“I Was Going to Be an Astronaut” by Greg Laswell Review


Will’s take on “I Was Going to Be an Astronaut”

Greg Laswell‘s newest work, “I Was Going to Be an Astronaut,” is a catalog of reimagined songs. That is, ten of the eleven songs are credited as “2013 Remakes.” And that’s just what the album is – a remake. It features songs from his 2006 Vanguard-produced debut album, “Through Toledo,” to his 2010 release “Take a Bow.”

Greg Laswell performing in studio for 89.3 The Current in 2006.
Greg Laswell performing in studio for 89.3 The Current in 2006.

All of the songs feel quite stripped down, almost acoustic in a sense. According to Laswell’s label, he recorded the songs in a new way because he’d “been playing alternate versions of some of these songs at my shows over the past few years and every time people would come up afterwards and ask if there was ever going to be any recorded versions of those songs. It happened enough times that I decided to do it. Another reason for doing this is because when I slow down a song or sing it a different way than when originally recorded, the meaning tends to change.”

As for the album itself, I like the originals better. I have found that original releases of songs are almost always better than re-produced versions. There’s some kind of magic to a new song that a re-release just lacks. Laswell comes across as largely melancholy and, frankly, slightly boring. The majority of the tracks sound very similar, and there really is not anything that pushes Laswell musically. Also, any fan of any artist would much prefer to see an album that tests the water with new songs than old songs presented in new ways.

Key songs:

“I Don’t Believe It’s Through”

“Comes and Goes (In Waves)”

“How the Day Sounds”


2 stars for originality, 3 for musicality, so I’ll go with 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Greg Laswell

Micah’s take on “I Was Going to Be an Astronaut” 

Greg Laswell is original, I’ll give him that. He’s a SoCal singer-songwriter, but he’s a pianist, not a guitarist, with a voice that suggests a poorly-kempt beard rather than a well-maintained tan. More than that, his songs seem to capture – not as much through the writing, but through the warmth and introspection his recordings exude – a certain type of melancholy: knowing that you’re wrong and trying to move on, feeling somehow at once freed and more chained down than ever.

The problem is that this quickly resolves into a formula. You start to get the feeling that Laswell is comfortable with his niche – and why shouldn’t he be? The problem is that it’s not a niche that can sustain a whole artistic career.

On “I Was Going to Be an Astronaut,” the strongest cuts are, of course, the ones that break the formula. “How the Day Sounds” remains one of the best pop songs of recent years, and its minimalist reworking – just a scratchy, barely-played acoustic guitar and Laswell’s signature echo-chamber piano – somehow brings out the joy in it. “Comes and Goes (In Waves),” a song I didn’t have much affection for originally, redeems itself here – the arrangement change worked. “High and Low” is almost unchanged, but it remains utterly beautiful.

All three of these songs are recognizably Laswell’s, but they all diverge from the formula somehow: “How the Day Sounds” is upbeat, for once. “High and Low” luxuriates in solo piano. “Comes and Goes (In Waves)” has a strange drive to it that transcends the lethargy of the song itself – it’s almost like something Grizzly Bear would do.

Greg Laswell has a nice little sphere carved out for himself in the sensitive indie world. But it’s a small one. The sooner he realizes just how much more he can do, the sooner he’ll dazzle us.

Key songs:

“High and Low”

“How the Day Sounds”

“Comes and Goes (In Waves)”

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.