Monthly Archives: June 2012

Top Albums To Look Out For (Part II)

Due to feedback by readers, there is a need for a second installment of Nutshell’s top albums to watch for in the coming months. So here’s some albums you can look forward to, and (possibly) be hearing very soon.

Arctic Monkeys – The Sheffield quartet announced not long before the release of “R U Mine?” that they wouldn’t be returning to the studio until 2013 to record their fifth LP. Back in February was when Alex Turner confirmed that they were planning to hit the studio this Summer after they concluded their tour, rather than taking the year off. The Suck It And See tour concluded last week, so the Arctic Monkeys could be in the studio as we speak to record their fifth album, which is supposed to mirror the “dirty side” of Suck It And See.

Passion Pit (Gossamer, due out July 24th) – The three year wait for the follow-up to Manners is finally over, and with the release of “Take A Walk” and “I’ll Be Alright” (both of which are the exact same length) are leaving fans hoping for a phenomenal sophomore album.

Freelance Whales – Following up 2010’s debut Weathervanes will not be an easy challenge, but Freelance Whales is very vocal about embracing the second album jitters. All five band members have been involved in the writing process, and band member Jacob Hyman says it “rocks harder and better”. The band is pushing for a Summer release and an early Fall tour, so keep your eyes (and ears) opened.

Broken Bells – James Mercer and Danger Mouse have been raving about their second album since back in 2010, and after Mercer’s reinstatement of an indie king with The Shins’ Port of Morrow, it’s something people can really start talking about. There is already confirmation that the duo has songs in the works, and a few that are done. Mercer also told Billboard a few weeks back that Danger Mouse has been working with U2 in Dublin and The Shins are still touring, but once the dust settles a new Broken Bells record will be recorded, and may be out before Port of Morrow gets followed up by The Shins.

The Flaming Lips – When they aren’t off playing eight shows in a 24 hour period, The Flaming Lips actually have enough down time to put together an album. After debuting a new song on Thursday, frontman Wayne Coyne said that the band has been working on a new LP, and it will be out by the end of 2012.  

If you have any more suggestions of albums to keep your eyes peeled for, comment or tweet it! @NSMusicGroup

Lollapalooza Goes Hand in Hand With New Chicago Marijuana Laws

People tend to make a connection between outdoor music festivals and drug use. It’s something that happens, and little can be done to stop it. Those going to this year’s Lollapalooza festival in Chicago may be more likely to see why that conclusion is drawn, after passing of new legislation by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in regards to Marijuana laws.

Those who are found to possess 15 grams or less of marijuana will just be ticketed starting on August 4th, which is the halfway point of Chicago’s biggest music festival. The tickets range between $250 and $500 for first time offenders, and for those who are ticketed again in the next 30 days are automatically hit with a $500 fine. Mayor Emanuel stressed that this is NOT decriminalization, and is in fact intended to be a deterent. He says the point is to have more people punished by the law, while giving police officers more time on the streets and conserving space in Chicago prisons.

A word for the wise is that the new legislation only applies to possession. Those found smoking marijuana in public or caught possessing without a valid ID or under the age of 17 will still be eligible for prosecution.

Top Albums To Look Out For

There has been some recent buzzing and single circulation that has everyone all excited about new albums (some confirmed, others speculated). Here is Nutshell’s top albums to look out for in the upcoming months:

Beck – With the recent release of the “I Just Started Hating Some People Today/Blue Randy” single, Beck’s various projects seem to be coming full circle to scream “NEW ALBUM”. “Looking For A Sign” was another single released by Beck earlier this year, plus reports by country singer Dwight Yoakam and bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen that he’s been in the studio. Nothing official yet, but expect it soon.

Animal Collective (Centipede Hz, due out September 4th) – After spending the large part of their 2011 tour debuting new material, Animal Collective officially announced their tenth album this past May. The cover and tracklisting have both been released, along with the non-album “Honeycomb/Gotham” single. The now 13 year old band has really hit every end of the musical spectrum, so be excited to see what they’ve come up with.

