Full Review: Abandon Kansas – Ad Astra Per Aspera


Gotee Records

Released March 7 2011

Reviewed By Tyler Hess

I like a good lyrical challenge.  I know some would rather have things spelled out so blatantly that a really smart monkey could make out what they’re getting at, but I like to see that a lyricist has really been thinking things through and getting it across in a way that makes me think differently about it while relating to it at the same time.  I can talk about Abandon Kansas’ first full length label release from a few different angles, but what is sticking out as I write this is that while many discerning listeners try to see how spiritual an album is, Abandon Kansas lyrics will really tell us if we have been reading our Bibles ourselves, as these topics and ideas are ones that should be familiar to those familiar with the Word of God.

Ad Astra Per Aspera starts off with “Heaven Come My Way”, an introduction to the band’s indie/pop rock style with soulful hooks and a starry promise to go through the storms of life if Heaven is the reward.  “Liar” is actually a remake of an independently released song called “Minutes” on their “You Build A Wall, I’ll Build A Ladder” (as pointed out by a reader) and is one of those songs where I get to take an educated guess as to what is going on here, which appears to be God calling out the lyricist for seeking approval from their audience over seeking God’s approval above all.

If you’ve ever been in a long distance relationship, you can relate to the difficulties that the mileage can present, but “Like It Or Not” seems to make it look not so bad, with a hook and chorus combo that kills as Jeremy Spring busts out the lines “Even if I wanted to, I couldnʼt walk away from you/I donʼt think Iʼm able/To cut, cut, cut the cable if I wanted to”.

I hope that the first single from the album isn’t true, as I have plans on moving back there someday, but according to “The Golden State” California is going down!  Of course, there is more to it than that, as the song calls out those living in a fake and “plastic” life, but still I’d like to see California stay where it is if they don’t mind.

The stellar conversations of Ad Astra Per Aspera, the Kansan state motto that means “To the Stars with Difficulty”, continue with “A Conversation With The Sky” as Abandon Kansas portray a picturesque panorama only to opine “Change with the times, and youʼll get left behind”.

In a somewhat divergent somber tone, one of my favorite tracks on an all together outstanding album is “Where Else Can We Go?” as it is a probable reference to a favorite Scripture of mine, where Peter says in John 6:68 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”  The crooning overtones of the album are punctuated in songs like this with a verse that booms when Spring sings “Then somewhere in the distance a wave of sound rings. Melodies I’ve never heard, but somehow I know all the words, And I can’t help but sing.”

“Take My Lead” is a microcosm of the whole album, as you can take the words at their simplest meaning and have an enjoyable track that you can enjoy on the surface, but the deeper you dig you can see things in there that bring out deeper and deeper meanings as you explore the depths of loneliness and the escape that is available.

The disparity between our calling and our own strength is often found throughout Ad Astra Per Aspera and is epitomized in “Wings (Fear of Heights)” as the depiction of wanting to fly to the highest of highs is contrasted with fear and the desire to run away in the challenge presented with faith and life.  The point is expanded upon in the next song, “Learn”, where Romans chapter 7 is heavily leaned upon for inspiration in the battle of the spirit versus the flesh and its implications in spiritual leadership, even for a simple touring indie pop rock band from Kansas.

The album closes with “Give & Take”, a song reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets that promised through the Word of the Lord a time of restoration, like in Joel 2:25 where it says “”So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.”  Although we know that those verses are specifically addressed to Israel, they also have personal application in our lives, knowing that our God make us a new creation in Jesus Christ (2 Cr 5:17; Gal 6:15), despite what we have or haven’t done.

As I said in my first impressions, Abandon Kansas has truly captured their sound in a way that, despite it’s increased production , has a tight combination of raw energy and emotional hooks that capture this reviewer’s attention, which is not all that easy to do in a sea of indie rock bands.  Although I saw potential in their last EP, I saw it fully realized in Ad Astra Per Aspera and highly recommend it for anyone who is a fan on indie/pop rock acts somewhere along the lines of Future of Forestry, Mae or Abel.

Grade: 5

Tracklisting:

  1. Heaven Come My Way
  2. Liar
  3. Like It Or Not
  4. The Golden State
  5. A Conversation With The Sky
  6. Where Else Can We Go
  7. Take My Lead
  8. Wings (Fear of Heights)
  9. Learn
  10. Give & Take
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One response to “Full Review: Abandon Kansas – Ad Astra Per Aspera

  1. Anthony March 6, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Definitely picking this up for $3 on AmazonMP3, love Future of Forestry, Mae, & Abel so this looks very promising!

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