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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 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: Team Spirit – Team Spirit EP

teamspiritEPAyad Al Adhamy is a brilliant, brilliant man. Not only did he grace our ears as the former synthesizer player in Passion Pit, produce many remixes under the same band, and start an absolutely awesome independent record label that’s released material from bands like The Joy Formidable, Dom, and Stepdad, but now he’s doing another thing in the music industry (shocker!). Now Al Adhamy is back in the music-making game with his new Brookyln-based garage rock group Team Spirit, which most recently has garnered the attention of Rolling Stone who called them a “Band to Watch”. This raunchy and in-your-face quartet have gained a lot of attention so far following the release of their debut Team Spirit EP, and Rolling Stone is correct; you definitely want to keep an eye on them.

The EP opens up with “Jesus, He’s Alright!”, which opens up with your standard feedback and noise before breaking into a fast-paced and riff-based pop punk track. Once Al Adhamy’s vocals get layered over the screeching guitars, exceptionally catchy bass groove, and inhumanly fast drum beat, this song transforms into an all out garage anthem. After that comes “MRDR it’s ok”, with a very listener-friendly opening hook, a beautifully double-tracked solo, and solid vocal layering to turn this into a masterpiece of a song. This track has all things necessary for you to headbang, dance like a goofy indie kid, or do anything in between. The next song is “Fuck the Beach” (thus the use of the word “raunchy” earlier), which is a hilarious and angsty song about someone who just really doesn’t want to go to the beach. The song also creates a solid Wavves-like beach punk feel, with harmonies and “woo”s being provided throughout the song as it cuts back and forth between a very civil-sounding chorus and a wall of distortion. Then comes “Teenage Love”, which includes another impressive combination of riffs, dynamics, and vocals from Al Adhamy (plus a great performance from the rhythm section), and album closer “Phenomenon”, which sounds like The Orwells doing an intense rendition of a Doolittle-era Pixies song. If you need a translation, it’s beachy, garagey, and just a good note to end the EP on.

It isn’t a secret that I love Passion Pit. It also isn’t a secret that I love things that come from Black Bell Records. Through a storm of reviews and articles about Team Spirit that, just as I did, talk endlessly about Passion Pit, Black Bell, and everything that Ayad Al Adhamy put his hands on that aren’t this band, I fear that people will lose sight of the important things: we have stumbled upon what could truly become an influential part on today’s garage/punk/beach rock scene. Kudos to Team Spirit for putting together a truly awesome debut EP, and for grabbing an 89/100 in the process.

Team Spirit EP Tracklisting:

  1. Jesus, He’s Alright!
  2. MRDR it’s ok
  3. Fuck the Beach
  4. Teenage Love
  5. Phenomenon

Nutshell Album Review: Go Tell The Eskimo – Smoke Signals EP

GTTEIt is impossible to say how much we love it when we have the chance to review something from a band we haven’t heard before. Think back to the last time you found a band that you now listen to religiously. A band that you sing along with when no one is around. Maybe even when people are around. That’s not important, but what does need to be said is that it is an amazing moment of clarity when you hear new music that you instantly want to share with everyone. The reason we love that here at Nutshell Music Group is the fact that we then get to rant on about it as long as we see fit, and come out with a new artist on our iPods in the process. That is the case for Go Tell The Eskimo, a ridiculously fun indie four-piece that is currently in the process of “crossing the pond” from the UK to smash the American music scene to pieces (in a positive way). In the upsettingly short Smoke Signals EP, the group establishes a sound that makes the non-admitting hipster inside of me start to drool.

The Smoke Signals EP opens with “When The Lights Go Out”, starting off with a play on Blur’s famous “Song 2” drum part, and then trailing off into a rhythmic, beat-focused anthem. With dancefloor-style riffs and Arcade Fire-like vocals, the track is enough on its own to win over the hearts of the US music industry. Up next is “Silverhorse Rider”, which features a grouped vocal approach and whistling overdubbed with bells. This song is a potential sing-a-long without a doubt, and it would not be a surprise to hear it over the airwaves by this time next year. The EP is then quickly closed out with “Magazine”, a track that masters the quiet and loud dynamic with a subtle force. The disc is short but sweet, and it can basically be stated as fact that this band’s debut LP will be something to talk about.

