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Nutshell Concert Review: Animal Collective – Riviera Theater 10/17/13

IMG_1318Back last November, I expressed my large-scale excitement not only for Animal Collective’s most recent endeavor, Centipede Hz (thus the 97), but for the band as a whole. That being said, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that I would make the multi-hundred mile drive back to my native Chicago to catch the delightfully weird quartet at the Riviera Theater. Despite making the opening of their set only by the skin of my teeth, and totally missing opening act Deradoorian due to the plight of public transportation, I was able to camp myself right in the middle of the general admission crowd for quite the night.

The most fascinating part of AnCo.’s performance is that there was never silence (excluding, of course, the break just before their return for an encore). The drones and loops that characterize the group’s songs echoed through the venue from beginning to end, creating a totally encapsulating environment. The set also was stricken with variety, bouncing back and forth between the force heard on Centipede Hz and the ambient sound established on songs like non-album track “What Would I Want? Sky”. The four piece also seemed to master the idea of anticipation, with slow fade ins and edits of the most identifiable aspects of songs (most notably, the introduction to Merriweather Post Pavilion track “My Girls”). Vocalist Avey Tare also did his best keeping the crowd looking alive, with frequent questions like “Are you guys still with us?” Believe me, from my view of the crowd, they never skipped a beat.

There’s one last thing that’s to be said about this show regarding when it actually happened. This gig was initially planned for last March, just following the release of Centipede Hz, but was rescheduled due to illness in the band. Take it as you will, but this concert gained a lot from being pushed so far away from the album release, and you are probably wondering why. My reasoning is that, as assumed, the beginning of this tour was full of setlists jam-packed with new material that had barely been toured on to that point. While this is the industry standard and is almost viewed as a given, a band that’s been around as long as Animal Collective has is bound to have at least a few really solid songs from the back catalog that concert-goers expect to hear. This set was able to cover that on all ends, spanning over three albums and an EP. With a set that consisted of half “old songs”, new and old fans were both able to leave satisfied.

I will admit that I ended up being one of those fans that jumped on the Animal Collective train after the release of Merriweather (there’s a reason it is hailed as their best album), but since 2009 I dove deep into the music of the indie kings. As a band that is often regarded as hit-or-miss with their live performances, I was pleasantly surprised. So kudos to Animal Collective, and I should note that they’re touring until December. So…get on that fans.

Animal Collective’s Riviera Setlist, 10/17/13:

  1. Amanita
  2. What Would I Want? Sky
  3. Wide Eyed
  4. Moonjock
  5. Lion in a Coma
  6. Today’s Supernatural
  7. Pulleys
  8. My Girls
  9. New Town Burnout
  10. Brother Sport

Encore:

  1. I Think I Can
  2. The Purple Bottle

Nutshell Album Review: MGMT – MGMT

MGMTIt still strikes me as odd that there are plenty of “MGMT fans” out there that are totally unaware of the fact that the album Congratulations exists. Whether it be that they’re naive, are ignoring the fact that the band came out with songs that aren’t “Kids”, or just stopped listening to music in 2009, the follow-up to Oracular Spectacular has been consistently hailed as the group’s lesser-known, weirder, and even less-liked successor. The most exciting part about album number three, the self-titled MGMT, is that it boldly shows that the band doesn’t care about the negative press at all. They’ve even gone as far as striking Oracular tracks like “Kids” from their live set to make room for the album that frontman Andrew VanWyngarden has referred to simply as (I’m paraphrasing here) music that the band actually likes. What that means isn’t up to me to decide, but what I can decide is how I try to make you feel about this album. As always, my attempts to be unbiased will quickly implode and you will totally see through my “reporting” right into my opinion. SO HERE WE GO.

For fans that have been waiting for this album for three years, the opening to “Alien Days” is like a very exciting prologue. A slow-building key part, VanWyngarden’s pitch-bent vocals that eventually morph into his identifiable sound, and lengthy additions of percussion eventually burst into the trancey, “Metanoia”-like track. The song, which was also the album’s first single, is the perfect medium between weirdness and consonance until it, in wonderful MGMT fashion, abruptly falls apart at the end before fading out. The second song is “Cool Song No. 2”, a tribal and deep-sounding track that has an almost Animal Collective-like element. Full of ambient noises and sound effects, this one surely does prove to be a new sound for the band. “Mystery Disease” is extraordinarily jammy, which is a direction the band was very vocal about pursuing. Perfect for some on-stage improvisation, this track has the same feel that radiates throughout the rest of MGMT. Up next is a cover of Faine Jade’s “Introspection”, which ends up being one of the most attractive songs on the album. After this the album explodes into single “Your Life Is A Lie”, which is both purely MGMT and strangely goofy. This song was the spark of my personal excitement for the album, bringing a rarely-seen sense of power from the psychedelic duo.

