Pete Astor

Listening to Pete Astor is like what I imagine one of his University of Westminster lectures to be like in musical form. It’s the applied art portion of the seminar, if you will. Spilt Milk isn’t clinical necessarily, but rather extremely thoughtful in the steps that it takes – a type of thoughtfulness lacking at times during the modern age.

Genre doesn’t take precedence on the album. Things certainly fall within the range of rock ‘n’ roll, but Astor has been around long enough to know how to create a fluid soundscape. He’s certainly not afraid to approach alt-country, which he starts the album off with on “Really Something,” but he doesn’t hang his hat there, as it blends with Brit pop sounds. Lyrically, the simplicity behind the difficulty of putting into words what makes someone special comes with a bit of nostalgia while looking to liquefy a lost memory. The album opener has an early autumn vibe, while the other country-slanted track on the album, “Very Good Luck,” welcomes an electronic drum world. The down-on-yourself narratives of the country world aren’t lost here, as Astor opines his desire to play it neutral while worrying that people know he’s trying to play is safe. The plan seems to work though.

Astor culls upon what is commonly referred to as “different/simpler times” by folks who romanticize bygone eras as well. “Perfect Life” hits pleasantly melodious notes before taking a darker turn towards heartbreak once someone places their foot in the door of a precious relationship. Earlier in the album, “Mr. Music” is a tale of the inability to let go, albeit to a different dream, so the former seems like a potential metaphor. But the 60s soul and NYC underground rock vibe of the latter track gently handles hurting someone. Both deal with giving up on something, but they’re approached differently and so delicately. One crumbles a bit softly like a sandy erosion, the other fades a bit due to unfulfilled hopes.

Worlds are seemingly born with each line. “The Getting There” is a carefully constructed storyline with a connective tale where the journey takes center stage in a world consumed with the destination. You have to allow yourself to soak in your surroundings. And even when he’s providing a detailed list of missed opportunities on “Good Enough,” it’s like the listener is peering in on this crisis from overhead.

When the dust begins to settle, “Sleeping Tiger” splashes water on its face to shake itself alive. Holes are being patched up, and you just gotta keep on rolling while conversely trying to not awaken a sleeping beast of memories. The album finishes with a slight Alison Krauss vibe as Astor is dealing with mixed signals. One’s brain is saying pump the brakes before you head down another path you may not want to go down. But the heart, well, it’s been known to get folks into trouble.

Spilt Milk is available tomorrow at the Slumberland Records website. Joey Smith