Monthly Archives: October 2012

Watch “Lollapalooza 2012 The Mudventure” by Alderman Media

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Nutshell Concert Review: Circa Survive’s Violent Waves Tour- The Vic 10/20/12

Defiant drums keep the beat while feet march with determination to reach their destination- Independence.

Both bass and guitar play off each other’s strengths to form an unstoppable force of motivation for anyone who happens to listen. Active lyrics delivered with just the amount of angst to really hit home. Circa Survive has done it again, challenging their listeners to infuse art with issues, music with urgency.

Circa Survive released its fourth album on Aug. 28 with much anticipation that it did not disappoint. This album is definitely a figurative and literal journey for the band, being self-produced for the first time of its career. Circa also toured with progressive-alternative rock bands O’Brother, Balance And Composure and Touché Amore from Sept. 13 until Oct. 26, showing their extreme versatility both in musical outreach and performance bravado.

The Violent Waves tour stormed Chicago’s Vic Theatre on Oct. 20, a quaint venue for such powerful acts. O’Brother, natives of Atlanta, opened the gig with their captivatingly eerie tracks off of their latest album, Garden Window. Their set left the crowd with a bone-chilling enthusiasm that propelled the suspense of the headlining act a sort of ecstasy.

Following O’Brother were bands Balance And Composure and Touché Amore, upping the anticipation and driving the crowd, to put it simply, insane.

Touché Amore’s set was 20 songs too long, especially knowing that Circa Survive was so close… yet so far away. Although their stage presence was a force to be reckoned with, their set seemed to be composed of the same song set on repeat.

Circa Survive’s diversity within the tour was noble, but seemed to come up short. With Touché Amore off the stage, the static in the air grew thicker as the headlining band was preparing to put on a show that would leave its audience speechless.

Songs played off of “Juturna,” “On Letting Go, andBlue Sky Noise”, although extremely rich and layered, seemed to be in a state of stasis in comparison to their newest gift to the world of alternative music.

With Violent Wave’s opener, “Birth of the Economic Hitman,” and second track, “Sharp Practice,” the urgent concept of action is undeniable and finite. Front man Anthony Green stole the entire show, hands down. By the first song on the list, Green was in the crowd, making sure his enchanting energy was spread. A thrilling stage presence was met with incredible vocals and a full-bodied sound from the entire band.

Moments in “Living Together,” when Green would stop singing and the crowd would fill the words for him, when confetti rained down from each balcony, when you literally found yourself at one with the sound, in a trance- that was when it was clear that this tour and album was a wave of triumph for both fans and the band.

During the middle of Circa’s set, Green paused the show and had to walk off the stage. Between chants of, “We love you Anthony,” and “We want Circa!” It was announced that Anthony was ill and needed a few minutes to regain his bearings.

Finishing the show and even coming back out for an encore performance of, “Get Out,” Green showed a true passion for his work. Even apologizing to the audience, Green said, “I always have said never let the crowd know. If you’re tired, if you’re sick, never let it show. But I have to tell you guys tonight. And I’m sorry.”

Green found out later that night that he in fact had a broken rib and Circa decided to drop out of their show in Michigan the following day. Despite this upset, Circa’s performance at the Vic was nothing less than unforgettable.

Traditionally, the concept of “violent waves,” is alone, very particular for each listener. Explicitly admitting there are relationships like hurricanes, destructive careers and overly aggressive political stances shows immense growth in what Circa Survive is ultimately trying to explain­­- the power to move on to better times.

Circa Survive produces a true work of art, both out of the album and through the tracks, and at their shows. Picking up a copy of the self-produced 11-track piece is not only worth the buy, but also worth the many plays to come.

Here’s the setlist from Circa Survive’s Vic performance, 10/20/12:

  1. Act Appalled
  2. Birth of the Economic Hit Man
  3. In the Morning and Amazing…
  4. Suitcase
  5. Sharp Practice
  6. We’re All Thieves
  7. Glass Arrows
  8. Living Together
  9. Through the Desert Alone
  10. In Fear and Faith
  11. The Difference Between Medicine and Poison Is in the Dose
  12. Get Out

Rating: A-

Nutshell Album Review: Freelance Whales – Diluvia

Back in June we reported that Freelance Whales was working on an album set for a late Summer release, and lo and behold, we are blessed with the group’s second LP Diluvia, the follow-up to 2010’s Weathervanes. The writing of this album was approached from a different level, with all band members contributing to writing and an overall new sound. There is some “Generator”-ey feel thrown in to fill in the blanks, but Freelance Whales steps into a new setting, like when Kurt Angle left the WWE and went to TNA (what?). Diluvia turns out as something interesting, and it’s definitely one that will catch your attention.

