Monthly Archives: July 2012

Nutshell Album Review: Passion Pit – Gossamer

The three year wait is finally over for Michael Angelakos and company’s sophomore album Gossamer, and I can confidently say that Passion Pit is still doing just fine musically. After reports of terrible recording sessions and questions being risen about frontman Angelakos’ mental health, the band was still able to produce a seemingly flawless follow up to 2009’s Manners.

Gossamer is opened up by none other than the first single, “Take A Walk”, a story of pain and stress covered up by a beautiful sound. This song has gotten nothing short of the maximum amount of radio airplay possible, and it’s for good reason. No song on this album better encases Passion Pit’s music as a whole and serves as a better transition out of Manners. The second single and second track is “I’ll Be Alright”, a song that describes a lot of the troubles Angelakos suffered through during this album’s creation, while still taking into account the fast paced dance tracks the band became famous for on their Chunk of Change EP. Next is “Carried Away”, a song that instantly made it apparent that Passion Pit did nothing to change their notable sound. It’s a perfect song to come this early in the album, considering it’s just chock full of the powerful synth bass and danceable drum beats fans and critics alike came to know and love. The next track is the album’s third single, “Constant Conversations”. It is a significantly slower song than most things put out by the band, and it almost has an R&B feel. But there is still the usual vocals and synth sounds sprinkled on top to really make this a notable song. “Mirrored Sea” picks up the tempo and shows off Angelakos’ vocal skill with a dreamy musical backdrop.

“Cry Like A Ghost” is a song that is pulled right out of Angelakos’ life, telling the story of various things that directly attributed to the turmoil of creating this album. This track is also a perfect example of the band’s ability to make everything seem happy and exciting, no matter how truly terrible the message is. Next we have “On My Way”, a sound never really heard (or expected to be) on a Passion Pit record. It keeps the varying tempo of Gossamer at the slow side, and it is a truly breathtaking performance by the band as a whole. “Hideaway” is what follows, featuring a minute long intro of build up and sound effects. It turns into a pace building and heart pounding song with an inspirational sound that’s comparable to “Moth’s Wings” from Manners. “Two Veils To Hide My Face” is a thirty second a capella track used to lead in to “Love Is Greed”, a song written about Angelakos’ fiancée Kristy Mucci. It is completed with coffeehouse keyboard parts and a chorus that features melodies you could hear in a candy commercial.

“It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy” is a song very easily dissected from the title. It is the most powerful song on the entire album, but not necessarily by musical force or volume. The message paints such an unbelievable picture of alienation without hope of it ending. This may not be what is expected from a Passion Pit record, but this song is definitely one that stands out. The album is closed out with “Where We Belong”, a bass heavy track full of strings and phenomenal harmonizing.

Passion Pit was able to once again prove to the music world that they are on top of the indie scene. They changed up the game plan for their sophomore LP and it very clearly paid off. After trading in the high energy for a more emotional outcome, the band was able to come up with one of the biggest albums of 2012. Gossamer is easily a 96/100, and it is available now.

Gossamer Tracklisting:

  1. Take A Walk
  2. I’ll Be Alright
  3. Carried Away
  4. Constant Conversations
  5. Mirrored Sea
  6. Cry Like A Ghost
  7. On My Way
  8. Hideaway
  9. Two Veils To Hide My Face
  10. Love Is Greed
  11. It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy
  12. Where We Belong
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Nutshell Album Review: Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

Dirty Projectors fans were embracing after the two year wait ended for the Angel Deradoorian-less follow up to Bitte Orca and the seven song collaboration with Bjork, the Mount Wittenberg Orca EP. Reviews are calling Swing Lo Magellan new, different, innovative, heartfelt, and so on. After combing through the best 12 songs that came out of David Longstreth’s year of writing around 70 new songs (40 of which became recorded demos), I can do you a favor by encouraging you at the beginning of the review to listen to this album now.

Swing Lo Magellan starts with “Offsprings Are Blank”, which is such an all-over-the-place song that it’s hard to explain. Essentially, it goes from nearly a cappella to the grittiest early 90’s-style hard rock you could imagine. “About to Die” features stuttery drum beats, the cutest lyrics I’ve heard in a long time (“What would I do without you?”), and an impeccable bass groove that is eventually backed up by a string section. “Gun Has No Trigger” features one of the greatest vocal performances heard in recent history (especially by Longstreth). The title track “Swing Lo Magellan” has a 60’s folk-rock feel, with snare filled drum pattern and an upbeat riff played on acoustic guitar. “Just From Chevron” is an equally relaxing and generally fun song, featuring rhythmic clapping and lead vocals from most members of the band. It is an overall pretty song, and puts the album at a very positive place.