“A Good Sadness” is the next track, providing another track that is trancey and jammy, with VanWyngarden’s vocals being soaked in reverb and pushed towards the back. This song seems to take a lot of influence from MGMT’s fellow experimental bands in today’s indie scene, and it works out to their advantage. That flows into “Astro-Mancy”, which is a very percussion-driven song. It’s also another one on the album that is heavily layered with sound effects and ambient noises. “I Love You Too, Death” is a very unique track, with VanWyngarden’s vocals being performed in a way that makes this sound like a Yo La Tengo song, and it is definitely one of the highlights of this album. MGMT then closes with “Plenty Of Girls In The Sea”, which is led by a ripping and echoing drum beat with an acoustic guitar underneath almost swing-style vocals, and “An Orphan Of Fortune”, which has a drone-style rock feel that is totally unexpected, yet it leaves you very excited for the future of MGMT.

These guys have been given a lot of flack over the years for not continuing to make chart-dominating pop hits. They’re a really strange situation where they had a chance to become a musical super power, but chose to instead make the music they want to make. That is nothing short of commendable. For an album that’s been called “confusing” (along with being put in the flat-out rude “Worst New Music” section in Spin) MGMT seems to be the exact opposite of that. The duo is focused on having fun and enjoying themselves, which is always the most important thing. And if that isn’t worth it to you, then at least this is a solid album anyways. MGMT gets a 90/100 and is available now.

MGMT Tracklisting:

  1. Alien Days
  2. Cool Song No. 2
  3. Mystery Disease
  4. Introspection
  5. Your Life Is A Lie
  6. A Good Sadness
  7. Astro-Mancy
  8. I Love You Too, Death
  9. Plenty Of Girls In The Sea
  10. An Orphan Of Fortune

Nutshell Album Review: Arctic Monkeys – AM

AMArctic Monkeys, who’ve been hanging around the indie rock scene since their record-breaking 2006 debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, are the kings of mixing it up. Many see it as something to praise, and others use it as a point of criticism, but the Sheffield quartet has spent the last seven years putting out albums of all shapes and sizes, whether it be the jittery, guitar and riff-based sound of their debut, or the pseudo-darkness of 2009’s Humbug. The fact of the matter is that the always surprising and impressive group has done it again, this time trading in the heartsick loveliness of 2011’s Suck it and See for what is shaping up to be a purely raw rock and roll album. With a handful of dominant singles and a climbing acclaim of critics and fans alike, AM is slated to be one of the best things we’ve heard from these guys to date.

The album opens up with the smash-hit “Do I Wanna Know?”, with an overly addicting opening riff, reverb-coated stomps and claps, and a newly found technique of harmonizing over frontman Alex Turner’s vocals. This track is also one of the first of many on the album that are just gritty; there is a clear shift heard in this song that changes from the band’s usual sound to a much more powerful wave of energy. The next song continues this, and is nothing new to Arctic Monkeys fans. It’s “R U Mine?”, which came up last November when the band was tearing through the US on an arena tour with The Black Keys, and the song is just as strong now as it was 10 months ago. The song that Turner has stated was the basis of AM is just forceful, with strong riffs, heavy drums, and an epic sense of instrumental and vocal layering. “One For The Road” has much more of a groove to it, with a sound and guitar effects that are very reminiscent of Humbug and Suck it and See. The song feels revamped, however, with the same vocal harmonies and sense of maturity that is quickly established on this album. The groove and moodiness is carried over into “Arabella”, an almost dreary track that quickly turns into a distortion-driven jam session that seems to pay a loose homage to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. “I Want It All” pulls the claps back in and has layered vocals throughout the entire song, along with an addicting ascending riff. My personal favorite aspect of the song is the inclusion of the guitar effect made famous on the “Library Pictures” solo.

At this point, the dynamic of the album shifts dramatically with “No. 1 Party Anthem”. First off, this song should get the award for “Most Misleading Song Title Ever”, because it is not at all a song you would hear at a party. This brings a small influence from Turner’s solo Submarine EP  into play with the slow, ballady sound. It also is a prime example of Turner’s ever-awaited lyrical wit, featuring gems like “It’s not like I’m falling in love I just want you to do me no good/And you look like you could”. It then goes into the similarly slowed-down “Mad Sounds”, a track that has prompted Turner to joke in live performances that audience members should “cuddle or something like that”. It’s a truly beautiful song that, again, has the Arctic Monkeys love song wit that shines through in lines like “Out of nowhere, somebody comes and hits you with an/ooh la la la”. Next up is “Fireside”, which starts to pick the energy of the album back up. A heavily rhythm section-driven song, the bass and drum beats shine through along with a synth-like altered backup vocal that runs throughout. It’s followed by another album single, “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”, which is one of the album’s highlights that features a walking-pace groove and the same gritty rock feel established earlier on. The difference here is that, despite the power and acidic solo, AM‘s third single tends to stay more relaxed than its two predecessors. The album is then closed out with the Britpoppy, Noel Gallagher-like “Snap Out Of It”, the heavy, dreary and melody-driven “Knee Socks”, and the John Cooper Clarke poem-turned-song “I Wanna Be Yours”, which turns into an almost psychedelic album ending performance.

