on June 12, 2012
Grace Potter and the Nocturnal's last album (selftitled) came out almost exactly two years ago. Since that time, the band has apparently been hard at work crafting more of their soulful genre-skipping blues rock. The band pulls influence from the past, but it is also forward-thinking in its use of tempo, timbre, and genre. While this blend of varying influences may sound esoteric, THE LION THE BEAST THE BEAT does a good job of staying grounded by obeying many of pop music's conventions.
The album begins with the title-track, "The Lion The Beast The Beat," which turns out to be one of the most exhilarating track of the album. Opening relatively slowly before dramatically shifting gears into a rocking and thrilling hard-rock attack. The band seems to be operating at its best in this mode, as other ventures into country-tinged rock ("Parachute Heart," "All Over You" or Kenny Chesney-duet "Stars,") just don't quite stand up in comparison. "Timekeeper" is a bluesy, sorrowful ballad that really puts Grace Potter's vocals on display; throughout the album Potter does a great job of coming across as a fantastic singer, but never as overbearing or domineering. The band effortlessly shifts into the radio-ready (in the best possible way) "Turntable," and "Roulette" which are both catchy and infectious without appearing pandering.
While most of the lyrics here center on loneliness or sorrow, there's something confident about it. It's not depressing; instead, it feels passionate and triumphant.
The deluxe edition of this album contains 4 additional songs ("Roulette," "All Over You," "Stars (with Kenny Chesney)," and "Ragged Company (with Willie Nelson)." This edition seems to be the best edition of the available options: the standard edition feels a bit incomplete, but it is perhaps more consistent than the deluxe.
This album is incredibly enjoyable. The band sounds tighter than ever before; long-time fans will love this release. Fans of southern-rock, blues-rock, alternative-rock (or anything in between) will find several tracks here to enjoy. I would recommend THE LION THE BEAST THE BEAT to fans of Alabama Shakes, Florence + The Machine, and Jack White. Standout tracks to sample: "The Lion The Beast The Beat," "Never Go Back," "Timekeeper," and "Turntable." Sampling these tracks will give the listener a good idea of what to expect from this album.
I first became aware of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals when they performed at an event for my company last summer. I liked what I heard, and I gave their eponymous album a try. From what I understand it was a departure from their previous work, and The Lion The Beast The Beat is a continuation of their musical evolution. While Potter has a more dynamic voice, this album reminds me of Sheryl Crow's Globe Sessions (which I still consider to be her best) in the style of music. I think that they captured the essence of what made that album great without sounding derivative.
That being said let's get specific about the songs. For starters the opener/title track is interesting in many ways. The song is structured in three parts that have slightly different feels. It opens sparsely with understated vocals "I found the heart of a lion in the belly of the beast. And I held it in my hand and I could feel. I could feel, feel the beat." A tempo change follows as the "beat" is called forth. In the chorus Potter tells us that "Life is a record playing on repeat." The final section of the song starts over the final minute or so with violin flourishes layered in. Potter's vocal delivery is spot on, and this song sets a high bar for the remainder of the album.
The theme that runs through The Lion The Beast The Beat is one of loss, sorrow, and sadness. It's in the vocals "Timekeeper" - "I'm too young to be feeling this way", "Loneliest Soul" - "I'm the loneliest soul so leave me alone.", and "One Heart Missing" - "If love is made for two, there's one heart missing". Also "Stars" is one of the true ballads on the album, and it features a mournful guitar solo. Finally there is the blues rock song "Runaway" in which Potter simply asks "...let me go..."
I mentioned The Globe Sessions at the beginning, and the clearest nod on The Lion The Beast The Beat is "Never Go Back". The opening beat calls to mind "There Goes The Neighborhood" in a strong way. I also found a similarity to perhaps a less known band - Elizabeth and the Catapult. The piano opening of "Timekeeper" reminds me a lot of "Time (We All Fall Down)" from The Other Side of Zero (see my review).
Overall, I think that The Lion The Beast The Beat is a great album, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes blues rock featuring very talented female singers.
Download this: The Lion The Beast The Beat
on June 12, 2012
This album has been highly anticipated in my area. I live in Vermont, and I've seen Grace Potter & The Nocturnals seven times.
I'm sure there's some concern among fans this album may lean country too much, given the popularity of last years duet with Kenny Chesney. I assure you it does not (not that there's anything wrong with that). Touches of country perhaps, but this is a rocker, just as Grace herself has become. I'm sure some fans of the folky first album didn't like the rock direction the following two albums took. I love it. A collision of Rolling Stones and Tina Turner.
