Atlas and Oracle set out on an ambitious goal at the end of last year. They decided to record three seven song albums, and release them all in 2023. 777- a lucky number to bring luck in a world that is in so much need of it. Well, I think most of us would say 2023 did not bring the luck that the project aspired to manifest, but perhaps it could have been even worse.
These three albums each have a different theme. The first album, appropriately named Time Machine is a collection of 7 pop cover songs spanning the last 70 years, but all done in a synth infused ska tones- a genre blend that is largely unexplored, and as Atlas and Oracle proved, it’s definitely worth exploring more.
The second of three albums was undoubtedly the most difficult to put together. Another self explanatory title, Sad Songs with Happy Endings is a collection of seven sad songs, but each with the promise of hope at the end. However, the second theme of this album was not synth ska, but collabs. Each of these 7 tracks is a collaboration with a different artist, and each collaboration was done differently, and while all 7 are ska, they are also each influenced by a different secondary genre. Sometimes it was inviting an artist on to write the hook, write their own verse, or lay down a melody. Once again, Atlas & Oracle pulled off the concept to perfection, and managed to write some of my favorite songs from 2023 on this one.
The third and final album in this project is the focus of this article, and also appropriately titled Greed and the American Dream. This is a collection of ska-punk original songs written specifically for this album. The theme for the lyrics are aptly described in the album title, which is also the name of two of the seven tracks that make up the album. Atlas & Oracle seem to have stepped up another notch in this album. While some of my favorite parts on their cover album were parts of the original song they were covering, and some of my favorite parts of their collaboration album were the features of other artists, there was nobody else to fall back on this time, however, they quickly demonstrated how little they needed to rely on others for great songs.
The album intros with the song “Greed”, and the interplay with simple melodies, great horns, keys, and solid lyrical themes make for a wonderful song, that is great even before the vocal breakdown the feels a little reminiscent of a Mike Park song (more in style than sound)- which is high praise for sure. This was just a great intro song to tell me what to look for on the album.
“It’s Not Fair/ I Don’t Care” is such a catchy track that I am constantly singing the chorus long after I’m done listening to the album, and the song’s biggest downfall is that it’s easy to miss how good the rest of the song is. The pacing switches, the jazzy horns, the simple guitar sections that break in and out all work together to keep the song fun and interesting, while the chorus is catchy enough to earworm perfectly.
“New Gilded Age” easily has my favorite lyric with “Do you find it hard to breathe, or are you nothing like me”. The upbeat, happy ska rhythm of this song really contradicts the anger of this song as the chorus constantly repeats “you seem content in the new gilded age/ at least I’ve grown into my rage/ I’m seeing double” while the guitar lays down the same melody, the horns work overtime providing the pop melodies that bely the anger at a corrupt system the runs through the whole album that constantly critiques hustle culture, mental health, corporate greed, and the impact of capitalism.
“Medication” and “When my Silly Heart Stops Beating” are both great songs. With only 7 songs per album, there is no room for filler, but lyrically and thematically, the real hero of this album is “American Dream”. The lyrics and storytelling are absolutely phenomenal. The verses are told in stripped down storytelling fashion that allows the listener to focus on the message of the hypocrisy and impossibility of the American Dream- that puts profits over people and how everyone is supposed to want a job in management with people working under them or making profit over other people’s labor, and the obvious fact that, by necessity, we need more people at the bottom in order for the dream to work for someone else. This American Dream necessarily requires more people to fail than to succeed. It’s a powerful song, with another catch chorus, but a far more powerful and poignant message.
Honestly, this album has 7 great songs, and the whole 777 project is amazing, but if I were to only listen to “Greed” and the “American Dream” songs, and not the whole Greed and the American Dream album, it might warrant consideration for the album of the year. Do yourself a favor and grab the album and just listen to the lyrics. Fortunately, the catchy beats will keep the lyrics dancing in your head long after the album is done.
Written by Gimpleg
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