Despite the fact that I’ve kept my ranting about them pretty tame up until this point, it isn’t a secret that the Arctic Monkeys top the list of one of my favorite and most-respected bands of our time. All of that bias aside, even the biggest of fans has to sit down and decide whether or not a band’s most recent effort is worth while. I alluded earlier to the quartet’s constantly changing sound, but they seem to be honing in on what they want to do for the rest of their careers. AM has been hailed as mature-sounding, and some are even calling it the band’s best effort to date. As both a fan and an attempting-to-be-non-biased writer, I can agree with both of these. Even though the critical acclaim was still at an all time high for these guys 7 years ago when they first made it into the music scene, this is the direction that is sure to get them there again. In case you haven’t noticed, Spin, Pitchfork, NME, Rolling Stone, and Entertainment Weekly have all jumped on the train of talking about how great these guys are, and I have no problem doing the same. Arctic Monkeys get a 95/100 for their fifth effort, AM. They seem to be running out of room to get better, but hey. They can always try?

AM Tracklisting:

  1. Do I Wanna Know?
  2. R U Mine?
  3. One For The Road
  4. Arabella
  5. I Want It All
  6. No. 1 Party Anthem
  7. Mad Sounds
  8. Fireside
  9. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
  10. Snap Out Of It
  11. Knee Socks
  12. I Wanna Be Yours

Nutshell Album Review: Wildcat! Wildcat! – Wildcat! Wildcat! EP

wildcatwildcatFact: I have been sick a lot recently, and as a result I haven’t left the 12′ X 12′ room that contains my entire life for anything more than a box of tissues and a cup of handheld soup. You’d think that’s a good time to write a lot, I’d argue otherwise. Side note, I now love the TV show Dexter.

Fact-er: Due to my short recent history of being cooped up, I desire an adventure. I now have my soundtrack.

Wildcat! Wildcat! is a band that I very recently introduced on this sight as a Feed The Beat band that hit it big this past Spring opening for Passion Pit at SXSW (as seen in the hour-long documentary “Hello Everywhere“). I feel as if a more appropriate introduction is necessary, so here goes nothing. The group is a Los Angeles indie rock/awesome trio made up of Jesse Taylor, Michael Wilson, and Jesse Carmichael. The band, up until a few days ago, had a career based totally on the mass circulation of two Soundcloud links that rocketed them into the minds of the music blogiverse (a word I just made up. Here I come, Oxford!). The mumblings around the industry of “hmm, maybe these guys are something pretty cool” quickly turned into “wow, these guys are something really cool”, and now we have a four-track EP that breeds not so many new things from the group besides making these songs come out on an official release, in the form of the Wildcat! Wildcat! EP. These songs have either been released or performed in bulk by the band the last few months but hey, let’s talk about it anyway.

The EP starts off with “Please And Thank You”, a slow starting electric organ and claps number that is polished with glowing synths and the band’s soon-to-be recognizable, disgustingly beautiful vocal harmonies. After moving through some simply dazzling chorus (with packed on basses, bells, and extra synths), the track passes through an amazing sense of dynamic and explosion, while still keeping the same almost epic and ballad-like sound. Quite frankly, I would be impressed with just this song. The next track is “The Chief”, which is much more drum heavy and groovy. The backing beat is reverb-soaked and hefty, and the bass and keys drive through until slipping into a soft interlude,  and onto an impressive build up/bridge section that leads into a freaking saxophone solo. It is so awesome I actually laughed. That’s where we are at so far. The third song is “Mr. Quiche”, which, goofy name aside, is another strangely captivating one from these guys. This is the type of song that has a big heap of things you wouldn’t expect to go together smashed together in a way that somehow…well go together. The end result really is magical, and the vocal performance here is exceptional. The EP then closes out with “Garden Grays”, which is probably the most dancey of the EP’s songs. It also features some solid call and response vocals that close out the EP on a really great note, not that it hit a bad one…

My hope of this review is to get the people who’ve read my last piece about Wildcat! Wildcat! to understand something important. They are not “the band that opened for Passion Pit for SXSW”. I don’t want to be confusing, because factually that actually did happened. But my point is they should be known as “that awesome band that just came out with an awesome 4 track EP”, because they’ve proven that they are a band that deserves to have their name stand on its own. The Wildcat! Wildcat! EP gets an astounding 97/100, and I hope that they come out with an album soon.