Two Door Cinema Club (Beacon, due out September 4th) – Earlier this month, Two Door’s second album was announced, including all of the info seen here. The release video that included teaser tracks has all fans of the band excited for the follow up to the platinum-selling Tourist History. This is really helping set up September 4th as a pretty great day in music.

The Strokes – Not much to be said here, other than the fact that three of the five band members have released some form of information regarding the completion of their fifth album. No title or new singles yet, but the follow up to Angles will be something to look out for.

MGMT (MGMT, no release date) – MGMT’s third studio album has received a lot of press coverage, and most of it concludes that the band is in the studio with no solid evidence of new material yet. They have been playing a new song on their South American tour called “Alien Days”, and at one point confirmed that Andrew VanWyngarden had written a handful of R.E.M. inspired songs. No singles yet, but more will come soon enough.

Muse (The 2nd Law, due out September 17th) – Muse has spent the time between their Grammy winning fifth album The Resistance and its follow up album recreating their sound. An album trailer was released on their website on June 6th, along with a countdown clock that was later tied to the release date of The 2nd Law. The band cites groups like Justice and Does It Offend You, Yeah? as influences for the album, so a world of Muse fans will be excited to hear the new sound as soon as possible.

Phoenix – Another one with no large-scale information, Phoenix’s fifth studio album has been a generally well-contained secret. The only thing to show for the recording process are a few stills that have been posted on the band’s website and reports of a late Summer 2012 release. The current photo on the band’s site is the word “Thermidor”, a month from the French Republican Calendar that spans from July 19th to August 18th, so expect some new Phoenix music around then.

If you have any more suggestions of albums to keep your eyes peeled for, comment or tweet it! @NSMusicGroup

Nutshell Album Review: Stepdad – Wildlife Pop

In an enviornment that embraces weird song names, ridiculous album art, and music that helps you visualize LSD-style hallucinations, the Grand Rapids-based Stepdad is caught right in the middle after shipping off the two year old Ordinaire EP, complete with an angry lion/bear as a cover and songs with titles like “Wolf Slaying as a Hobby”. To make their debut LP Wildlife Pop even more enticing, the five-piece has been described as “8-bit power pop”, and listeners won’t be surprised to hear that they got their big break from writing a theme song to the popular web comic Axe Cop”. Backed with a Kickstarter funded album and a full ride to the 2012 Vans Warp Tour lineup, Stepdad is preparing themselves to become an indie sensation.

“Must Land Running” is what kicks off the album, a song that instantly takes me back to Lollapalooza 2010 when a younger version of me was dancing at the Budweiser Stage to indie three-piece band, Yeasayer. With keyboards and looped effects very reminiscent of Yeasayer’s Odd Blood, Stepdad is able to kick off Wildlife Pop with a bang. To follow is a track taken from the Ordinaire EP titled “Jungles”, which is a lot less dance worthy and could draw comparisons to M83’s Saturdays = Youth days. “Show Me Your Blood” is another one to back up those comparisons, along with an added touch of original loops and drum beats.

“Mystery In The Faking” is another track on this album with an original and exciting sound, sprinkled with squarebass and synth leads that would make the jaws drop of Passion Pit fans everywhere. “Will I Ever Dance Again” is a wildcard on the album, but is really the first taste of that “8-bit” I mentioned earlier. This song sounds like it could be the soundtrack of Rainbow Road on Mario Kart 64, and the foot tapping is inevitable. The “power pop” part from earlier enters in “To Ribbons”, a song full of great riffs, solos, and samples played by too many great instruments to list, all with a strong synth bass and drum part underneath. My answer to next track is “My Leather, My Fur, My Nails” is just “wow”. Not only does this song successfully make me think of nothing but Megaman, but it has such a catchy melody and great beat that people near me when I wrote this review started quietly dancing. “Pick & Choose” is a song so packed with obvious musical influence, I don’t even know where to start. So we’d both be better off if I did this the lazy way and just allowed to you listen to it and decide for yourself.

