It’s fair to say that Dan Carney was not in the best of places. His last band, Dark Captain, had recently broken up, and he had released nothing as a solo artist since they had split. Inspiration was not forthcoming. He might have been thinking about that on a walk in Epping Forest, when he fell and badly broke his leg, destroying any chance of creating music for what could be months.
Instead, though, something else happened. Carney became inspired by the time spent doing nothing, the lack of anything to do. He began creating music which reflected his state of mind – reflective, yet not passive.
It’s that lack of passivity in Carney’s music which distinguishes it from other acoustic-based artists, from Ed Sheeran to Elliot Smith. It’s the latter which Carney’s music has receiver frequent comparisons to, but Carney’s music is in fact markedly different from Smith’s. Whereas Elliot Smith uses fairly basic instrumentation to create melodies which are heavily based around the vocal line, Carney uses a more diverse range of instrumentation and effects to create a slightly pacier tempo and slight more luscious texture. Carney’s vocals are also stronger, more defiant, perhaps as a result of a less gloomy lyrical outlook. In fact, Carney’s music is probably more similar to Sufjan Stevens’, which similarly flirts with horns and percussion but never loses its sense of introversion.
Nowhere within Astronauts’ catalogue is this successful balance espoused better than in Skydive. Though it is built on an acoustic patter of a melody, the intro builds on this by the addition of a firmer drum beat than is initially present and a soft yet insistent electronic organ line. By the time the song reaches its chorus, it is a near crescendo. But it is a near crescendo which never loses its melody.
All in all, then, perhaps that broken leg wasn’t so bad. It is a lesson in inactivity, how we can get often get so distracted in trying to achieve what we want to achieve that we spend little time thinking about what it is we are actually doing.