Wildcat! Wildcat! Tracklisting:

  1. Please And Thank You
  2. The Chief
  3. Mr. Quiche
  4. Garden Grays

Nutshell Film Review: Hello Everywhere

Hello EverywhereYes, this includes VMA talk. But it’s short, and has nothing to do with twerking (which is now legally a word), I promise.

I bet I speak for many when I use the word “disgusted” to describe my feelings towards Taco Bell’s ridiculous amount of participation in this year’s MTV VMAs (yes, I mean the Moonman for “Artist To Watch (Presented by Taco Bell)”). I was even more disgruntled after finding out that the fast food chain had produced a documentary featuring Nutshell favorites Passion Pit, and their recent 2013 SXSW performance at the Hype Hotel with Wildcat! Wildcat! But then, after doing a bit of research, actually watching the movie, and even submitting to the power of a couple of late-night tacos, my perspective shifted. Not about the restaurant’s presence in the award show, of course. It was actually about the documentary, and the reasons behind the making of it.

First off, there’s a need to clarify. The rock-doc was in fact produced by Taco Bell…more or less. It was funded by the creator of fourth meal’s Feed the Beat program, which is entirely dedicated to the discovery and raising of new bands and musical acts. They help in ways ranging from free tour food to promotion, and even big shows. This where Passion Pit comes in, with the band actually being alumni of the program from during the time that Manners was starting to be shopped around. They teamed up with Feed the Beat again, this time to both return to a festival that they had less than amicable feelings about, and also to support the upbringing of virtually unknown indie rock group Wildcat! Wildcat!, who exploded in a ridiculously similar manner to the way that Passion Pit did a few years ago: online marketing (or a lack thereof) that led to a fluctuation in popularity of one of the band’s tracks. The rest, for Passion Pit anyways, is history. Wildcat! Wildcat!’s journey is just beginning, very specifically at the SXSW show where they opened for Passion Pit. Which is where this film just so happens to start.

The creative part about this movie is that, despite the focus on one specific concert, the content expands way past that. Between sit down conversations with both focus bands, you see many huge topics in the music industry get touched upon. One of the most notable is when Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos actually praises the benefits of illegal downloading and filesharing of music, even going so far as to say “Piracy is the reason that we have a career…at the end of the day it still benefits the band.” The internet is a huge part of the industry according to both bands, with the members of Wildcat! Wildcat! discussing the importance of social media sites taking the place of fans who will stick around  to tell you that a show was great. Drummer Jesse Carmichael describes these thoughts as “opinions of people that 5, 10 years ago you would’ve never even known existed…that’s the way we can hear these stories.” Between these interviews, along with interviews of fans, you also get a feel of how unique SXSW as a whole really is, with almost every show being an intimate one.

However, an intimate show doesn’t mean it’s something to scoff at. The documentary goes out of its way to state that it is one of the smallest shows on Passion Pit’s tour. But to Wildcat! Wildcat!, a show at a packed 1500-capacity venue with online streaming and live documentary film crews, it’s no laughing matter. This is a fascinating part of the movie that shows how different two band’s perspectives can be on literally the same exact thing. And the cameras rolled throughout both pre-interviews, post-interviews, and the performance itself to catch every moment of emotion from both bands, whether it be fear, excitement, or anything in between.

Hello Everywhere is one of the most honest documentaries I’ve seen in a while. Maybe not necessarily the most informative or most beneficial to me in history class, but I’ve never seen a film where the topic is as up front as a simple concert, where they just dive into it so clearly. If you are a fan of music, concerts, movies, tacos, or fun, then this is a movie to check out. You can stream it for free here, and if you’re interested, you can also find out more information on Taco Bell’s Feed the Beat program here. And I feel as if, since the main point of the movie is to promote them, I should also let you know that you can check out Wildcat! Wildcat! on their website for tour dates, music, and more.

Nutshell Album Review: The Orwells – Who Needs You EP

orwells_newepRemember yesterday when I said EPs take less work to review? Well here we are! Trying to reap the maximum amount of benefits from the most minimal amount of time and listening! But in all honesty, read this because it’s a legitimate EP. Come on now.

