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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

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.

Top Albums To Look Out For (Part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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