The album opens up with “Aeolus”, a song that is unpronounceable,  and has a large taste of the interlude-like dream sequence songs heard on Weathervanes. It instantly gives the album an inappropriately Summery sound with music-festival-hill-sitting potential. The next song is “Land Features”, a peppy one with stuttery drum beats and skillful harmonies. This one also puts a large emphasis on synthy keyboards and a horn section that will make more than one appearance on the album. “Follow Through” is what follows, a much slower song with almost club-like bass beats and a pop ballad refrain. Even though this one strays from the usual Freelance Whales sound, it’s definitely a nice one to check out.

When we’re on the subject of the usual Freelance Whales sound, it’s only fitting that the next song, “Spitting Image” is almost definitely a rewrite of a song that didn’t make their 2010 debut. The song puts forth more energy than usual, and features the “ooo”s and “ahh”s fans are used to, along with lead vocals from Doris Cellar. “Locked Out” is another far cry from what was expected of Diluvia, but it is also another one that is a must for listeners of this album. It is followed by “Dig Into Waves”, a song reminiscent of The Temper Trap and the poppier side of AWOLNATION. It brings back the synths from earlier and tosses in a very upbeat drum part to fill it with energy. “Red Star” is the next track, a five minute, quiet opening build-up that climaxes with the return of the horn section (more like the best band name ever).

“Winter Seeds” brings in a large assortment of instruments to help the five-piece return to that taunting sitting-on-a-hill-at-a-music-festival sound. This is one of the best mediums between the general sounds of their two albums to date, and the medium is beautiful. And don’t worry, festival season will be here soon enough. Next up is “The Nothing”, an overall wonderful vocal performance by Judah Dadone, along with spot on, note-for-note keyboard overdubbing. The album then comes to a close with the almost eight minute “DNA Bank”, a very relaxing, generally pretty, and well-prepared sandwich of everything on this album, and “Emergence Exit”, another slow starter that caps off on an energetic note.

Freelance Whales is not a name that currently rings bells with many people, but they are definitely a band that has done their fair share of the whole “having your music be on everything you can possibly get it on” thing. On top of that, they are one of the solid, new indie folk bands that would privilege the music world by sticking around for a few more albums. Their change of sound from Weathervanes to Diluvia was plain ballsy, but they made it work for themselves and everyone involved by creating a weird, pseudo techno folk thing. The unique approach to the modern folk sound not only earns their drummer, Jacob Hyman, Nutshell’s “Awesomely Creative Drum Beat Award” that was just now made up, but it also gets Freelance Whales an 87/100 for Diluvia. Now stop reading and go get it. I mean honestly, who reads?

Diluvia Tracklisting:

  1. Aeolus
  2. Land Features
  3. Follow Through
  4. Spitting Image
  5. Locked Out
  6. Dig Into Waves
  7. Red Star
  8. Winter Seeds
  9. The Nothing
  10. DNA Bank
  11. Emergence Exit

Nutshell Album Review: Muse – The 2nd Law

Well Muse was just the talk of the town as anticipation for The 2nd Law rose, and the UK trio’s sixth studio album has been the subject of a lot of confusion and mixed reactions up to this point. An album that was half-promised to be “christian gangsta rap jazz odyssey, with some ambient rebellious dubstep and face-melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia” by frontman Matt Bellamy had fans scrambling for something to depend on (which came in the form of the dubstep-riddled album trailer). The wait finally concluded on September 28th when The 2nd Law was officially released, and the questions were all left unanswered and fans had even more forming. It was kind of like the last episode of LOST, except not quite as weird. An adventure indeed, the band stepped way outside of their comfort zone (along with that of their fans) to put out one of the highly anticipated albums of 2012, and maybe even the current musical generation.

