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Nutshell Music Group’s 2012: The Year (Or…Seven Months) In Review

Everyone here at Nutshell has been taking some time off in response to the holiday season being upon us, just as we hope you did the same. But before the streamers and fireworks get released and the beginning of a new work calendar is upon us, it’s only fitting that we put together a best of list for those of you that are new to the site (or are already nostalgic). So here are some fun facts about our last seven months as an official publication. But before we get the ball rolling, here’s to wishing you a wonderful 2013.

Nutshell Music Group is born!

With the June 14th review of Walk The Moon’s self-titled LP, Nutshell Music Group officially became a publication.
Album Rating: 89/100
Album Highlights: “Anna Sun”, “Shiver Shiver”, “I Can Lift A Car”

NUTSHELLNutshell: The Logo and The Twitter

On June 18th, we unveiled our new logo, created by John Spiller. Then three days later we officially hit social media, with our Twitter that you can follow @NSMusicGroup.

Nutshell’s First Concert

The site became so much more than an album review site on July 16th, with our first concert review being published on Vampire Weekend’s Pitchfork Performance.
Concert Rating: A
Concert Highlights: Opening with the one two punch of “Cousins” and “White Sky”, an untitled new song now known as “Unbelievers”.

Making Friends

On October 15th Nutshell Music Group officially announced the addition of our newest writer, Bianca Smith. Her first review was posted less than two weeks later.

Opening the Discussion

On December 1st, we started our first full-on discussion topic as we posted our first round of Lollapalooza 2013 lineup predictions. Since then, a large amount of responses have come in and we opened up our Lollapalooza 2013 page.

Bests, Worsts, and Other Notable Things

Highest Rated Album: Matt & Kim – Lightning
Album Rating: 98/100
Album Highlights: “Let’s Go”, “Now”, “I Said”

Highest Rated EP: Go Tell The Eskimo – Smoke Signals EP
Album Rating: 95/100
Album Highlights: “When The Lights Go Out”

Lowest Rated Album: Animal Kingdom – The Looking Away
Album Rating: 73/100
Album Highlights: “Get Away With It”, “Skipping Disc”

Top Viewed Post: Lollapalooza 2013 Lineup Predictions

Most written about artist: Green Day (with a total of three album reviews)

Album We Wish We Reviewed Better: The Tallest Man On Earth – There’s No Leaving Now
Original Rating: 84/100

IMG_0445Nutshell Music Group’s total geek-out favorite band of the year: Stepdad

This one deserves some explaining. This goes to the band that Nutshell Music Group feels is the band that was most enjoyable to deal with. After reviewing Wildlife Pop back in June and then their Beat Kitchen Concert in October, the group has always been fun to watch, listen to, and even talk to in small doses. So a big thank you goes out to the guys in Stepdad for giving us a memorable band to talk about time and time again.

There you have it folks! Have a great time ringing in the new year, and we will be back on schedule with normal reviews after 2013 begins.

Nutshell Concert Review: Stepdad – Beat Kitchen 10/13/12

After spending the Summer traveling with the Vans Warped Tour, Nutshell favorite Stepdad went back to playing intimate shows, with the final stop being at Chicago’s Beat Kitchen. It was hard to budget spending a WHOLE 12 DOLLARS, but it got us up close and personal with the band, bantering with them as they set up on stage and exchanging high fives and hugs after the show. The venue was perfect to house the atmosphere of a Stepdad show, and there was an added bonus of the friendly weirdness of The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt! and the unbelievable quirkiness of Rich Aucoin to open up the show. Both acts provided a pleasant surprise, and being buried underneath tarps (twice) to dance and sing with the two rising artists well exceeded the expectations of the show on its own, and by the end of Aucoin’s set everyone had done their fair share of sweating and spastic jumping. But come 9:30, the heat and energy collaborated at the foot of the stage when the first hints of Stepdad’s “Treasure Hugs” blared through the speakers.

Rich Aucoin

They powered through a ten song set that lasted about an hour, covering material from both the Ordinaire EP and Wildlife Pop. The stage presence was priceless, with frontman Ultramark shuffling around in gold tights and a purple and gold cape/hat combo that he told us was given to him just before the show. The set was loud and powerful, with all members of the band smashing buttons on a Novation Launchpad to recreate the band’s notable vocal loops, along with drummer Jeremy Malvin breaking pair after pair of drum sticks. The music was spot on with the band being chatty and engaging in the short gaps following songs. Between sips of the PBR’s on stage, the band openly spoke of things that usually concluded with Ultramark being called “sexy”. Both the crowd and the two supporting acts were thanked by Stepdad as the show and tour came to a close, and the set ended with Ryan McCarthy saying, “This is going to be our last song. If you can’t guess what it is, then you don’t know us very well.” The band then exploded into an entrancing rendition of “My Leather, My Fur, My Nails” while the crowd erupted into a frenzy of dancing and moshing as confetti rained upon them. They then wasted no time exiting the stage, only to go out and mingle with the many fans congregating at the merchandise table.

