-like side of their loneliness rather than the dark, hazardous side.
The track most dissimilar to “Bad Idea” is “Dreamcatcher.” Rich with harmonies and primarily accompanied by a simple drum kit, soulful guitar, and higher-toned melodic bass, “Dreamcatcher” is soulful and beautiful. One of the best parts of this album is the vocals to me. All the vocals in Astro I think are incredibly nuanced, and this is on clear display in the final track. Both members’ vocal timbres blend seamlessly into each other, and their ad-libs add depth and variety without sounding strained or distracting. While both members are clearly skilled performers and dancers, I am thankful that their versatile vocals remain on full display throughout the album.
Overall, the theme throughout the album is a little vague, but with twinges of lostness and lonely lovesickness throughout, the music itself is spot on. I kind of wish there was more variety between the B-sides tracks, but luckily the duo makes up for it in visuals and vocals (have you heard their harmonies and range? Wow.) With the group now firmly matured far beyond their “Baby” and “All Night” days, I am interested to see how sultry the concepts become before they have to make a left turn and experiment with something brighter while continuing to move away from their boyish innocence. Until then, I think I am just going to hang out and enjoy their continued evolution; their vocals alone are enough to hang tight for as far as I am concerned.
(YouTube, Images via Fantagio Music)