The album opens with “Supremacy”, the string section and gritty bass that every Muse fan came to love back in the Absolution era, except with a fresh new twist. The song breaks up into a drumline-style sequence of snare rolls that leave your ear drums enough focus to bask in the glory that is Bellamy’s voice. He wastes no time hitting the high notes and throwing in the acidic guitar solo, only to transition into the album’s big radio hit “Madness”. With a wobbling bass and “Undisclosed Desires” type drum beats, the song is easily one of the most subtle and groovy tracks of the album. Also, give it Nutshell’s vote for “Most Awesome Muse Solo Ever”. “Panic Station” is the next track, and wow. This song sounds like it has been ripped from a late 80’s dance floor soundtrack, but there is no doubt that Muse would have been hit makers if that was the case. A horn section makes an appearance here, along with Bellamy hilariously counting up and letting out a Michael Jackson-style “ooo!” before exploding into the solo. After the minute long “Prelude” comes 2012 Olympic theme “Survival”, which is impossible to get through without thinking about Queen. The ability to go from low-key piano ballad to arena rock hit, and then tie it all together is hard to find. HOLY COW DID THEY FIND IT. Even though this track has garnered sarcastic attention from the likes of the never-biased Pitchfork, it’s definitely one that deserves a listen.

Next comes “Follow Me”, a slower song that sounds like a possible outtake from The Resistance, until the skeptical cry for EDM and dubstep is met in the chorus. This is by no means a full-on drop, but it has a very club-worthy aspect nonetheless. “Animals” is a song that honestly has nothing extraordinary to offer, other than the return of “Bliss”-like electric piano riffs. “Explorers” opens up in a very lovey-dovey and entrancing manner. With a captivating piano performance and exceptional vocals by Bellamy, what opens up as a pop odyssey eventually breaks into a more jammy (but equally upbeat) song. And if you had an urge to hear sleigh bells on this album, skip to this song. There are actually sleigh bells. “Big Freeze” has a U2-style feel with delay effects and quick strum patterns on guitar and bass alike. Another excellent vocal performance, along with a heavier and very Musey chorus. “Save Me” is a song that was written and sung by bassist Chris Wolstenholme. Another one that hits the slow side of the band, and a very confusing lead into the second song to feature writing and lead vocals by Wolstenholme, called “Liquid State”. A much harder performance than most of this album, and one that is very reminiscent of “Hysteria”. The kings of the two-part song then close out the album with “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable”, the song from the album trailer and the infamous dubstep track that got the anticipation started, and “The 2nd Law: Isolated System”, another very dance-influenced track with very little to be considered vocals.

Muse turned the tables on this album to say the least. The ad campaign was successful enough to get everyone on their toes about what to expect from the band. The 2nd Law hit a lot of ends of the musical spectrum that most critics wouldn’t expect the trio to go anywhere near, even at this time last year. Muse may have strayed a bit too far from their usual genre, which they have proved is something that they can do very well. With a finished product that hasn’t gotten a collective opinion from the music community, or even the seal of approval from Bellamy himself has many people wondering (and hoping) if the next Muse album will be even bigger and better. For the time being, there is still a world tour and a truly colossal-sounding album to deal with. The 2nd Law gets a very confused 88/100, and you can get it now.

The 2nd Law Tracklisting:

  1. Supremacy
  2. Madness
  3. Panic Station
  4. Prelude
  5. Survival
  6. Follow Me
  7. Animals
  8. Explorers
  9. Big Freeze
  10. Save Me
  11. Liquid State
  12. The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
  13. The 2nd Law: Isolated System

Nutshell Concert Review: Stepdad – Beat Kitchen 10/13/12

After spending the Summer traveling with the Vans Warped Tour, Nutshell favorite Stepdad went back to playing intimate shows, with the final stop being at Chicago’s Beat Kitchen. It was hard to budget spending a WHOLE 12 DOLLARS, but it got us up close and personal with the band, bantering with them as they set up on stage and exchanging high fives and hugs after the show. The venue was perfect to house the atmosphere of a Stepdad show, and there was an added bonus of the friendly weirdness of The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt! and the unbelievable quirkiness of Rich Aucoin to open up the show. Both acts provided a pleasant surprise, and being buried underneath tarps (twice) to dance and sing with the two rising artists well exceeded the expectations of the show on its own, and by the end of Aucoin’s set everyone had done their fair share of sweating and spastic jumping. But come 9:30, the heat and energy collaborated at the foot of the stage when the first hints of Stepdad’s “Treasure Hugs” blared through the speakers.