Go Tell The Eskimo was one of those happy little surprises that leaves an impact on you. The group has its own unique take on the indie rock craze that is currently going around, and they will be on top of that craze by the time it’s all said and done. It is easy for Nutshell to give the Smoke Signals EP a 95/100, and it was able to keep our jaws on the floor in the process. So go out and listen to the album (which is available on iTunes now) on Go Tell The Eskimo’s website and ReverbNation, or obtain this music in some other manner. But don’t steal music, you jerk.

Smoke Signals EP Tracklisting:

  1. When The Lights Go Out
  2. Silverhorse Rider
  3. Magazine

Nutshell Album Review: Fashions – Young Heart EP (“2 EP Tuesday” 12-04-12)

FashionsThe start of “2 EP Tuesday” comes with a wave of indie electro pop groups, with this week’s second EP being Fashions’ Young Heart EP. The New York trio has been on the rise since August based on their synthy overdubs and wide range of guest vocalists, and they were also featured as the Artists of the Month for November in NYC’s chapter of Deli Magazine. I know these days it’s impossible to find a band that’s trying to make it into the indie scene with hook-based-sort-of-electronic music. Even if, by some weird happenstance, every single band was trying their hand at that genre, Fashions would still stand out. These are three very talented musicians who can expect something big to come of this short EP.

Young Heart opens with “Slip Away”, the band’s first single that features the Fashions Children’s Choir and David Wood from Teens. It features the unique vocal loops that are familiar to Stepdad, and it has a dancefloor beat to it that has it begging to be remixed. It also quickly establishes the band’s use of vocal harmonies to fill out the sound. Next up is “I-95”, which is honestly much more cute sounding than the previous track. The track has more of a groove than a fast-paced dance beat, and it features a lot of synth lead to create more riffs and hooks than “Slip Away”. Throw in more vocal harmonizing (with the help of Sarah Rudy) and it turns out as another well put together song. Oh, and don’t worry saxophone lovers; totally awesome saxophone solos come up in this song. The EP is closed out with title track “Young Heart”, a hybrid between 80’s dance pop and M83-like volume intervals that features guest vocals from Coco Guillen, and a clean edit of “Slip Away”.

Even though it received an uncharacteristically short review, Fashions’ Young Heart EP is something you need to follow. The band is already getting widespread recognition for their first three songs, which some artists may not get until their third album (just ask Gotye…). Fashions seems to have come at the perfect time to help bridge the gap to what may become the new subgenres of indie and pop music, so in ten years some of you may get to say that you knew them before they were famous. The Young Heart EP gets a 92/100, and you can check out Fashions on Bandcamp, their website, or various other links.

Young Heart EP Tracklisting:

  1. Slip Away
  2. I-95
  3. Young Heart
  4. Slip Away (Clean Edit)

Nutshell Album Review: Blondfire – Where The Kids Are EP (“2 EP Tuesday” 12-04-12)

Blondfire“2 EP Tuesday” is basically an excuse for us to make bad puns and listen to double the cool music on any given Tuesday night. We hope you’re down with that, because it’s a thing now.

This weeks first installment of “2 EP Tuesday” is the Where The Kids Are EP from the L.A. duo Blondfire. Not only is this band just full of good ol’ family bonding (members Erica and Bruce Driscoll are siblings), but this EP brings the return of their admired indie electro-pop sound. The short, four track collection imprints the band into your brain and quickly convinces you to keep your eyes (ears?) open for a soon-to-come sophomore LP. But with no date or word as to if/when that will be hitting shelves, we can sit and wait peacefully with the borderline tease that is this EP.