The Orwells, a wonderful group of would-be-college-kids from small town Elmhurst, Illinois have been rattling the diminishing world of legitimate rock and roll for about the last year, driven by highly successful appearances at big-named festivals like SXSW and Lollapalooza, future dates at Austin City Limits and the Weezer Cruise, and a recent appearance on NPR. The craze seems to stem from early single “Mallrats (La La La)”, a rambunctious and almost playful garage-punk track that seemed too good to be true. After a hilarious music video that looks like a group of skater kids that had just stumbled out of a Bad Brains show started to wreak havoc on the local mall (I still can’t see a Wetzel’s Pretzels without thinking about this song), a debut album, a follow-up EP, and not that many haircuts, this five-piece garage outfit is proving that they deserve to be known as more than the kids from Elmhurst who tried to start a band. And with mixed signals about whether or not a second album is in the works, the Who Needs You EP will be enough (hopefully) to hold us over until we all get a glimpse of it.

The EP starts off with title track “Who Needs You”, which is bordering on the line of being one of the most solid protest songs that’s come out of recent history. Complete with a simple, but well-done music video reminiscent of The Strokes’ “Last Nite” video, the song is a great combination of being appealing and rough around the edges, and is a great track to start off the EP with. The second song is “Open Your Eyes (A Misfits Rip-off)” which, to give The Orwells credit, isn’t too much of rip-off of any Misfits song I could point to. With an amplified rhythm section and some vocal harmonies backing him, frontman Mario Cuomo delivers an impressive vocal performance on a song that is hooky and just generally fun to listen to. “Salvation Is A Parking Lot (A Black Lips Rip-off)”  has a more spot-on comparison with the use of Black Lips techniques like group vocals and almost chant-like talk singing at points. But The Orwells, again, deserve some credit here for doing something you don’t see very often: paying homage to bands you like without totally copying one of their specific songs. They even made it sound like they wrote the song (which they did). So bravo! The EP then ends with an Audiotree live take of Remember When track “Halloween All Year”, which is a nice close to an even nicer collection of songs.

The Orwells are a band that, for whatever reason, I missed out on reviewing not once but twice. After finally seeing them do a live show (I’m already planning on going to another one) and hearing about the Who Needs You EP, I knew I had to get them up on the site. I’m glad that I did, and I’m even more glad I got something that can be high on the priority list of past reviews. 94/100 for The Orwells for their newest release, which you can get your hands on starting September 10th.

Who Needs You EP Tracklisting

  1. Who Needs You
  2. Open Your Eyes (A Misfits Rip-off)
  3. Salvation Is A Parking Lot (A Black Lips Rip-off)
  4. Halloween All Year (Audiotree Live Session)

Nutshell Album Review: Baby Kid – Bruce Malmsteen Reverend Johnson (Download Link)

coverSo despite the fun/stress/business that goes into the first week or so of being a college student, I’ve decided to continue to take time out of my day to ramble aimlessly and endlessly about music. The reason is two fold. Fold one: I’m a music major, so isn’t this studying? Fold two: HA. STUDYING. But since my mom reads this, I’m sort of obligated to say I’m hitting the books. I even went to the library today (no joke)!

The strange thing is the first thing I’m doing for this site as a college student is reviewing an album by a local band from back home that I became quite fond of over the years. Their name is Baby Kid (named creatively after a kid that went to high school with the band that looked an uncanny amount like a baby), and their blend of noise rock and a lot of reverb has rocked too many house shows and parking garage roof shows (see the second paragraph) to count. Having the pleasure to play many shows with the trio, made up of Peter Gajewski, Gus Dieter, and Jeremy Walleck, their unparalleled goofiness goes hand-in-hand with the raw awesomeness of their songs, including this singles collection and even a “party mix”. And now we have an album to talk about.

Bruce Malmsteen Reverend Johnson starts off with lead single “Bein’ a Big D∞Bag to the Away High School Chess Team at Regional Competition”, one of the all-star song titles of the album. The track starts off with a wall of feedback noise before busting in and out of powerful hooks and quiet interludes backed by ripping screams and soft vocals, respectively. Up next is “Your Friend Who Eats Bugs”, with a chord-based opening riff and solid harmonizing of vocals packed between instrumental refrains. The song ends with an intoxicating and pretty freakin’ awesome instrumental outro. “Dominatrix Under the Glasses Store”, which was another single on the album that has a pretty great music video, is one of the most attractive songs on this record. I may even go so far to say this is one of my favorite songs the group has ever written. It’s one of the most impressive uses of dynamics I’ve heard in all of music and it features yet another awesome instrumental outro complete with some audio samples built in near the end. Definitely one to check out.

