Hailing from Jersey Island in the U.K., Astral Cloud Ashes’ sole member Antony Walker channels math rock, third-wave emo, post-hardcore, prog, and shoegaze through shimmering and melodic alternative rock. His nasally vocals are filled with adolescent existential angst as he sings about technology-driven isolation (“just kicking back on Amazon, can I live like this remotely from my room?”), anxiety/depression (“how are so many neuroses on my lyric pad?”), Descartes, fluoride, crypto-currency, chem-trails, and big Pharma…you know pretty much all the big topics going through the mind of a suburban teenager questioning everything as he transitions into adulthood. One of the most charming elements of the lyrics is Walker’s self-awareness and willingness to break down the fourth-wall (“Apologies if this sounds deadpan, but you would not believe the backup plan I don’t have! This music is my lifeboat”). Musically, Dear Absentee Creator is both catchy and complex, with interlocking guitars and bass licks and enveloping atmospheres creeping in from the background, all played by Walker himself with a high level of technicality. Impressively, the multi-talented Walker also recorded the album himself, which sounds dynamic, polished, and spacious enough that the lush layers of instruments never feel muddied or crowded. Frankly this album probably would have changed my life if it existed when I was in high school, fitting snugly alongside other favorites Circa Survive, Dredg, Taking Back Sunday, and Oceansize, but even now it’s a great reminder that there’s an adolescent part of us that never completely leaves; forever questioning, exploring and maturing.