Doing his part to make genres and labels obsolete, Florida's Andy Bothwell -- whose nom de musique is Astronautalis -- gleefully rips the indie hip-hop "kick me" sign off his back, folds it into a graceful origami swan and sends it flying into a wastebasket filled with tattered scraps of Delta blues, sharp shards of punky broken glass and plenty of DIY-folk lint balls. While his 2005 debut proved Astronautalis's talents as a nimble-tongued rapper and deft lyricist, this year's Mighty Ocean and Nine Dark Theaters draws on all of the aforementioned influences and more, creating a dense indie-rock pastiche that's more Pinback than pimp. On an album that could best be summarized with a simple question mark, Bothwell employs concrete rhythms, worn-out guitars and anything else he can get his hands on to craft scratchy stories of self-doubt and searching while challenging listener's assumptions of what "rap" is. The Astronautalis experiment doesn't always work, but frequent and numerous moments of inspired madness and heartbroken beauty will keep you on the edge of your seat.
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