The next song is “Gas’line Lettuce Tomato”, with an intro that sounds like it is pulled right out of a Pixies album. It starts off super dreamy and…well…trippy before breaking into a short-lived explosion of distortion and cymbals. The progression then repeats, turning into another one of the album’s highlights. “Toni Kukoč Slow Motion Fadeaway” is what follows, and it is very reminiscent of the band’s early garage rock sound while still injecting fresh-sounding melodies and riffs. “My Plans to Fall Asleep” is put together a lot like a Sonic Youth track, with quick transitions between fast-paced riffs and slower, more drawn out breaks. It even features Dieter providing a Thurston Moore-like, reverb-soaked vocal performance. “$4.00 Lottery Ticket, ’13” is another song on the album that is very garagey, with fast chord strummings, screams from Gajewski, and an almost-hectic drum beat. There’s also a fun surprise in the middle, with the sound shifting to a much more relaxed feel, at some points even seeming calm enough to be an isolated vocal track. “Thumblr Famous Dave” comes up next, and it opens with an audio sample of none other than Moe from “The Simpsons” before breaking into a song that can’t be described much further than a solid rock song. It has a very attractive chord progression, and it is nicely driven by the rhythm section and small inserted riffs throughout. “Serif Like Times New Roman” is the longest track of the album (ending on the 7-minute mark), and it feels as close to a “Baby Kid” medley as you’ll ever get. It features all of the aspects of their music that you could ever pinpoint. Whether it be the quiet, toned-down vocal breaks, the quick and riff-driven jam-session like grooves, the extended build-ups, or anything else, this song has got it. It even manages to bring in a synth lead in the middle section where Gajewski hypnotizes you with the repetition of the line “I don’t feel a thing”.

“÷” starts off the tail end, and heavily electronic end, of the album, with a minute-long instrumental featuring audio takes of the band just having a good time. “Kevin James Gave My Dad an iPod Once”, my favorite of this album’s song titles, is all synths and drum machines packed underneath Dieter’s vocals about being an alien. “Freedom Fries” also follows the same musical style, except with vocals that are entirely in French. The album is then closed with “Wesołych Świąt, Guy on the Football Team!” a 90 second song chock-full of saw-leads and high hats, and the eponymous “Baby Kid”, an evolving-synth-riddled backdrop to drummer Walleck’s only…ahem…”vocal performance” (billed as “The J-Man”) which constitutes him reading a letter to his mother, only to point out every word that could somehow be related to erections.

It’s been a while since I reviewed a full album like this one. Part of it is because EPs take less work and concerts are a lot of fun, but a large factor is also that there hasn’t been a lot of music that’s recently grasped my attention. I don’t know if it was my unbiased love of Baby Kid, or my much-more-biased love of the part of my musical career that they took part in, but something pulled me into reviewing this album. This record is a coffeehouse dweller’s dream, and it also attracted the attention of the football players down the hall from my dorm at a Big 10 university. This says a lot, mainly that they must be doing something pretty special. And guess what! You can scoop up all the specialness for free (and legally!) here, and find their Facebook page here.

Oh and the whole rating thing? This low-fi masterpiece snags a 92/100. Handshakes all around.

Bruce Malmsteen Reverend Johnson Tracklisting:

  1. Bein’ a Big D∞Bag to the Away High School Chess Team at Regional Competition
  2. Your Friend Who Eats Bugs
  3. Dominatrix Under the Glasses Store
  4. Gas’line Lettuce Tomato
  5. Toni Kukoč Slow Motion Fadeaway
  6. My Plans to Fall Asleep
  7. $4.00 Lottery Ticket, ’13
  8. Thumblr Famous Dave
  9. Serif Like Times New Roman
  10. ÷
  11. Kevin James Gave My Dad an iPod Once
  12. Freedom Fries
  13. Wesołych Świąt, Guy on the Football Team!
  14. Baby Kid

Nutshell Concert Review: Passion Pit – Summerset Music Festival 8/10/13

Photo courtesy of Ryan Siverson, mezzic.com

Photo courtesy of Ryan Siverson, mezzic.com

It’s already been more than a year since the release of GossamerPassion Pit’s successful and satisfying sophomore LP. Since then, they have commanded both outdoor festivals and indoor venues with their live show, captivating audiences with their exciting, dance-worthy synth pop and impressive light shows. After missing the opportunity (twice) to see them in a local show, I decided it would be fitting to drive 7+ hours to Somerset, Wisconsin to watch the somewhat out of place cardigan and skinny jean wearing indie band play at a blooming EDM festival in the rural north. Yes, I acknowledge the fact that they will be performing at Chicago’s North Coast Music Festival in a couple of weeks, but the latter of the two options doesn’t also include awesome experiences like seeing STS9’s anger over a man pretending to be a part of their group, and seeing STRFKR perform their version of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”.

But I digress.