First time I heard "Never Go Back" I was underwhelmed I admit. I was expecting heavier. But it's got a great/odd combination of blues and synth, and catchy as can be. The piano ballad "Stars" is really nice. If this album has a "Paris (Ooh la la)" it's probably "Runaway", another collaboration with Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys. I really like "Parachute Heart", but as much as I want to like "Turntable", it's...eh. The whole band sounds in fine form, and are clearly comfortable together. I do miss recently departed bassist Catherine Popper, but that may be more visually than musically.
The Lion, The Beast, The Beat tries to be all things. Pop, rock, soul, blues. Sometimes the mix of genres fails, but here it works. I'm gonna call it at least as good as the previous album. Cool artwork too.
This is also available as a deluxe edition with 4 bonus tracks, another track with Chesney and one with Willie Nelson. There's the 11 track vinyl LP too. Plus an exclusive Best Buy edition with a DVD.
on July 24, 2012
There is so much going on with this album. Paris and Medicine from their previous album skyrocketed them into fame. I would have figured Grace Potter and her band was smart enough to take a hint and put out a blues rock album full of songs aiming past the heights of Paris. I was wrong. This album, to put it bluntly, is an overly produced indie album where you don't know what sound is coming next from track to track. I am heavily and thoroughly disappointed.
on June 12, 2012
Grace Potter and the guys have returned with what could possibly be the best album of the year. It opens with the finest track of all "The Lion The Beast The Beat". It starts out calm, and then kicks in to hyperdrive like a classic Ann and Nancy Wilson(Heart) classic track. It will be a crime if this piece of work does not bring Grace to a more global audience. She is quite frankly one of the best things music has to offer these days. If your tired of boring watered down rock/pop that is continuing to be churned out by such shows as American Idol and The Voice, then you should take notice of Grace. She rocks and you get to actually hear music with real instruments. No auto tune either. Key tracks: The Lion The Beast The Beat, Never Go Back, Timekeeper,Parachute Heart, and Turntable. Honestly, the entire album is amazing. Do yourself a favor and buy this. You will not be disappointed. Enjoy!
on August 1, 2013
I should have known better. I should have listened to the samples. Grace apparently is never going to record another "nothing but the water" type effort. It's a damn shame, too. This over produced, pop diva effort is just not indicative of what this lady can do. I'm done buying her recordings unless I see mention of the word Blues somewhere in the title or in a review.
on July 11, 2013
Grace Potter And The Nocturnals follow up to their breakout self-titled album in 2010. "The Lion The Beast The Beat", has some charms to it. The title track is a 70's style rock number, it would of gotten plenty of airplay in 1978, not so much in 2012. Their first single from the album was "Never Go Back", another 70's type tune. The lap steel guitar by Scott Tournet on the relaxed melodic number "Stars". "Timekeeper", is another solid AOR type song. Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys produces "Loneliest Soul", Grace produces "Turntable", some nice sitar by Benny Yurco, a solid rockin' tune. Grace's organ work keeps "Keepsake", floating. Dan Auerbach returns to produce "Runaway", great guitar by Scott Tournet. The string laden rocker "One Heart Missing", this one might of been their best choice as a single, a fantastic song. "The Divide", another string-rocker. The bonus material gives us "Roulette", a strong classic rocker, "All Over You", nice surf guitar by Grace, a nice little tune. "Stars", with country star Kenny Chesney, this got the country treatment, not like the original version on the album. "Ragged Cowboy", with 79 year-old Willie Nelson, he actually sounds fairly good here, Grace plays a great Hammond B3 here. Release this one in 1978,1979,1980 it goes somewhere, 2012 kids today don't have a clue. Just released 35 years too late.
on June 25, 2012
I expected to hate this album, actually. The title track left me suspecting that the industry had gotten ahold of another promising band and chewed it up into something commercial as soon as they saw money-making potential (R.I.P., Kings of Leon). But I got shocked out of my snobbery on this one. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals actually sound, well, natural. Genuine. True, they are cultivating a different image than they had on their eponymous album two years ago (though perhaps not too far off from that god-awful "Paris (Ooh La La)"), but it seems as if they have found the grounds for confidence, even while remaining refreshingly versatile.