It opens up with title track “Where The Kids Are”, with watery and dreamy keys overwhelmed with a powerful rhythm section. The song is able to capture the group’s Cranberries-Passion Pit feel while pulling off the electric guitar leads during the refrain and bridge. “Hide and Seek” keeps the same punch in the synth bass and drums while including an entrancing keyboard riff. A large aspect of this song is Erica Driscoll’s vocals (attributable to those of JJAMZ’s Z Berg) that take control and easily capture a listener. “Waves” opens up with an acoustic guitar and continues through an Empire of the Sun style song. With a coincidentally beachy sound, it paints a wonderful picture and puts forth a lot of energy. The EP gets closed out by “Walking With Giants”, a song with a rock undertone and that also instills wisdom (“The bigger they come, the harder they fall”).

Before this point, Blondfire has only released one album and didn’t have much to show for it other than an iTunes acoustic session. This release has a few snags, with the alternative beach rock second half becoming less appealing than the more electronic first half. That being said, the Where The Kids Are EP should breed confidence for this duo, and if it’s anything close to predicting the group’s future then they will be ending their music careers with a substantial amount of fans and money. Blondfire snags an 84/100, and you can check out their Soundcloud or their music video for “Where The Kids Are” down below.

Where The Kids Are EP Tracklisting:

  1. Where The Kids Are
  2. Hide and Seek
  3. Waves
  4. Walking With Giants

Nutshell Album Review: The Rebel Light – The Rebel Light EP

Even though we have disappeared from your world, we promise it’s nothing personal. We took the last week off to become zen-masters or something artsy like that, but nonetheless we present to you The Rebel Light, the debut EP from the LA indie trio of the same name. The attraction to this album was admittedly a strange one. The reason I was inclined to feature this album is because the story is amazing. The EP is completely self-produced. They use a wide variety of quirky, but well used instruments like trumpets and xylophones, they make awesome music videos, and my personal favorite, they recorded vocals and drums in a bathroom and woodshed. Can you say gritty? Definitely one of the best production stories heard since an album recorded in a garage won a Grammy. But other than that, The Rebel Light has a talent that is worth noting, no matter how they decide to record albums.

The EP opens with “My Heroes Are Dead”, a song with a hi-pass drum opening that breaks into a Portugal. The Man style trance. Anyone who listens to psychedelic prog-rock would attract to the overall hookiness (it’s totally a word), and it breaks into a powerful solo with trumpet overdubs and resonating drums that would fire anyone who likes music into a fit of happiness. “Goodbye Serenade”, other than having a wonderful music video, opens up with a beautiful piano part that sends you into a rhythm-dominated song. With a large emphasis put on stuttery drums and a driving bass beat, it instantly shoves listeners into “concert crowd member” mode, where you stop caring how stupid you look when you are jamming out really intensely because the song is just that damn good. The third and final track (plus the radio edit) is “Wake Up Your Mind”, a synthy track reminiscent of The Temper Trap’s self-titled second album. It breaks into more of a rock song than an indie one at the start of the verse, with megaphone-like vocals and a distorted bass line. The track strays from the EP’s other two songs, but in a positive way that says “We can make jammy-stuff. Oh and also really awesome rock songs.”

The Rebel Light is not a household name. Honestly. I wish that wasn’t the case. If this EP is any sign of things to come, then The Rebel Light is going to be a huge band in the coming years. These three songs were able to grab the band a few new fans and the EP isn’t even released yet. The Rebel Light EP gets a 91/100. Not bad for a band’s first music ever. On November 13th, find this EP and buy it. Twice. Until then, check out The Rebel Light on Bandcamp and Facebook.

The Rebel Light EP Tracklisting:

  1. My Heroes Are Dead
  2. Goodbye Serenade
  3. Wake Up Your Mind
  4. Wake Up Your Mind (Radio Edit)

Also, check out their music video for “Goodbye Serenade”:

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