Astronaut9: Everything Like It’s the Last Time

by Sep 13, 2019Music, Reviews

Cover photo by Lindsey Michelle

Let me be real from jump and first disclose that I’ve been suffering a little harder from my PTSD and fibromyalgia the past 2 weeks. Before typing this review on my phone while laying in bed – I currently don’t have the strength to sit up – I was trying the entire day to coexist with my pain. Such is the cycle of trauma for queer and trans survivors.

So wow – when I finally mustered the energy to read from and listen to “gender and genre bending” Boston-based artist Astronaut9 (Sam Zilli, they/them), I felt a general gratitude to our communities of queer and trans art-making survivors. Everything Like It’s the Last Time is a 30-minute “explorative 4-song/poem piece about trauma, regret, family, and mental illness with a vast and space-themed sonic landscape.”

Astronaut9

Astronaut9’s voice certainly does bend genders and genres, aptly fitting their post-rock music production choice. Singing and spoken word both smooth and rasp wrap effortlessly and earnestly over a band setup that is very nostalgic. I’m reminded of early and mid-2000s alternative rock – The Fray, Coldplay, Keane, Dashboard Confessional – predecessors to today’s mainstream pop music.

Then I arrive to the track “Black Lipstick,” which totally recalls Vertical Horizon to me. The atmospheric reverb, distortion for eerie crescendo and drama, the euphonic wailing that subverts a traditional (read: cis and hetero) vocal masculinity, raw lyrical content that exposes sadness as a viable reality. You hear that influence today in Billie Eilish, The Weeknd, Lil Uzi Vert, Halsey, and so on.

I find that perspective from Astronaut9 incredibly important, especially to queer and trans survivors. They seem to command, consciously or not, nostalgia as a way to process past events that they could not feel fully in real time. It’s survivor time travel – that magic we are forced to endure to stay unerased. It’s multiply-marginalized artists like them who create those aesthetics that eventually get taken up by the mainstream, for better or for worse.

The timing in all of this is nonlinear – exactly like the experience of trauma. The title of the project does not say “everything because it’s the last time.” There is no linear finale in surviving. Trauma literally is everything Like it’s the last time. And then repeat “like it’s the last time.” And then repeat. Again. Like it’s the last time.

Everything Like It’s the Last Time tenderly takes back a survivor’s agency, giving the artist, and the audience, permission to feel what was too painful before, and to exist in the way we so badly want to as queer and trans survivors. Because of Astronaut9’s generous narrative, when you listen to this project, you also are heard.

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