I caught on to this band through the snippet in Rolling Stone magazine, and thus started with the eponymous album. I liked it but didn't think it was great. Mostly I welcomed the opportunity to get my ears out of the 60's and 70's and into the now. After all, you can't rebuild Rock by funneling more money into Mick Jagger Inc. GP&N's 2010 album was refreshing in that regard, though it left me wondering if they packed the umph necessary to make a great Rock N' Roll band, and certainly I didn't see them matching up to the Black Keys' early work (don't like their new stuff, by the way). Nevertheless, I decided it would be worth keeping an eye out for them. I think, for the most part, my judgment call was right, and I think the band judged themselves accurately as well. This is definitely not a 70's revival record, but it's a stronger album as a result.
"The Lion, The Beast, The Beat" falls somewhere between Blondie and Fleetwood Mac, and also with an eye on both Nashville and New Orleans. "The Divide" also owes something pretty obvious to Led Zeppelin. The style overall is very well executed as well: let's not forget that Buffalo Springfield was criticized for never nailing a distinctive style down. The album is impressive in its consistency and viscosity, especially considering the wide range of styles and sounds that are sampled. It is, overall, a pop album, though it bears none of the frivolity of its mainstream counterparts, old or new. What I mean to say is it's not Madonna or Lady Gaga pop, far from it. It is retro pop, and exhibits a tinge of a whole range of decades. But Grace's voice is still bluesy enough that I can't call it a completely pop record. Have I confused you yet? That is one of the wondrous things about this album: you can't pin Grace's band down, but you are never left with the feeling that it is completely scattershot. This, I think, is the mark of a band coming to maturity: when they no longer find it necessary to emulate other bands and instead strike out on their own. As far as this effort goes, they are coming together nicely. Will it be a classic for future generations to look back on? It's hard to say- certainly the band has gained momentum in the last two years, but it remains to be seen if anybody's listening. They deserve the ear of their generation, either way.
on August 23, 2012
Purchased this on the day of release on her past albums. Really liked the Grace Potter of old and can't say the same for this album. Have listened to it many times and no matter how much I try still can't say much good about it. Lacking every thing that she really excelled in on past albums at least in my ears. Have not read any other reviews of the album as to not let others influence my thoughts on this and just being honest in this review. I'm sure others well disagree but that is their right. Just hoping future works return to her "Original Soul".
on June 14, 2015
Four or five years after I listened to their first big album "Grace Potter and the Nocturnals," they remain my favorite band. That owes nothing to the forgettable songs on this album. Grace's fantastic soulful voice is still there, but all personality has disappeared without a trace. In complete contrast to all their earlier releases, most of these songs float in air or in space with no sense of place or personality or story that makes her earlier work so gritty and distinctive and colorful. They are all abstract: anywhere and nowhere, anybody and nobody. No story is told about the singer and no interesting changes take place from the start to the finish of the song.
Her 2010 album, This is Somewhere (2007), and Nothing But the Water (2006) are filled with songs belted out by gutsy women who may be flawed and imperfect, but are each strong and independent in their own way: neither conformists or rebels. That's a big part of what makes Grace Potter stand out from the herd. Did Grace Potter fall victim to the music industry focus groups which perform the equivalent of "sip tests" on music consumers? In Blink Malcolm Gladwell describes how in "sip tests" U.S. consumers will nearly always choose the sample with more sugar, even though the result is sickening when they drink case after case of the same soft drink. And in his chapter on "the Kenna Problem" he describes the similar problem with focus groups where consumers who listen to only a few seconds clip of a song and are asked to rate it can't distinguish the difference between disliking a song and having a reaction to something that's merely unfamiliar. My personal opinion on the music industry is that this is no mistake on their part from a money-making viewpoint, because they make more money selling musical planned obsolescence. If you get sick of a saccharine song or album after listening to it for a year or two, then they figure you're ready to throw it away and move on to something new and so you're more likely to spend even more $$$ on music next year and the year after that. And generic singers and songwriters are interchangeable and disposable: if all artists are generic disposable replacements for each other, then music studios have more bargaining power and can keep more of the profits and give less to the musicians. How many fantastic distinctive budding artists who achieved success with a great release have produced mediocre sophomore albums when the studios convinced them to turn out an over-produced follow-up?
I'm sad to see Grace Potter fell victim to this bland saccharine sameness. "I can't tell the wheel from the road or the sea from the sky" (The Divide), and in the same vein, Grace Potter has put out a set of songs that are sadly indistinguishable from so much else that's out there. I've seen her energy in concert and she has all the guts and talent and creativity to do so much better than this. Personally I'm hoping she'll recover the soulful, gritty, colorful personality that made me fall in love with her earlier songs for her next album.