The best science fiction stories are never actually about science of any kind; they are about the human condition. They are about truly human characters and challenges that just happen to use space travel and the like to tell the story in a unique and sometimes more powerful way. Science fiction has served many novels and films well in this way. This year, it provides the backdrop for what is probably the best album of 2012, even though there's still over three months left in the year.
When i first heard Andrew Osenga was creating an album called "Leonard, The Lonely Astronaut", i laughed. It sounds silly, right? He was going to do a Kickstarter project to finance it, and if the project hit a high enough goal, he would build a spaceship and spacesuit and record the album within. It was strange and silly, but i liked his Letters to the Editor concept albums well enough that i figured, why not give him the chance?
I am so very glad i did. The project not only met all of its funding goals, but surpassed all hopes and expectations. By being a Kickstarter for the project, i was able to get this album many months before its wide release date. I would guess conservatively that i have listened to it 60 to 80 times since then. My twenty speculative dollars helped create a kick-ass album whose one paragraph review goes like this:
The production is great, the music is varied and beautiful, and the songwriting is absolutely stellar. I don't just mean that the lyrics of the individual songs are well-written; the album as a whole, as a unit is superbly crafted. Osenga has written some great songs here and there, enough to get my attention, but i had no idea he was capable of something as musically and lyrically impressive as this.
The story behind the songs is that of Leonard Belle a man in the future whose wife dies in a car accident while they are finalizing their divorce. Leonard decides to get away from it all, signing up for a solo trip on a space freighter at relativistic speeds. This means many months alone in the deep of space while 100 years passes on Earth. Literally leaving behind everyone and everything he knew forever, with nothing to do but play his music and face his issues for months. If you consider this backstory, the lyrics are intense and profound. But even if you don't, they are still full of depth, beauty, and challenge.
At the start of summer, i left a burned copy of Leonard in a car my sister-in-law borrowed for a few weeks. When she returned the car, she exclaimed, "What was that CD in you left in the car? I could not stop listening to it!" I know the feeling.
One last thing, i asked that sister, my wife, and daughter what their favorite songs were and read several early reviews by other people. No one agrees. Favorite tracks include: Tower of Babel, Firstborn Son, Ever and Always, It Was Not Good For Man To Be Alone, Beat of My Heart, We Never Said Goodbye, and Out of Time. That's 8 of the 12 full tracks (not counting the two beautiful, but brief instrumental tracks). Lately, i've gotta say that Shooting Star has really been growing on me. I think that makes 9 out of 12 favorites by different reviewers now. That diversity either means the whole album is terrible or the whole album is fantastic. Trust me, it's the latter.
You can, and should, buy Leonard here, as it provides the artists their best return on your purchase.