“Starfriends On Earth” is another one to cause the body to move unwillingly, but for good reason. This song has just about everything, my favorite aspect being the driving force of the snare drum leading the fast-paced tempo through this adventure of a song. “Treasure Hugs” opens with animal noises, which I was surprised took this long to be included. This song, along with “Exploring” had a large emphasis on a “start, stop” style, which was done well with a backup of nontraditional percussion and effects. The album closer “Warrior (Jungles Part II)” really closed the deal for me on this album by tying it up really nicely back with the beginning tracks.

Stepdad’s obscurity and quirkiness is something that had me skeptical at the beginning of this album, but I was pleasantly fooled. The vocals are reminiscent of many electropop to precede them and the sounds may blend together more than desired, but not much more could be asked of a generally new band. Besides, you aren’t doing too bad if there’s only one or two legitimate issues in your first LP. Wildlife Pop is a very well put together album that puts Stepdad at the top of my list of “Bands that will own the music business one day”. I’m expecting to see a lot of good things go their way, and the 2012 Vans Warped Tour is a pretty solid start. Wildlife Pop gets a 90/100, and I’d grab a copy now so you can tell all of your friends that you listened to Stepdad before they were famous.

Wildlife Pop Tracklisting:

  1. Must Land Running
  2. Jungles
  3. Show Me Your Blood
  4. Mystery In The Faking
  5. Will I Ever Dance Again
  6. To Ribbons
  7. My Leather, My Fur, My Nails
  8. Pick & Choose
  9. Starfriends On Earth
  10. Treasure Hugs
  11. Exploring
  12. Warrior (Jungles Part II)

Nutshell Album Review: The Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now

The Tallest Man on Earth (known in the real world as Kristian Matsson) returns for his third full length albumThere’s No Leaving Now. This is Matsson’s first slice of new music since his 2010 EP, Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird, and he has clearly spent the almost two year hiatus reinventing his sound.

I assure you that you can find the core attributes of The Tallest Man on Earth here. The Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie style vocals and the usual acoustic guitar with captivating power . But Matsson slowed down his sound drastically and threw us a curve ball with various layers of lesser heard accompaniment. “To Just Grow Away”  is the opener on the album, and it readily exposes listeners to the new sound. The song features multiple guitar tracks, along with an undertone of piano. There is a stronger emphasis on slower opening riffs than usual, seen also on second track “Revelation Blues”. This song brings back some aspects of Matsson’s earlier works, but still doesn’t reach the speed and urgency featured in The Wild Hunt. “Leading Me Now” is approached in such a relaxing manner, but the intricate designs of Matsson’s songwriting is still wildly apparent. It makes his desire to redesign his sound clear, and it also opens a door to really get you involved in this album.

“1904” is the first single off of There’s No Leaving Now for a reason; this is The Tallest Man on Earth at his finest. It is a perfect example of his gripping vocal melodies and guitar strumming that helped him build his fan based, again mixing with his desire to change his modern-folk style. The next track “Bright Lanterns” establishes more of a twang, and it brings this album a taste of more current country music while retaining Matsson’s throwback folk roots. It also works to establish a big part of the emotion put in to the writing of this album, which is backed up by the piano ballad and title track, “There’s No Leaving
Now”. The song paints a picture of entrapment and internal struggle. The result is crippling of all emotions, and leaves you wondering what Matsson is trying to escape.

“Wind And Walls” is what every fan of  The Tallest Man on Earth’s older sound was hoping for. It is as energetic as all of the albums preceding it, and Matsson straightforwardly embraces his more traditional sounding folk for the first time on this album. “Little Brother” has a similar effect, but again moves towards the changes made throughout There’s No Leaving Now. “Criminals” is a great example of Matsson’s songwriting and talent, with a nicely layered guitar part and lyrics that are full of great metaphors and historical references while still creating a legitimate story. The album is then anchored by “On Every Page”, a slower but confident song that nears five minutes.

Kristian Matsson’s musical identity The Tallest Man on Earth has played a significant part in putting modernized folk on the map in today’s music scene, while still keeping ties with his musical influences of more traditional folk music. There’s No Leaving Now is a stretch from his usual sound, however a generally solid album that holds the same value of songwriting nonetheless. It gets an 84/100, and you can get it now.