The tone set by Dirty Projectors is continued in “Dance For You”, which features a mid-song build up capped off by a relaxed and bluesy guitar solo that flows back into a final chorus. “Maybe That Was It” is a slower and more hard to follow song of the album, and after that is another song that sounds like it was plucked right out of a 60’s album. “Impregnable Question” is a very beautiful song and is one of the best tracks of the entire record.

“See What She Seeing” features a vocal performance that makes me instantly thing of Bob Dylan, and it also brings back the string section to give it a full and intimate sound. “The Socialites” checks you back in from whatever day dreams this album has induced with another phenomenal vocal performance by Amber Coffman and more in-depth drum beats. “Unto Caesar” is the track to check out on this album. The vocals, bass line, drums, and the general energy of this band are just too big to miss out on. The closer “Irresponsible Tune” (one of the best song titles ever) is a slow and heart felt song that is perfect to convey a message that says “Thank you very much, we’ll be back soon enough”.

Swing Lo Magellan is just a straight forward and good album. This is one of the shortest reviews written for Nutshell Music Group, but it was just too easy to explain it in a positive light. The now 10 year old Dirty Projectors have a reason to be proud of what coming out of their recording studio. 91/100, and available now.

Swing Lo Magellan Tracklisting:

  1. Offspring Are Blank
  2. About To Die
  3. Gun Has No Trigger
  4. Swing Lo Magellan
  5. Just From Chevron
  6. Dance For You
  7. Maybe That Was It
  8. Impregnable Question
  9. See What She Seeing
  10. The Socialites
  11. Unto Caesar
  12. Irresponsible Tune

Nutshell Album Review: Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Trouble

There is always a strong argument that is heard against the validity of any fads. Whether it’s a clothing style, musical genre, or form of entertainment, the nay-sayers are always sure to be loud about their opinions. That holds true with the ever-growing techno and dance scene in the music industry today, with some crying out that it takes less (if any) talent to create electronic music than other genres. Some of the Negative Nancy’s may go back on their word, however, once they feast their eyes (and ears) on Trouble. The debut album by English electronic artist Orlando Higginbottom, better known by his stage name Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, has been said to have some “true substance”Trouble, which was released last month, is definitely something special in the eyes of fans of DJ’s and indie bands alike.

The album is started with “Promises”, a dreamy undertone with bass heavy beats and tones reminiscent of a wooden xylophone mashed on top of it. There are also small additions of square bass and synths to fill out the sound. Higginbottom’s trance-inducing vocals take control during the title track “Trouble”, with a simplistic, yet effective beat. The trend continues in “Shimmer”, a nearly 5-minute track that includes hypnotizing loops that can’t be compared to anything except the song title itself. “Household Goods” is the follow-up track, which brings back the xylophone tones and laser noises heard earlier in the album, and add an arena-worth house drop with overpowering synths and rattling bass. “Your Love” continues the dance heavy first half of this album, with another strong emphasis put on Higginbottom’s calming voice. “You Need Me On My Own” changes the tone of the album, with a more indie feel and keyboard riffs comparable to the early work of Phoenix.

“Panpipes” has a tribal and experimental sound to say the least, with an odd but strangely attracting combination of loops and percussion. It is followed up by “Garden”, Trouble‘s second single and one of the notable tracks. The vocals on this track are 100% captivating, those of both Higginbottom and Luisa from Lulu and the Lampshades. The album is then taken over by the amusing “Solo”, a song with many aspects heard repeatedly throughout the album and one of the weaker vocal performances of the record. “Tapes & Money”, another favorite off of the album, has the power of most European club techno mixed with the innocence and relaxation put into a Chromeo album.

“American Dream Part II” is an instrumental made specifically to invoke turning up your speakers full blast and dancing like nobody is around. The song features heavy bass and loops, and it makes the one of the longest tracks of the album turn repetitive very quickly. “Closer” is what comes next, one of the mellower tracks of the album that never reaches an overwhelmingly powerful level. This is continued through “Fair”, an even quieter track that includes little more than a synth undertone with vocals on top. The album is closed out with “Stronger”, a song that makes me think of Chain Gang of 1974’s work on Wayward Fire. A synth bass is the basis of this song, with Higginbottom’s lulling vocals giving us one last hurrah.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaur’s debut album, Trouble, was nothing to overwhelmingly amazing. The album became simplistic and repetitive towards the end, which was really upsetting after a strong first half. But that strong first half, mixed with the unarguably spot-on vocals and sheer force of the album still keeps it at an 85/100. I hope that Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs continues on long past Trouble, but in the meantime you can pick it up today.

