Monthly Archives: January 2013

Nutshell Album Review: DRGN KING – Paragraph Nights

drgn_adv_cd_insert.inddA funny thing happens that if we don’t post something for over a week, the site blows up with emails and comments. That makes us happy, so KEEP DOING THAT. But never fear! We are back, and this is a record that you should be excited for because it is something special.

DRGN KING (pronounced “Dragon King”, which apparently has to be specified according to certain radio DJs) hails from Philadelphia, and they specialize in pumping out powerful and just generally awesome songs. On debut LP Paragraph Nights, the band jams out, gets you moving and singing, and just tears apart your brain because you wish you could write music like this. This group comes out with a genre similar to that of a mega-indie/electronic Dr. Dog; one that it pains me to say is not nearly as popular as it should be. But who knows, with an album like this nay-sayers may be eating their words in a month’s time to make way for a new generation of kick-ass bands who do just that: kick ass.

Paragraph Nights opens up with the title track, a piano and synthy sound collage with beautiful vocals and a relaxing vibe. “Wild Night” is what gets the contagious movement started, with a catchy rhythm and an overpowering beat. The synth and saw basses take over half way through and give this song an upbeat AWOLNATION feel. The best part? The song is all about just going out and having a blast. Isn’t that something? Up next is “Holy Ghost”, which is a song that you should not be surprised if it just blows you away. This track has festival jam band written all over it, and it has group vocals and an irreplaceable beat that are impossible to not dance along with. It’s no surprise why this is one of the album’s singles. “Menswear” has a bigger rock influence, and goes back and forth between quiet with slightly distorted vocals and loud, noisy, powerful rock n’ roll. “The Cardy Boys” then takes it down a notch, going to a beautiful, Oasis-style acoustic track. It features a solo on an instrument I embarrassingly can’t identify, but it puts a very solid interlude in the center of the song that adds to it immensely.

“Barbarians” features claps and a huge emphasis on the bass line. This song is more experimental than the others on the album, and features a lot of sound effects and whispered vocals. “Warriors” has a more electronic feel, with synth loops and a very melodic chorus. The vocals at points come out more as a rap, and it’s done very impressively. This song tones down the energy and speed, but it is still a strong track and it is definitely one to check out. After that is “Altamont Sunrise”, which opens up with a groovy guitar and bass riff and dreamy vocals. This is another one that is sure to be a live-hit, with a great beat to bop to and catchy vocal melodies. “Black Gold” is an instrumental, trancey song that uses a lot of dream-like instruments and unique percussion. This one comes out sounding somewhat like Explosions in the Sky, except it doesn’t exceed 3 minutes. The album gets closed out with “Caught Down”, which has a jammy sound crossed with Arcade Fire-style dynamic changes and Noel Gallagher-like vocals, and “Looking At You”, an upbeat and indie-poppy song that is an energetic and quick way to bring the record to an end.

DRGN KING is one of those duos that has it working for them musically. Paragraph Nights does not stay within the constraints of one specific genre, nor should it. With the help of various collaborators, the two members of this Philadelphia group hit a wide range of indie rock sub genres and put it all together into a sort of  hipster kid free-for-all. No musical genre was left unscathed by this album and believe me, you’ll be hearing about it from websites not unlike this one in the months to come. Paragraph Nights takes over a 93/100 and you can grab it now. So do that.

Paragraph Nights Tracklisting:

  1. Paragraph Nights
  2. Wild Night
  3. Holy Ghost
  4. Menswear
  5. The Cardy Boys
  6. Barbarians
  7. Warriors
  8. Altamont Sunrise
  9. Black Gold
  10. Caught Down
  11. Looking At You
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Lollapalooza 2013 Predictions (Pt. 3)

IMG_0083With a handful of solid new music coming out over the last few months, it’s only fitting that a few more artists get added to the discussion for Lollapalooza 2013’s lineup. Remember, as always, this is an open discussion so suggestions are welcome and encouraged. You can also check out Nutshell Music Group’s entire Lollapalooza speculation page here.