Rich Aucoin

They powered through a ten song set that lasted about an hour, covering material from both the Ordinaire EP and Wildlife Pop. The stage presence was priceless, with frontman Ultramark shuffling around in gold tights and a purple and gold cape/hat combo that he told us was given to him just before the show. The set was loud and powerful, with all members of the band smashing buttons on a Novation Launchpad to recreate the band’s notable vocal loops, along with drummer Jeremy Malvin breaking pair after pair of drum sticks. The music was spot on with the band being chatty and engaging in the short gaps following songs. Between sips of the PBR’s on stage, the band openly spoke of things that usually concluded with Ultramark being called “sexy”. Both the crowd and the two supporting acts were thanked by Stepdad as the show and tour came to a close, and the set ended with Ryan McCarthy saying, “This is going to be our last song. If you can’t guess what it is, then you don’t know us very well.” The band then exploded into an entrancing rendition of “My Leather, My Fur, My Nails” while the crowd erupted into a frenzy of dancing and moshing as confetti rained upon them. They then wasted no time exiting the stage, only to go out and mingle with the many fans congregating at the merchandise table.

Stepdad was a band that instantly caught the attention of Nutshell back in June with the release of Wildlife Pop. They’ve been on our radar ever since, and to catch them at a live performance was an interesting experience to say the least. It’s impossible to say whether or not their Beat Kitchen set was their most impressive to date, but what is possible to say is that Stepdad ended their tour on a nearly perfect note. They get an A for this show, no questions asked. And the question has to be asked (very hopefully): does the touring hiatus mean a new album is to come?

Here’s the setlist from Stepdad’s Beat Kitchen set, 10/13/12:

  1. Treasure Hugs
  2. Magic Stones
  3. Must Land Running
  4. Wolf Slaying As A Hobby
  5. Pick and Choose
  6. Will I Ever Dance Again
  7. Exploring
  8. Warrior
  9. Jungles
  10. My Leather, My Fur, My Nails

Nutshell Album Review: Turbo Fruits – Butter

After helping the music world make the astounding realization that more garage rock bands exist than The Strokes and The White Stripes, Turbo Fruits puts out their third album Butter, the follow up to 2009’s Echo Kid. This Nashville 4-piece isn’t one of the biggest names in the music industry, but they are also nothing to scoff at. In a world where power-synth bands like Foster the People break into the “Rock” Charts, Turbo Fruits keeps holding instruments with strings on them and putting out solid songs, while putting together one of the best album covers ever.

“Where the Stars Don’t Shine” opens up with a 1990’s wrestling theme song feel, but quickly turns into a guitar solo and wah pedal influenced song with raw, Dan Auerbach style vocals. The track is also able to successfully flip flop between musical interludes and catchy, somewhat 70’s feeling verses. “Gamble Tamble” is the second track, opening with a beachy, finger-strummed riff that breaks into a cloud of distortion in some sort of denim-jacket-wearing masterpiece. It features some incredible and punky guitar solos (The Orwells, anyone?) and a loud and powerful bass line. “Don’t Like to Fight” tosses a reverb on Jonas Stein’s vocals and adds in a 4-chord chorus to make it a simplistic, but legitimate punk song. It sounds like anything that could easily be a deep cut of (insert any 80’s high school, anti-establishment band here). “Harley Dollar Bill$” sounds like straight-up Nashville rock, with a very easy comparison to JEFF The Brotherhood. With a Pixies-style guitar riff and drum breaks, this track shapes up to be a solid one. Next is “Sweet Thang”, a song that honestly sounds like it has no place on this album. A beautiful and poppy love song that is truly one of this album’s gems. The best description for this would be Cage the Elephant trying to write an homage to “Ark Angel” and striking gold.

