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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.

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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!

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: Passion Pit – Gossamer

The three year wait is finally over for Michael Angelakos and company’s sophomore album Gossamer, and I can confidently say that Passion Pit is still doing just fine musically. After reports of terrible recording sessions and questions being risen about frontman Angelakos’ mental health, the band was still able to produce a seemingly flawless follow up to 2009’s Manners.

Gossamer is opened up by none other than the first single, “Take A Walk”, a story of pain and stress covered up by a beautiful sound. This song has gotten nothing short of the maximum amount of radio airplay possible, and it’s for good reason. No song on this album better encases Passion Pit’s music as a whole and serves as a better transition out of Manners. The second single and second track is “I’ll Be Alright”, a song that describes a lot of the troubles Angelakos suffered through during this album’s creation, while still taking into account the fast paced dance tracks the band became famous for on their Chunk of Change EP. Next is “Carried Away”, a song that instantly made it apparent that Passion Pit did nothing to change their notable sound. It’s a perfect song to come this early in the album, considering it’s just chock full of the powerful synth bass and danceable drum beats fans and critics alike came to know and love. The next track is the album’s third single, “Constant Conversations”. It is a significantly slower song than most things put out by the band, and it almost has an R&B feel. But there is still the usual vocals and synth sounds sprinkled on top to really make this a notable song. “Mirrored Sea” picks up the tempo and shows off Angelakos’ vocal skill with a dreamy musical backdrop.

“Cry Like A Ghost” is a song that is pulled right out of Angelakos’ life, telling the story of various things that directly attributed to the turmoil of creating this album. This track is also a perfect example of the band’s ability to make everything seem happy and exciting, no matter how truly terrible the message is. Next we have “On My Way”, a sound never really heard (or expected to be) on a Passion Pit record. It keeps the varying tempo of Gossamer at the slow side, and it is a truly breathtaking performance by the band as a whole. “Hideaway” is what follows, featuring a minute long intro of build up and sound effects. It turns into a pace building and heart pounding song with an inspirational sound that’s comparable to “Moth’s Wings” from Manners. “Two Veils To Hide My Face” is a thirty second a capella track used to lead in to “Love Is Greed”, a song written about Angelakos’ fiancée Kristy Mucci. It is completed with coffeehouse keyboard parts and a chorus that features melodies you could hear in a candy commercial.

“It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy” is a song very easily dissected from the title. It is the most powerful song on the entire album, but not necessarily by musical force or volume. The message paints such an unbelievable picture of alienation without hope of it ending. This may not be what is expected from a Passion Pit record, but this song is definitely one that stands out. The album is closed out with “Where We Belong”, a bass heavy track full of strings and phenomenal harmonizing.

Passion Pit was able to once again prove to the music world that they are on top of the indie scene. They changed up the game plan for their sophomore LP and it very clearly paid off. After trading in the high energy for a more emotional outcome, the band was able to come up with one of the biggest albums of 2012. Gossamer is easily a 96/100, and it is available now.

Gossamer Tracklisting:

  1. Take A Walk
  2. I’ll Be Alright
  3. Carried Away
  4. Constant Conversations
  5. Mirrored Sea
  6. Cry Like A Ghost
  7. On My Way
  8. Hideaway
  9. Two Veils To Hide My Face
  10. Love Is Greed
  11. It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy
  12. Where We Belong

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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