  • Band of Horses – There isn’t much to be said here besides the fact that, other than the release of Mirage Rock most likely being enough, the group hit the Chilean and Brazilian legs of Lollapalooza 2012 and also played a House of Blues set with the Lolla name on it, and haven’t seen the Grant Park side of things since 2009. At this point, Band of Horses is anything short of a shoe-in for this year’s festival.
  • Ra Ra Riot – Even though the album isn’t even released yet, the band has a large opportunity to hit festivals this summer in support of Beta Love. The quintet hasn’t been involved in anything Lollapalooza-wise since 2009, so the group seems to be due for a triumphant, mid-afternoon or evening return.
  • The Killers – This one I have just forgotten to put on here. Even with the mixed reviews received by Battle Born, The Killers have been side-stepping the Chicago leg of this festival for the past few years. Yet another group that hasn’t stepped into Grant Park since ’09, expect to see them as a headliner this year.
  • The Lumineers – When booking a summer festival, you can never go wrong with an indie-folk group to round out the afternoon. These guys have enough momentum from “Hey Ho” alone to guarantee them a spot at this year’s festival.
  • Queens of the Stone Age – With a new album in the works featuring Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl on the drums, QOTSA is going to be going on a colossal tour without a doubt. The band is hitting Brazil and Chile for Lollapalooza 2013, and there is no question that they would be welcomed with opened arms (and probably beers) in Grant Park this August.

Nutshell Album Review: Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love

Beta LoveRa Ra Riot has garnered a fair amount of attention since their 2010 release of The Orchard, which was the most recent full-length to date from the Syracuse indie rockers. But the five-piece has kept busy, releasing a handful of singles and EPs (along with being one half of the greatest indie band friendship ever with Vampire Weekend) before finally hammering out The Orchard‘s follow-up and their third LP, Beta Love. The first thing on everyone’s mind is the synthesizers. Yes, it’s no secret that the sound of this album is new. There, however, seems to be no consensus on whether or not that sound is accepted. I wouldn’t be wrong to say that it may be shocking to some fans of the group, but then again I sort of would. It wouldn’t be far off for me to say most modernized rock and indie bands try their hand at a more electronic feel (ahem…Muse?), and Ra Ra Riot is another group that has succumbed to the inevitable. But, don’t get me wrong. The inevitable doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing, does it?

Beta Love opens with “Dance With Me”, along with Wesley Miles’ smile-inducing voice tumbling over admitting that, well, he just is having a pretty damn good time. The song seems like it will only be a small taste of electronic influence until around the two-minute mark, where we come across a short but fantastic breakdown. After that comes “Binary Mind”, a fast-paced and energetic, beat driven-track with a poppy and saw-filled chorus. It also brings out a dancefloor electric drumkit with claps overdubbing snare hits, which makes it just that much cooler. Title track “Beta Love” is one of the moments that made it clear that this record is special. It hits the combination of the new indie sound and the vibe heard from the group’s first two albums right on the head, and it would be a gift from the music gods if this was a sign of what’s to come from Ra Ra Riot. “Is It Too Much” starts off with elevator music bells (creatively paired with opening lyric “Elevator down…”) and keeps a subtle and low-key sound. This track comes out sounding very similar to frontman Miles’ side project Discover with Vampire Weekend keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij. “For Once” is another exceptional track, with Miles showing off his vocal range while the rest of the group plays coffeehouse-style melodies completed with a string solo. The song has an up-tempo and indie pop feel, and it’s definitely one to check out.

“Angel, Please” is another great example of the quintet’s abilities, opening up in a similar manner as Miniature Tigers’ “Sex on the Regular”, and then breaking into another quality track. The cowbell is broken out on this one, and the beat is just contagious. “What I Do for U” features heavy 808 bass beats with short keyboard interjections. This is a mainly rhythm section dominated song, with synths interjecting near the end. Following that is “When I Dream”, a very passionate seeming track that again sticks to low-key synths and a large emphasis on drums, bass, and strings. This song hits a more melancholy side of the group, but still maintains the album’s energy and sound. “That Much” is closer to the sound of The Orchard and The Rhumb Line, with a more rock-style refrain than what’s heard on the rest of the record (other than the Talking Heads-style solo type…thing at the end). The band’s third LP is then closed out with “Wilderness”, an almost R&B song with a “lift up your lighters” style beat and apparent Dirty Projectors influences, and “I Shut Off”, an outlet of all the album’s leftover energy that hits the electro indie pop sound from earlier on the album and a phenomenal way to close out such a great album.

People will be upset about this album. People will be upset about every album, especially when a band dramatically shifts its sound like Ra Ra Riot did for Beta Love. But, from the totally non-biased opinion of a melody and hook loving indie fanatic, this change was bold and should be well received. There’s no telling which sound of Ra Ra Riot is “better”, but both are very good. It wouldn’t be challenging to find a large population of people who would be absolutely content with the group carrying out the sound they did on this record, and this writer in particular would be standing in that crowd. Beta Love takes a 95/100, and it is hitting shelves on January 22nd.

