Friday, March 11, 2011

Welcome to Their Nation

On an average work day, if I'm ticking away at anything fairly mundane that doesn't require too much of my thinking cap or creative juices - I'm known to plug in the ol' headphones and stream an online playlist of sorts. Today I was doing something fairly administrative that could be done in my sleep, so on came the earphones, and on went the amped-up beats of California-based electro-rock group AWOLNATION. It's pretty rare that I won't notice when I'm bobbing in my seat, and next to never do I not notice when I'm practically gyrating, heaving my shoulders back and forth and, in the words of sweet little Willow Smith, whippin' my hair back and forth. That happened today, all courtesy of AWOLNATION, a group I never expected to love this much.

Having released the debut EP Back On Earth nearly a year ago, I can't figure out a number of things. I find I can't figure their genre out, I can't figure out how they have that body-heaving effect on me and I can't figure out why I only heard of them in January. This collection is a complete mash-up of genres, follows little-to-no pattern and has one common goal in mind - to get your attention. The debut, which clocks in at only 14 minutes, leaves you begging for more with only the option of starting the playlist right back over again to see if what you heard the first time around was actually as phenomenal as your bouncing muscles seemed to be telling you it was. Verdict: you will find it was, in fact, that phenomenal.

This rabid collection full of hard-hitting snapping, clapping and slamming beats is almost lunatic in it's composition. It's here, it's there, it's everywhere - with lead singer Aaron Bruno's equally screamo and soulful shouts commanding your brain's engrossment on the hurried 5-song EP. The stand-out track, and what I also expect to be the blow-out track, is undoubtedly "Sail" - a thick electronica-rock beat that buzzes and smashes underneath Bruno's unmatched vocals. His voice is scratchy, overexcited and in-your-face while still finishing most notes with an R&B shake to them. Synth, atmospheric guitar strums, "la la la's" and jaunty saloon piano runs dip in and out of the middle of the track - sealing the deal of it being one of the most captivating songs I've heard in some time.

"MF", which stands for what you might think it does (it gets spelled out more explicitly in the song, not to worry), has a screaming dance-floor feel to it - but not in the mainstream Linkin Park way. "Burn it Down" has almost little to no flow, and I never thought I'd say this - but I love the no flow. The ultimate eclectic mash-up, it's got elements of The Clash's urgent punk, a Ting Ting's retro beat and a huge, slamming break-it-down. "Guilty Filthy Soul" is where we hear that soulfulness interject - after the slower clap-beat eases us in, we get tastes of a cute hop-scotch piano melody that decorates the chorus.

Now let's see here. We've covered punk, rock, electronica, screamo, R&B, dance, retro, and even threw in a little mention of Linkin Park (enjoy that because you might not see it happen again). It seems our bases are covered, and it seems my playlist is covered for the next month or so. California-based Bruno, previously from the group Under the Influence of Giants, plans to release the full-length album Megalithic Sympathy from Red Bull Records on March 15, 2011. Get your hands on this EP and the upcoming full-length album, and you'll have tangible possession of the next big thing.

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