Album Review – “Atlas: Year II”

Image source: Wikipedia Commons

Today, I introduce to you Ryan O’Neal. These days, he is better known as his pseudonym, Sleeping At Last. Very few people have heard of him, but odds are you have definitely heard at least one of his songs before. He’s had songs appear in popular TV shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Ellen Degeneres Show,” “Criminal Minds,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “So You Think You Can Dance” and even “The Heirs,” a show that only airs on Korean TV. He’s also had pieces in movies, most notably “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part One” and the trailer of “The Fault in Our Stars. He also created the score for the documentary film “Many Beautiful Things.”

Sleeping At Last is one of the most successful, yet underappreciated, indie artists of this time. He most recently released his album entitled “Atlas: Year II. It consists of 25 songs and is a sequel to his first big album entitled “Atlas: Year I. It is the second to last installment of his ongoing “Atlas” project. 

“Atlas” is, in O’Neal’s words, “an ongoing series of music based on the origins of the universe and life within it.” While his first album, released in 2014, explores the origins of the universe – specifically darkness, light, space, land and oceans – his most recent album explores themes of life, senses, emotions, intelligence and the Enneagram of Personality. It was released this year.

Enneagrams are numbers tied to personality types.The types are:

  1. The Reformer: rational, purposeful, perfectionist
  2. The Helper: caring, demonstrative, generous
  3. The Achiever: success-oriented, image-conscious, excelling
  4. The Individualist: sensitive, expressive, dramatic
  5. The Investigator: intense, perceptive, innovative
  6. The Loyalist: committed, engaging, anxious
  7. The Enthusiast: fun-loving, spontaneous, scattered
  8. The Challenger: powerful, self-confident, decisive
  9. The Peacemaker: easygoing, receptive, reassuring

Sleeping At Last has nine songs out of 25 dedicated to these Enneagrams, named after their respective number. These songs are meant to touch listeners on a deeper level when they listen to the song that corresponds with their personality type. Sleeping At Last incorporates personality into these songs through percussion, acoustic instruments, choral arrangements and brass instruments. That makes a song like “Eight,” which consists of dramatic brass parts and confrontational lyrics, contrast sharply from “Nine,” which consists of a gentle choir and piano in the background and soft, curious lyrics.

The gap between Sleeping At Last’s first “Atlas” release and the second one is years, and it’s impressive how much he was able to get done in that time. Sleeping At Last is his own band. He isn’t part of a record label – he releases his own music. He does all the editing himself, plays his own instruments and writes his own songs. When you listen to his album, 99 percent of it is his own work – the other one percent consisting of a high school choir in “Nine” and some guest instrumentalists, though he did write their parts. For someone who works almost exclusively on his own, every work of his is a true masterpiece, shattering any expectations that may be set for him.

Jenna Hultgren

Jenna Hultgren is the page editor for Perspectives on The Hilltop Monitor. She is a sophomore majoring in English.

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