Beta Love Tracklisting:

  1. Dance With Me
  2. Binary Mind
  3. Beta Love
  4. Is It Too Much
  5. For Once
  6. Angel, Please
  7. What I Do for U
  8. When I Dream
  9. That Much
  10. Wilderness
  11. I Shut Off

Nutshell Album Review: Free Energy – Love Sign

free-energy-love-signThere are some bands and musicians in this world that have a special songwriting gift. This gift allows these artists to consistently write music that you simply cannot listen to without dancing. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I sincerely apologize for the hole in your life, and I also suggest you check out Free Energy. This Philadelphia quintet made a name for themselves in 2010 with their debut album Stuck on Nothing, which spurred hits like “Bang Pop”. The group is now back in action with sophomore LP Love Sign, and the indie-power pop output of the band makes them appear to be in top shape. With a handful of catchy, dancefloor rock songs and their own special blend of arena-style indie pop, Free Energy shows the music world that they deserve to grab the attention of the industry, and this LP might just be the thing they need to do so.

Love Sign opens with the album’s lead single “Electric Fever”, which erupts out of a feedback riddled and opens up into a perfect example of what this album is all about; cowbell, group chants with “ooo’s” and “ahh’s”, and the perfect amount of subtle wah pedals. At this point next year, it’s already easy to say it won’t be surprising to see this track end up on some “best of 2013” lists. Up next is “Girls Want Rock”, which brings back the group harmonies and is accented with claps and melodic keyboard riffs. The song also features the band’s notable rhythm section-dominated verses, breaking down to just drums, bass, and vocals. Good individual performances by all band members are able to combine into a really solid song that gets you into the album early on. “Dance All Night” is the next track, which slows it down and comes out sounding like a modernized version of an 80’s love ballad. This is the type of song that makes a listener realize how well a group of people can mesh together creatively. “Hey Tonight” continues that trend, with a vibe similar to that of Walk The Moon. This song is just purely Free Energy, and this is something that fans of the group were hoping to find on the new album.

The fifth song on Love Sign is “Hold You Close”, which defines cheesy and adorable songs. It is a short and upbeat track that keeps the energy flowing. After that is “Backscratcher”, which brings back the cowbell for an almost KISS-style opening. With chord-based guitar riffs, a phenomenal guitar solo and an emphasis on drums, the band once again hits the modernized arena rock sound with this one, and it’s definitely one to check out. “Hangin” has one of the best song openings heard since this site was created, and it has a solid call and response, back and forth vocal style working throughout. This track has a great groove, and it’s one of the album’s highlights. “Street Survivor” is what follows, and it brings a beach sound to the normal Free Energy aura. This song is yet another reason to geek out about the bass and drums combination that the quintet puts together so well. The album closes out with “True Love”, a song that opens with a wobbling bass and turns into a low key ballad-type song with exceptional vocals, and “Time Rolls On”, which pulls out every last thing in the band’s repertoire to close out the already-spectacular record.

Free Energy is a band you need to check out. There is not a simpler way of putting it, and if you don’t take our word, then try taking the word of Spin (calling the band ‘excellent’) or Rolling Stone (rating them one of the ‘Best New Bands of 2010’). Their unique blend of 80’s arena and anthem rock with today’s indie pop gives you the will to dance, sing, and express your love of the ‘indie’ music scene without popping lenses out of your 3D glasses. The group has their own take of today’s rock scene, and there a subtleties stemming from a wide range of musical genres. Free Energy won over a dedicated fan base with their debut, and Love Sign has the determination and content needed to push the majority over the edge. They were able to put something amazing together in proving that they’re all vastly talented musicians who can come together as a group, and who can also shoot out an album this good. Love Sign takes an outstanding 97/100, and it’ll be hitting stores on January 15th. You should buy it on January 15th.