There’s a strange thing to be said about Passion Pit’s live performance: Passion Pit doesn’t quite sound like the “Passion Pit” you would expect to hear when putting on your iPod. This is not by any means a knock on the band; these guys are just very notable for doing things in studio that may be much more challenging to replicate live than one would assume. But the Passion Pit that you do see when they step on stage is still an amazing one. They exhibit a totally new form of power that you don’t really notice in their compressed and electronic dream world that goes through your headphones. But when you amplify that through giant speakers, and combine it with the force of a bass driven live drum kit, flashy lights, and frontman Michael Angelakos jumping around like a goofy little kid, it turns into a totally different listening experience.

With that in mind, it would be hard to imagine that Gossamer track “I’ll Be Alright” would be anything short of electrifying, and opening with that kind of energy can only give you momentum. They managed to keep it throughout the entire hour-long set, even after taking a break for the smooth and almost R&B-like “Constant Conversations”. Angelakos also seemed to be working at his prime, reminding the audience consistently that they were there to sing, dance, and have an all around good time.

Passion Pit was able to do an interesting and bold thing last weekend when they performed to a crowd that was there, ultimately, to see EDM. Although they don’t totally stray from the genre, they are a far cry from other Summerset acts like Flosstradamus and Minnesota. But they came out to brave the rage-sticks and ravers to put on one heck of a show, and for that I thank them. For those of you lucky enough to have Passion Pit hit your town before their tour ends, be sure to check them out.

And, my apologies for this one, but I slacked off this festival and didn’t take pictures or write down any setlists. Based on that, plus the surprising laziness of the whole internet world, I don’t have the official one for the show. But, if you were there and know what they played, comment it down below!

6 Upcoming Fall Albums That You Should Get Excited About

The end of summer is more often than not a dreadful experience. Students start to hop on buses again and, in most cases, any sort of work load that ceased to exist is suddenly back again. Now all we have to do is look forward to the holidays, when we can once again basically stop having responsibilities again for a couple weeks. The one beautiful thing about the fall months creeping up, however, is that there always seems to be an abundance of awesome new music that comes out, almost too quickly to follow. Think about last year’s fall albums that included Muse, Green Day, Animal Collective, and Two Door Cinema Club to name a few. The next couple of months are looking to continue that trend, so here’s your guide to what you should be looking out for.

MGMTMGMT – MGMT
Tentative Release Date: September 17th
A little known fact about the Connecticut duo is that, in 2010, they released a pretty awesome album called Congratulations. It isn’t unknown that it was released, but despite generally positive reviews from critics, the album was not nearly as successful as their debut Oracular Spectacular. But apparently MGMT didn’t care, with their third album’s debut single “Alien Days” being very comparable to the sound of the 12+ minute “Siberian Breaks” from their previous release. What makes it even better is that frontman Andrew VanWyngarden has been very vocal about the groups consensus that they are having a blast, and are confident that they’re “making good songs”. After the more recent release of second single “Your Life Is A Lie”, the band proved that they are still the go-to when it comes to bridging the gap between expiremental, goofy, and just all-around good music.

AMArctic Monkeys  AM
Tentative Release Date: September 9th
The Sheffield quartet has turned themselves into nothing short of a powerhouse, and it has been well over a year since the band’s first hint at their fifth studio album was released through “R U Mine?” when they were still on the road for 2011’s Suck it and See. After months of not-so-subtle teasing (ie drummer Matt Helders describing the new album as sounding “like 2013”), they released two singles, “Do I Wanna Know?” and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”, along with…unique music videos. Their new-found knack for dirty and gritty rock n’ roll, along with a much-anticipated return of Alex Turner’s famous lyrical wittiness, is setting this up to be one of their best albums yet.

Glow & BeholdYuck – Glow & Behold
Tentative Release Date: October
1st

After what seemed to be a band-ending transition between their first and second albums, the now Daniel Blumberg-less trio is showing no signs of stopping. After releasing new single “Rebirth”, sounding very similar to both the band’s debut and a more focused version of ex-frontman Blumberg’s new project Hebronix, fans woke up this morning to an album announcement with a cover, a tracklist, and a hefty second single titled “Middle Sea”. If these two singles say anything, the guitarist-turned band leader Max Bloom is out to prove he should have always been fronting this band. So far, he’s proved it.

MelophobiaCage The Elephant – Melophobia
Tentative Release Date: October 8th
The Kentucky garage rockers have scored countless hits off of their first two albums, and they spent the first half of 2013 ensuring that they would be able to continue doing that on their third release. Since then, they’ve released lead single “Come A Little Closer”, which is significantly more tame than most things we’ve heard from the five-piece in the past. Nonetheless, with a slightly more jammy feel possibly to come and an already-announced fall tour in support of Muse, Cage The Elephant looks like they’re set up to have a successful year.

