It is very rare for an album these days to truly uncover what love means to us as humans, and how torn down we are when we lose it, and how we feel invincible when we find it again. Acoustic singer/songwriter Greg Laswell’s new album I Was Going to be an Astronaut has done just that, and with such simplicity that it’s a skill in itself. I don’t care how cliché it is, because finding and losing love is what brings out the best music in the entire world. The new album, released Tuesday Feb. 11, is actually old – in a certain sense, at least. It’s comprised of mostly redone versions of some of his older and best-known songs and some that he thinks are worth a second chance. But trust me, just because you may have heard them before doesn’t mean you’ve heard them like this.
The album’s rawness and emotion tells us that it’s OK to cry when we lose such a big piece of ourselves and gives us permission to laugh and be joyous when we discover that we can love again.
Laswell’s voice is both gentle and powerful. He articulates every word as if we wrote the songs ourselves and feel what he feels.
From the album’s first notes on “I Don’t Believe It’s Through,” we hear exactly where this album will take us. The song flutters with gentle keyboard, and the melancholy is heavy throughout.
The best is yet to come. His new versions of “Comes and Goes In Waves” and “What A Day” moved me to tears: “What a day to be alive / What a day to realize I’m not dead” are sung with passion and emotion that is so palpable you can reach out and touch it. The piano accompaniment that makes up the majority of these tracks is beautiful and simple, which is all one needs for a great love or loss song.
I have to choose highlights even though the whole album is damn near flawless, so I have to spotlight “High and Low.” This song is just a mirror to me. I’d never heard it before, and I was stunned at what a beautiful song it is and how much of myself I see within the words.
Another great of “Take Everything,” is one of the less heartbreaking and more bitter lost-love songs on the album, but it still glows as the piano dances throughout the track.
The last track on the album “And Then You” is one of my favorites. When you find love in your life, you have to listen to this song. Then you’ll understand its true power. But you should listen to it anyway. It’s stunning how simple it is, and yet it’s powerful in its expression of when you find someone special and no other problems in life seem to matter at all anymore. I think we can all find some truth in that.
I can’t think of a recent album that has moved me so much in the process of listening. I don’t know many artists who can capture elation and pain and human love as well as Laswell can. The album is universal in scope; it’s a work of art.