Stepdad was a band that instantly caught the attention of Nutshell back in June with the release of Wildlife Pop. They’ve been on our radar ever since, and to catch them at a live performance was an interesting experience to say the least. It’s impossible to say whether or not their Beat Kitchen set was their most impressive to date, but what is possible to say is that Stepdad ended their tour on a nearly perfect note. They get an A for this show, no questions asked. And the question has to be asked (very hopefully): does the touring hiatus mean a new album is to come?

Here’s the setlist from Stepdad’s Beat Kitchen set, 10/13/12:

  1. Treasure Hugs
  2. Magic Stones
  3. Must Land Running
  4. Wolf Slaying As A Hobby
  5. Pick and Choose
  6. Will I Ever Dance Again
  7. Exploring
  8. Warrior
  9. Jungles
  10. My Leather, My Fur, My Nails

Nutshell Album Review: Stepdad – Wildlife Pop

In an enviornment that embraces weird song names, ridiculous album art, and music that helps you visualize LSD-style hallucinations, the Grand Rapids-based Stepdad is caught right in the middle after shipping off the two year old Ordinaire EP, complete with an angry lion/bear as a cover and songs with titles like “Wolf Slaying as a Hobby”. To make their debut LP Wildlife Pop even more enticing, the five-piece has been described as “8-bit power pop”, and listeners won’t be surprised to hear that they got their big break from writing a theme song to the popular web comic Axe Cop”. Backed with a Kickstarter funded album and a full ride to the 2012 Vans Warp Tour lineup, Stepdad is preparing themselves to become an indie sensation.

“Must Land Running” is what kicks off the album, a song that instantly takes me back to Lollapalooza 2010 when a younger version of me was dancing at the Budweiser Stage to indie three-piece band, Yeasayer. With keyboards and looped effects very reminiscent of Yeasayer’s Odd Blood, Stepdad is able to kick off Wildlife Pop with a bang. To follow is a track taken from the Ordinaire EP titled “Jungles”, which is a lot less dance worthy and could draw comparisons to M83’s Saturdays = Youth days. “Show Me Your Blood” is another one to back up those comparisons, along with an added touch of original loops and drum beats.

“Mystery In The Faking” is another track on this album with an original and exciting sound, sprinkled with squarebass and synth leads that would make the jaws drop of Passion Pit fans everywhere. “Will I Ever Dance Again” is a wildcard on the album, but is really the first taste of that “8-bit” I mentioned earlier. This song sounds like it could be the soundtrack of Rainbow Road on Mario Kart 64, and the foot tapping is inevitable. The “power pop” part from earlier enters in “To Ribbons”, a song full of great riffs, solos, and samples played by too many great instruments to list, all with a strong synth bass and drum part underneath. My answer to next track is “My Leather, My Fur, My Nails” is just “wow”. Not only does this song successfully make me think of nothing but Megaman, but it has such a catchy melody and great beat that people near me when I wrote this review started quietly dancing. “Pick & Choose” is a song so packed with obvious musical influence, I don’t even know where to start. So we’d both be better off if I did this the lazy way and just allowed to you listen to it and decide for yourself.

“Starfriends On Earth” is another one to cause the body to move unwillingly, but for good reason. This song has just about everything, my favorite aspect being the driving force of the snare drum leading the fast-paced tempo through this adventure of a song. “Treasure Hugs” opens with animal noises, which I was surprised took this long to be included. This song, along with “Exploring” had a large emphasis on a “start, stop” style, which was done well with a backup of nontraditional percussion and effects. The album closer “Warrior (Jungles Part II)” really closed the deal for me on this album by tying it up really nicely back with the beginning tracks.

Stepdad’s obscurity and quirkiness is something that had me skeptical at the beginning of this album, but I was pleasantly fooled. The vocals are reminiscent of many electropop to precede them and the sounds may blend together more than desired, but not much more could be asked of a generally new band. Besides, you aren’t doing too bad if there’s only one or two legitimate issues in your first LP. Wildlife Pop is a very well put together album that puts Stepdad at the top of my list of “Bands that will own the music business one day”. I’m expecting to see a lot of good things go their way, and the 2012 Vans Warped Tour is a pretty solid start. Wildlife Pop gets a 90/100, and I’d grab a copy now so you can tell all of your friends that you listened to Stepdad before they were famous.

Wildlife Pop Tracklisting:

  1. Must Land Running
  2. Jungles
  3. Show Me Your Blood
  4. Mystery In The Faking
  5. Will I Ever Dance Again
  6. To Ribbons
  7. My Leather, My Fur, My Nails
  8. Pick & Choose
  9. Starfriends On Earth
  10. Treasure Hugs
  11. Exploring
  12. Warrior (Jungles Part II)
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