There’s No Leaving Now Tracklisting:

  1. To Just Grow Away
  2. Revelation Blues
  3. Leading Me Now
  4. 1904
  5. Bright Lanterns
  6. There’s No Leaving Now
  7. Wind And Walls
  8. Little Brother
  9. Criminals
  10. On Every Page

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Throughout the last few days, details on Two Door Cinema Club’s new sophomore album Beacon have been released through the band’s website and Twitter account. The excitement has reached such levels that #tdccbeacon became a trending topic on Twitter, and this video that gave out the initial release date has hit over 27,000 views on YouTube. Based on the teaser tracks available, this album is going to make all Two Door Cinema Club lovers rejoice due to the band’s retaining of the same musical independence from their platinum debut album Tourist History. The album is due out September 3rd (September 4th for U.S.A./Canada), and the tracklisting is as follows:

1. Next Year
2. Handshake
3. Wake Up
4. Sun
5. Someday
6. Sleep Alone
7. The World Is Watching (with Valentina)
8. Settle
9. Spring
10. Pyramid
11. Beacon

Nutshell Album Review: Jukebox the Ghost – Safe Travels

First off, can we celebrate this site’s first review of a non-self-titled album? Good.

Now the reason your reading this, which is Jukebox the Ghost and the third installment of their discography, Safe Travels. 

Jukebox is not screwing around here, and they go right for the jugular with their usual “I’m walking down the street about to start an amazingly happy adventure” sound. The first song on the album, titled “Somebody”, features keyboardist Ben Thornewell on lead vocals describing his wants and needs (He literally says “I want it, I need it” over and over in the song). It truly is a great song to get any listener ready to go for this album. “Oh, Emily” takes over with a similar template, not including the switching out of Thornewell for Tommy Siegel on lead vocals. The indie vibe is very strongly embraced with a drum beat full of quick tempo stick clicks and a keyboard heavy opening and verse. “At Last” is what follows, and it’s frankly just adorable. A good old fashioned coffee house style piano riff leads us into a song that taps all musical bases. Jukebox was able to successfully utilize the string section and tambourine for this song, something that hasn’t been done this well since fun.’s first album, Aim and Ignite. After “At Last” comes the (as always) exciting and upbeat “Say When”, which basically makes Tommy Siegel seem like the most compassionate and caring person in the world. This is a perfect point for me to mention that the amount of energy created by these three people is incredible, mainly because this song is a perfect example. “Don’t Let Me Fall Behind” is one of the gems of this album, featuring both Thornewell and Siegel heavily on vocals (and maybe even Jesse Kristin). The band makes it apparent that they are a rock band with this song, with a large emphasis on guitar and drums.

The album then takes a sharp turn with the song “Dead”, which poses the question of “If you’re dead, how do you know if
you are really dead?” Jukebox the Ghost’s usual high pace is severely slowed down with this song, which was clearly influenced by some outside personal experiences. Whatever the song lost from the band’s traditional sound is gained by sheer force and passion.

The pace is quickly picked back up with “Adulthood”, the anthem for any kid at heart who wishes to have their youth back. “Ghosts in Empty Houses” adds a large synth organ part to the opening to continue the energy and excitement, along with Siegel proclaiming that these guys are going to continue enjoying life until after they’re dead. I don’t care if it doesn’t make any sense, because it’s the most uplifting thing I’ve ever heard. The slowed down pace and passion from “Dead”, along with the string section from “At Last”, is brought back for “Devils On Our Side”, this time with Ben Thornewell back on lead vocals. With a transition so smooth I had to triple take to notice the song changed, “Devils On Our Side” leads into “All For Love”. The coffee house piano riffs are welcomed back, along with a huge explosion of musical influences in the middle, where everything from Queen and The Beatles to fun. is audible. The two minute acoustic love song “Man In The Moon” is what follows, a story of a lovesick Tommy Siegel trying to figure out if the person he is drawn to has moved on. It can only be described as the cutest thing in the world, and anyone who hears this song may shed a tear or two. The pace is then picked up once again in the song “Everybody Knows”. Another one about a lovesick singer, this time regretting his decision to leave his ex-lover. The album is closed out on a high note with  “The Spiritual”. Frankly there is no better title for this hymn-like song, complete with church style harmonies and a nice stomp, clap rhythm. Thornewill pulls out all the stops with his vocal range in this song, completing it with a solid piano part and powerful drums.

