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Nutshell Album Review: Muse – The 2nd Law

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

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

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

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

The 2nd Law Tracklisting:

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

There has been some recent buzzing and single circulation that has everyone all excited about new albums (some confirmed, others speculated). Here is Nutshell’s top albums to look out for in the upcoming months:

Beck – With the recent release of the “I Just Started Hating Some People Today/Blue Randy” single, Beck’s various projects seem to be coming full circle to scream “NEW ALBUM”. “Looking For A Sign” was another single released by Beck earlier this year, plus reports by country singer Dwight Yoakam and bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen that he’s been in the studio. Nothing official yet, but expect it soon.

Animal Collective (Centipede Hz, due out September 4th) – After spending the large part of their 2011 tour debuting new material, Animal Collective officially announced their tenth album this past May. The cover and tracklisting have both been released, along with the non-album “Honeycomb/Gotham” single. The now 13 year old band has really hit every end of the musical spectrum, so be excited to see what they’ve come up with.

Two Door Cinema Club (Beacon, due out September 4th) – Earlier this month, Two Door’s second album was announced, including all of the info seen here. The release video that included teaser tracks has all fans of the band excited for the follow up to the platinum-selling Tourist History. This is really helping set up September 4th as a pretty great day in music.

The Strokes – Not much to be said here, other than the fact that three of the five band members have released some form of information regarding the completion of their fifth album. No title or new singles yet, but the follow up to Angles will be something to look out for.

MGMT (MGMT, no release date) – MGMT’s third studio album has received a lot of press coverage, and most of it concludes that the band is in the studio with no solid evidence of new material yet. They have been playing a new song on their South American tour called “Alien Days”, and at one point confirmed that Andrew VanWyngarden had written a handful of R.E.M. inspired songs. No singles yet, but more will come soon enough.

Muse (The 2nd Law, due out September 17th) – Muse has spent the time between their Grammy winning fifth album The Resistance and its follow up album recreating their sound. An album trailer was released on their website on June 6th, along with a countdown clock that was later tied to the release date of The 2nd Law. The band cites groups like Justice and Does It Offend You, Yeah? as influences for the album, so a world of Muse fans will be excited to hear the new sound as soon as possible.

Phoenix – Another one with no large-scale information, Phoenix’s fifth studio album has been a generally well-contained secret. The only thing to show for the recording process are a few stills that have been posted on the band’s website and reports of a late Summer 2012 release. The current photo on the band’s site is the word “Thermidor”, a month from the French Republican Calendar that spans from July 19th to August 18th, so expect some new Phoenix music around then.

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

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