“10 Years” opens up with one strum chords and a drum roll, and dives into another very Nashville-sounding song. Again with the guitar solos and the overpowering bass, this track solidifies the core sound of this album. “Catch & Release” goes back to the beachy sound and comes off as just a very pretty song. Stein’s vocals are impressive, along with the syncing of the lead guitar track to the melody of the vocals. “Colt 45” is another strong one of the album, with a Real Estate take on the usual garage rock feel. “Gotta Get Along” is another one that seems to be an unnatural fit to the album, but it also officially draws the line down the center of the record where Turbo Fruits completely changed genres. In a somewhat jarring way, the quartet goes from garage punk to lovely beach rock without anyone really noticing. Butter then closes out with “She Said Hello”, another very upbeat song with great vocal harmonies and key changes, and “Ain’t the Only One Havin’ Fun”, a groovy, jamming song with gritty vocals, loud drums, and a trippy, Zeppelin breakdown. It shifts the album back to dirty garage rock in one song, and caps off the album with a bang.

Turbo Fruits are great in theory based on their loyalty to rock influences and guitar noise. In today’s music scene, it takes a lot of gall to try to recreate an old sound and the band deserves a lot of respect for that. Butter is a two part album that is one part crowd surfing rock and one part “let’s go surfing today!”. An overall good venture, and one that calls for a request for more. Butter takes an 82/100 and is available now.

Butter Tracklisting:

  1. Where the Stars Don’t Shine
  2. Gamble Tamble
  3. Don’t Like to Fight
  4. Harley Dollar Bill$
  5. Sweet Thang
  6. 10 Years
  7. Catch & Release
  8. Colt 45
  9. Gotta Get Along
  10. She Said Hello
  11. Ain’t the Only One Havin’ Fun

Nutshell Album Review – Matt & Kim – Lightning

What many people tend to not realize about Matt & Kim (besides the fact that they aren’t married, dating, or even brother and sister) is that they are now pushing ten years old (coming up on their eighth) and are now into their fourth album. But when dealing with, what many YouTube playlists call, the indie band that everyone wishes they discovered, you are dealing with underground superstars that tend to hit the spotlight for all of 20 minutes before calmly slipping back into the shadows, only to wow people two years later for another annoyingly short period of time. This is a band that pushes the envelope and also manages to do it on their own, while remaining one of the most fun and sometimes painfully happy bands out there. This, of course, is meant in a complimenting manner, and it’s also important to let you know right now that Lightning is not only brilliant, but it’s also sure to keep these two important for at least 21 minutes.

The album opens up with the single “Let’s Go”, featuring an unquestionably catchy drum beat and the return of the piano and subtle synths from Sidewalks. Toss in the melodic “ooo’s” and Matt Johnson screaming out “hey” and “let’s go!” in the background, and you already have a gem. “Now” is what follows, opening up with Grand style bass drum and snare combos along with Johnson’s notable half-talking vocals. Then the song does this magical thing where it drops like a dubstep song. The even better part is the drop stays poppy, which may or may not be extremely contradictory. After a breakdown and another explosion into the chorus, this song ends up being the most positive surprise you could want from this album. “It’s Alright” opens up with the horns and clapping fans came to know and love, and tosses in bells and great vocals to round this out as a wonderful song. “Not That Bad” is one of the album’s slower and more thought out songs, but it is incredibly fine tuned. It has a fraction of the instruments present in most of the songs on this record, but it ends up sounding just as complete and full.

“Overexposed” has a powerful synth lead intro with a powerful drum core, and it has an interesting take on the “start, stop” technique with nearly all instruments periodically dropping out, leaving only Johnson’s vocals with the lead. “I Said” features a dribble bass and a stuttery lead part, and it ends up being one of the more electronic-sounding songs. But don’t fret, there’s still a piano-only part. “Tonight” has a very apparent dancefloor sound, even one that is a little more than Matt & Kim fans are used to. Complete with claps and the band’s usual homage to New York, this is a very upbeat track that is a big one on the album. “I Wonder” is a song that contemplates what you would do with a second chance, all while the duo creatively puts a groove on their usual sound. The album closes out with “Much Too Late”, a speedy track that shows of Matt & Kim at their finest, with the unbelievable drums and synths people have come to expect, and “Ten Dollars I Found”. Not only is this a play on one of the best ways to end a poorly told story (“…and then I found ten dollars.”), but it is also a beautiful, 2 minute ballad that features the two members on harmonized vocals.

