The characters given life by Slug on Atmosphere's new album have unenviable situations, but they're not all painting that shit gold. (Whatever that means.) Vagrants, single parents, and dope-addled fiends, they live, work, fuck, and wallow in their misery, giving the emotional indie rapper a chance to traffic in someone else's self-righteousness and self-loathing for a change. But the characters' issues and insights are never too far removed from Slug's own, and so the album feels just as personal as the duo's previous works, while showcasing a bit of artistic evolution.

Producer Ant, who was already at the top of his game on previous Atmosphere and Brother Ali efforts, has evolved as well, chopping up bass, guitar, and synth parts that were recorded under his direction. For these reasons, Gold feels less like the boilerplate, sample-driven indie-rap albums Atmosphere threatened to retire on, and more like a groundbreaking work. Though pock-marked by clichés and listless tracks such as "Guarantees" and "Like the Rest of Us," it nonetheless speaks of good things to come for the duo, provided it continues in this style. The deluxe edition also comes with a hardcover book that includes an illustrated children's story written by Slug. (It's actually for adults, in the McSweeney's vein.)

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