Spreading RumoursGrouplove – Spreading Rumours
Tentative Release Date: September 17th
The LA indie-dance kings behind songs like “Colours” and “Tongue Tied” have spent the last year or so tearing up the country, backed up by word of their unique and electrifying live show. Their debut LP Never Trust a Happy Song was an all-out success, and the recent release of single “Ways to Go” has only peaked interest in the quintet. It’s hard to make a judgement call on this album based on the exceptional lack of knowledge that has been released on the record, but Grouplove has never been a band to disappoint in their generally short careers. This will be the most surprising of all the albums on this list, but I can assure you it’ll be one of those surprises that you’re ecstatic about.

Let's Be StillThe Head And The Heart – Let’s Be Still
Tentative Release Date: Octobe
r
15th
After the Sub Pop release of their debut album in 2011, The Head And The Heart’s unique blend of folk and indie pop has garnered them a lot of attention, along with acts such as Of Monsters and Men and Iron & Wine. Another album that hasn’t been very talked about, the Seattle six-piece’s sophomore LP is looking to be a big one that isn’t a far cry from the sound of their self-titled debut. The release of single “Shake” is giving this album a promising look, both energetic and dense with harmonies and a wide range of instruments. If the whole album sounds like this track, these guys better be ready to solidify themselves as one of the dominant indie-folk groups of our time.

Go down to the comments section below to tell us what albums you’re most excited for, even if they aren’t on the list. You can also tweet them at us @NSMusicGroup.

Nutshell Concert Review: The Postal Service – Lollapalooza 8/3/13

IMG_1112Back in 2003, Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard released an album full of dreamy, 8-bit synths, quick-tempo drum loops, and a 1980’s-like style of electro-indie rock that would create a trend in the music world for the next ten years (and counting). After grabbing Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley, three hit singles were produced from that album, and a dedicated following to boot. Then they just sort of stopped. After repeatedly shooting down rumors of a second album, the band finally announced it would be going on a 10-year anniversary tour for their debut (and only) album, Give Up. Luckily, one of Chicago’s biggest annual events swallowed up the opportunity, and booked The Postal Service for their last two shows. Ever. Pretty cool huh?

I will openly admit that this headlining performance was the reason that I dished out $200+ to hang out with 300,000 reckless crowd members in the sweltering heat for three days. Most of the time, when you build something like this up in your mind for as many months as I did, you will be disappointed. I can tell you point blank that this was not the case. As soon as the band’s headlining performance began, around the same time as festival behemoth Mumford and Sons took the stage across Grant Park, it marked the beginning of a pinnacle moment in my music-loving career. The 90-minute show allowed for an entire career-spanning setlist, going all the way from their hit “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” to the song that, as Gibbard said, “Started it all”, Dntel’s “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan”. The group even got to the new releases from this year’s re-release, along with a cover of Beat Happening’s “Our Secret”. The set seemed flawless from front to back, and the crowd seemed to be made up of exclusively die-hard fans of the band, singing along to every word.

The reason this show seemed to be so impactful was the way the final moments of the concert passed. Earlier in the show, frontman Ben Gibbard had pointed out the fact that the Lollapalooza performance was their second to last, with only a show at the local Metro Chicago the following night. It was surreal as an audience member, watching a band performing on stage as something they agreed to shut the door on for good in less than two days. What solidified all of it was seeing that the four people on stage, for a moment, also took it as surreal. As the final song ended and the band set up to take a bow, they stretched out the set closer “Brand New Colony” for what seemed like an extra song-length, repeating the final line over and over again: “Everything will change”. Then, almost hesitantly, they walked off stage for one of the last times. Less than 36 hours later, in the same city, it was all over.

The Postal Service is a band that I have the utmost respect for; one that was able to bridge a gap between musical styles and create something that has been admired and emulated for years. The fact that they did it all on one album that was made with the two core members barely stepping in the same room as each other makes it worth so much more. This is a show that I will remember for a very long time, if not forever. Here’s to wishing for a new album, and being thankful that we at least got a few new songs this year.

Here’s the setlist for The Postal Service’s Lollapalooza show, 8/3/13:

  1. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
  2. We Will Become Silhouettes
  3. Sleeping In
  4. Turn Around
  5. Nothing Better
  6. Recycled Air
  7. Be Still My Heart
  8. Clark Gable
  9. Our Secret (Beat Happening Cover)
  10. This Place Is a Prison
  11. There’s Never Enough Time
  12. A Tattered Line of String
  13. Such Great Heights
  14. Natural Anthem

Encore

  1. (This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan (Dntel Cover)
  2. Brand New Colony
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