Trouble Tracklisting:

  1. Promises
  2. Trouble
  3. Shimmer
  4. Househould Goods
  5. Your Love
  6. You Need Me On My Own
  7. Panpipes
  8. Garden
  9. Solo
  10. Tapes & Money
  11. American Dream Part II
  12. Closer
  13. Fair
  14. Stronger

Nutshell Concert Review: Vampire Weekend – Pitchfork Music Festival 7/15/12

Photo: Tom Cruze – Chicago Sun-Times

After spending the last few weeks off, Nutshell decided to make a comeback with our first ever concert review. We chose one that would be easy to talk about, and that those of you in the Chicago area may have already heard about.

Vampire Weekend entered this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park backed up with only two performances this year (Pitchfork was the third, and is the final scheduled performance for them to date). Festival performances also seemed light years away for the quartet, with frontman Ezra Koenig saying it had been “a looooong time since [they’ve] played festivals” after they stepped onto the Green Stage on Sunday night. And how could they start the set with anything other than two-minute, fast paced Contra track “Cousins” to get the crowd amped up. The band fired through a 16-song set that was capped off with a 4-song encore. Heavily filled with songs from VW’s self-titled debut (the only track from Vampire Weekend that wasn’t featured was “Bryn”), the band looked in top shape, especially considering they’ve barely been on stage this year. The set hit all ends of Vampire Weekend’s spectrum, and it even included the heart-warming “I Think Ur a Contra” and created an amazing atmosphere to finish the show under the night sky. Koenig also promised to fans that after last night’s show, the band was on their way to finish their third studio album, with an untitled new track being played in the middle of the set. The encore was a 4-song backtrack to Vampire Weekend, with all four songs being oldies but goodies.

Vampire Weekend’s Pitchfork set was a solid jumping-off point for Nutshell Concert Reviews, with a great crowd and a set that used the vast majority of the band’s repertoire. The band (keyboardist and guitarist Rostam Batmanglij in particular) got everybody in the audience involved, being sure to keep them on top of all of the “oh”s, “ah”s, and “chah”s needed to make the songs sound spot on. This concert is given an A by Nutshell Music Group. And yes, it was worth braving the sun and 90+ degree heat to see this show up close.

Here’s the setlist for Vampire Weekend’s Pitchfork show, 7/15/12:

  1. Cousins
  2. White Sky
  3. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
  4. M79
  5. Run
  6. Holiday
  7. California English
  8. A-Punk
  9. Horchata
  10. I Stand Corrected
  11. I Think Ur a Contra
  12. Untitled New Song
  13. Diplomat’s Son
  14. Campus
  15. Oxford Comma
  16. Giving Up the Gun
Encore
  1. One (Blake’s Got a New Face)
  2. Mansard Roof
  3. The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance
  4. Walcott

Nutshell Album Review: Animal Kingdom – The Looking Away

 

This Summer is quickly shaping up to be one packed full of indie music, so packed that it may actually take away the oh-so unique sound of today’s musical innovators. A strand of the sounds of Summer 2012 is Animal Kingdom, a British trio who’s second LP The Looking Away (released back in May) gives us a taste of more than a handful of bands trying to make it in the era of digital music.

The album opens with “The Wave”, complete with dreamy, MGMT-style vocals layered on top of powerful (and sometimes tribal sounding) drum beats and keyboards. It sounds like a song to back up the opening credits of a movie, so it appropriately opens the album. “Get Away With It” is what follows, a higher paced, danceable song that is really a gem of this album. Another high point is the the third track “Strange Attractor”, a strong emphasis on vocal talent and songwriting alike.

A step back from the energy being built up is “Straw Man”, a slow piano song with alien-like accompaniment and the often heard droney vocals. “Skipping Disc” has a solid opening drum beat that leads you through an all-out journey. Animal Kingdom hits their stride and utilizes everything in their possession for this one. “Glass House” is the most energy put out on this album, but it is quickly marred by distracting sound effects and vocal mixings that make it seem like the British trio is trying a bit too hard to be an indie band.

“The Art of Tuning Out” brings back the sound effects and powerful drums, and add a sense of urgency that is all encased in the “start, stop” structure. “White Sparks” is a slower song of the album, and features some of the interesting instrumental sounds heard from Gotye’s most recent work. “Everything At Once” pulls out a strong guitar emphasis, which is continued on album closer “Alone Together”. This slowed down, beach rock sound is a great way to put a cap on this album and end it strongly.

Animal Kingdom is only two albums into their young music careers, and they are quite the promising trio. The Looking Away had many ups and downs, but was kept interesting. The inconsistencies were noticeable, and the push to have an unachieved sound was felt. But there were diamonds in the rough, most notably the rhythm section and songs like “Skipping Disc” and “Get Away With It”. Nutshell gives The Looking Away a 73/100, and it is available now.

The Looking Away Tracklisting:

1. The Wave
2. Get Away With It
3. Strange Attractor
4. Straw Man
5. Skipping Disc
6. Glass House
7. The Art of Tuning Out
8. White Sparks
9. Everything At Once
10. Alone Together

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