As touched upon earlier, Lightning may be the album that pulls Matt & Kim into the limelight and then barricades them in. Handling all aspects of today’s pop music, indie music, and a little bit of dance music (still in awe of the drop on “Now”), the Brooklyn duo threw together something new and special that also manages to keep grasping their well-established sound. Against the view of the reviewing community, Nutshell gives  Lightning a commanding 98/100. Somebody please give us something bad to review, we are running out of numbers that start with 9.

Lightning Tracklisting:

  1. Let’s Go
  2. Now
  3. It’s Alright
  4. Not That Bad
  5. Overexposed
  6. I Said
  7. Tonight
  8. I Wonder
  9. Much Too Late
  10. Ten Dollars I Found

Nutshell Album Review: Green Day – ¡Uno!

It’s easy to admit that it was hard to decide whether or not this album would be reviewed. After putting out their eigth album 21st Century Breakdown and receiving the much-deserved response of “ehh”, modern punk kings Green Day managed to toss out two live albums, a singles compilation, a Rock Band game, and a Tony/Grammy award winning musical before coming out with the idea for ¡Uno!¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!. Now set to kick out a total of three albums between September and January, Green Day starts off with the proudly punk sounding ¡Uno!.

Starting with “Nuclear Family”, the now official quartet (with the addition of touring guitarist Jason White) sounds like they did at their best. Even though it’s hard to believe that anything called Dookie could be impressive, that album was the high point for Green Day’s career and they have very intelligently inched back towards that sound. “Stay the Night” is full of all the F-bombs and catchy hooks you could hope for, and goes back to the palm muting and loud bass grooves Green Day fans fell in love with. “Carpe Diem” has a solid power pop opening with a mastery of the “stop, start” songwriting technique. The band is also able to show their incredible gift for syncing up drum rhythms with vocals in this song, coming up with an overall catchy song. Next is a must hear from this album, the punky, fast-paced “Let Yourself Go”, which was not too long ago accompanied with a far-too-censored MTV VMA performance. This song is nothing new from Green Day’s early sound, but they hit the nail right on the head with how to make a new punk song that attracts listeners: keep it sounding like actual punk.

“Kill the DJ” is, in the words of lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong, “straight-up dance music”. This song is uncharacteristic of the band’s usual sound, but it is sure to weasel it’s way into electronic-dominated party playlists. “Fell for You” is a song that sounds like the musical equivalent of a gene pool that includes Paul McCartney and Sid Vicious. The quick and powerful “Loss of Control” is what follows, a song with 5-second guitar solos (there’s a longer one, don’t worry), raw and fast vocals, and enough bass drum to make your head explode. This is just an absolutely gritty and sarcastic punk song that is another one to definitely check out. “Troublemaker” features vocals that are at some times comparable to Bob Dylan (which is frankly quite hilarious), an unbelievable catchy groove and an acidic guitar solo. “Angel Blue” is another fast-paced one that gets your legs bouncing and also forces you to be reminiscent of the late 90’s. “Sweet 16” is one of the quieter songs of the album, and it also hits the poppier side of Green Day that came to light in American Idiot. The album then closes out with Green Day’s famous story-telling on the pop-punk superpower that is “Rusty James”, and the five minute single “Oh Love”, a song that impressively encases the positive ends of 21st Century Breakdown in an almost arena rock style.

Green Day is one of the few bands that can say that they escaped the idea of 90’s punk bands only being listened to ironically. They continue to go with the trends and put out fresh music while remaining one of the biggest names in rock and roll 25 years after their formation. ¡Uno!¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! have been set to be something amazing, and ¡Uno! is successful at enticing listeners to stay aware of the next two albums (to be released November 13th and January 15th, respectively). ¡Uno! grabs a 92/100 and it is available now.

¡Uno! Tracklisting:

  1. Nuclear Family
  2. Stay the Night
  3. Carpe Diem
  4. Let Yourself Go
  5. Kill the DJ
  6. Fell for You
  7. Loss of Control
  8. Troublemaker
  9. Angel Blue
  10. Sweet 16
  11. Rusty James
  12. Oh Love
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