Love Sign Tracklisting:

  1. Electric Fever
  2. Girls Want Rock
  3. Dance All Night
  4. Hey Tonight
  5. Hold You Close
  6. Backscratcher
  7. Hangin
  8. Street Survivor
  9. True Love
  10. Time Rolls On

Nutshell Album Review: Math The Band – Get Real

Math The Band - Get RealWhy not open up 2013 with a bang? And by bang, I mean 8-bit video game soundtrack-infused punk rock basement band sort of bang. Math the Band is a duo formed in Massachusetts (now residing in Rhode Island) that specializes in putting out a hefty amount of albums that feature a hefty amount of songs you can mosh to. In the group’s 10 year existence, they’ve put out a total of 15 albums and EP’s that all have one thing in common: they make you want to jump, head bang, and possibly dive through a second floor window just for the sake of being able to say you’ve done it. Math the Band keeps their unique sound in this LP, and it will most likely tire you out by the time you are through with it. The blend of hardcore punk and electronic indie music heard in Get Real is a possible beacon as to what the future of the music industry will be like; weird but strangely satisfying.

Get Real opens up with “Positive Stress”, and be cautioned that there is no build up. The track just explodes into a synth-blanketed yelling punk song. It’s the type of song that you could picture hipster kids singing along to during a Friday night concert on the second floor of a coffeehouse. “Bad Jokes” takes the average “loud quiet” dynamic and injects it with every type of steroid you could find. Another one that induces “dancing” (or an embarrassing combination of shaking that you call “dancing”), the power is just driving. It leads into “Mission Statement”, which features vocal parts strangely comparable to Matt & Kim, and is overwhelmingly hooky and intense. The happily named “I Hope You Die” is up next, and it carries a poppy build up that takes up the first half of the song (mind you it’s only a 2-minute song) and just erupts into a jammy, beeping storm of synths and keys. “Stay Real (Sock it to me Satan)” is another loud and intense mosher song that opens up with none other than the ‘thumb war’ rhyme. It’s one of the longest tracks on the album, at a bold 2 minutes and 58 seconds. This song makes me wish that all of their songs were just a tad longer, with the band showing a mastery of multiple verses, choruses, and bridges on this one. “Guts” continues on as a part 2 of sorts to “Stay Real”, and it seems to be one of the more passionate and thrash-ful songs on the album. The track features more yelling and explosions and swearing than ever before! (or at least the repetition of the line “what the f**k man” grabbed my attention).

“Hey Alright” opens up with menu start-up SFX for this video game overdub, along with a nice break down of sorts that goes back and forth between in your face and stuttery short beats capped with claps. It is followed by “Down”, which has even-quicker-than-usual vocals and fast, booming chord changes. Another one that has a good verse, chorus, bridge back and forth, this track is definitely one to check out. “Four to Six” feels extra punky, with a feedback opening and another round of intense vocal tracks. But don’t worry, it’s still very blippy. “Nahh” is a stuttery, and quickly transitioning song. It has an awkward lead and drum combination that mix together in a strange way but end up adding to the track in an unexpected way. “Brand New Physics” has more of an indie than punk feel, but the same intensity still carries over. The heavy distortion is replaced on this one with multiple synth basses and key parts, but the hard rock drum part keeps the sound consistent to the rest of the album.

“Dead Physical” is up next, with a fog of noise coming right at the song’s opening. The beeping comes in at a much faster pace, not far from the speed of banjo picking on any given high energy folk song. This one also has a strong, rock-influenced performance from the rhythm section. “One 45” has a poppy and upbeat feel, and the lyrics contribute to that. This one is another gem that you should be sure to check out. Up next is title track “Get Real”, which opens with another impressive and exaggerated version of loud-quiet dynamics. This song puts more of an emphasis on loops and effects than heard before on the album, but heard more often on earlier material. The album is then closed out with “Horses”, a song that has a Math the Band spin on almost-arena rock, and “The First Ten Years” which is easily interpreted as the band looking back on their existence to this point in their stereotypical, forceful and powerful way.

Math the Band sure is something. It’s a broad sentence, but it’ll have to do. The duo is so unique and powerful that it is hard to describe. The pure intensity of the album is just a small expression of these two, seen in their injury-ridden live shows (NPR reported that they broke bones and needed stitches from several live performances that they simply danced too hard). The group clearly gives you a lot to think about, since they made us pull out our longest review to date. Math the Band’s Get Real is able to score 88/100 thanks to its punky techno weirdness, and you can get it now. Oh…and happy New Year.

Get Real Tracklisting:

  1. Positive Stress
  2. Bad Jokes
  3. Mission Statement
  4. I Hope You Die
  5. Stay Real (Sock it to me Satan)
  6. Guts
  7. Hey Alright
  8. Down
  9. Four to Six
  10. Nahh
  11. Brand New Physics
  12. Dead Physical
  13. One 45
  14. Get Real
  15. Horses
  16. The First Ten Years
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