Jukebox the Ghost pulled out all of the stops for Safe Travels, and the hard work clearly paid off. I’ve never seen an album that was so well put together and diverse. It was an emotional journey to say the least, and an album with this many stories to tell deserves a round of applause. It’s a shame that it took heartbreak, death, and a way too early midlife crisis, but Safe Travels gets a 94/100, and it is available now.

Safe Travels Tracklisting:

  1. Somebody
  2. Oh, Emily
  3. At Last
  4. Say When
  5. Don’t Let Me Fall Behind
  6. Dead
  7. Adulthood
  8. Ghosts In Empty Houses
  9. Devils On Our Side
  10. All For Love
  11. Man In The Moon
  12. Everybody Knows
  13. The Spiritual

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A special thanks to new creative arts and artistic design director John Spiller for designing the new Nutshell Music Group logo:

Nutshell Album Review: The Temper Trap – The Temper Trap

Despite the blatant lack of creativity in the naming of this album (isn’t your FIRST album supposed to be the self titled one?), The Temper Trap’s sophomore effort is worth noting. They came back with something fresh and new, while still being noticeable as that little known quartet from back in 2009. When I say new, is that the opinion of someone who never moved passed the “Sweet Disposition” bandwagon? Maybe. Is it the opinion of someone who never really got a taste of Conditions, even three years after the fact? That’s unimportant. What is important is that the now FIVE piece band (after the official addition of Joseph Greer) comes back with a powerful-sounding second album that proves they can do more than “Sweet Disposition”. In fact, they kick that idea in the teeth and say “So long!” to those hoping for more high harmonies and delay effects.

The album starts with “Need Your Love”, which has gotten radio airplay everywhere INCLUDING under a rock. But it’s well deserved, and The Temper Trap could not have picked a better single to lead this album past the success of Conditions. After that is “London’s Burning”, a song chock full of British people in distress, Black Keys style guitar riffs, and Dougy Mandagi screaming his
head off backed by four more yelling musicians. Oh and is that a bass wobble? It is. It is a bass wobble. Then comes “Trembling Hands” to show that Mandagi still has his golden pipes and that the band can still sound heavenly. This song can’t be described any way except for beautiful. This continues through “The Sea Is Calling”, which may or may not be about Mandagi’s feelings on the band’s home country, and “Miracle”, a song complete with a lot of keyboard and fantastic harmonies. But they’re low harmonies, so I stand by what I said earlier. “This Isn’t Happiness” takes us back to the teeth kicking with a powerful bass line, fast drum beats, and even a wah pedal. “Where Do We Go From Here” brings back the fun synth bass we heard earlier in the album, and brings a sound to the table you could easily attribute to Young The Giant. “Never Again” and “Dreams” continue the sounds established early in the album, but keep it on the mellow side. “Rabbit Hole” breaks out the acoustic guitar and shows of Mandagi’s vocal skills once again, along with the strength of Toby Dundas’ bass drum foot. Halfway through the song explodes with a raw power never seen from them before. The album closes out on a more relaxing note with “I’m Gonna Wait” and the piano influenced “Leaving Heartbreak Hotel”. But don’t worry my friends, the album’s finale hits all aspects of The Temper Trap right on the head. Really a great jumping off point for another new album.

The Temper Trap are no strangers to knowing what it feels like to make it big with your first album. They’re also no strangers to knowing what it feels like to be pressured to produce a second album that is even better. They blew that idea right out of the water, and they’ll have fun trying to put something together that’s better than this. 91/100, and it’s available now.

The Temper Trap Tracklisting:

  1. Need Your Love
  2. London’s Burning
  3. Trembling Hands
  4. The Sea Is Calling
  5. Miracle
  6. This Isn’t Happiness
  7. Where Do We Go From Here
  8. Never Again
  9. Dreams
  10. Rabbit Hole
  11. I’m Gonna Wait
  12. Leaving Heartbreak Hotel
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