Nigel & the Dropout, &
Record Label: None
Release Date: June 23, 2011
As I listened to the debut album from Nigel & the Dropout, I couldn’t get away from one recurring thought: This duo has the potential to create brilliant music.
As I listened to the album, I heard a lot of great ideas coming together from two very talented musicians who recorded a really good album. The only thing holding them back is time. & is the first unsure steps of a creation just starting to walk, just beginning to reach out and find it’s voice. It’s a self-indulgent album in the best possible sense of the phrase, as it’s what the band requires at this point. & is the beginning of Nigel & the Dropout’s sound starting to come together, and it’s a wonderful listen.
The album begins with ominous electronics and percussion, slowly growing and building into a steady beat, and eventually a full song, and one of the best on the album. “Mister Grief” is a perfectly executed opener to the album’s most solid run, as the tracks that follow only get better.
After the minute-long interlude “Acceptance” fades away, the haunting “Pill” fades in. The song is a somber, aching tune that features Andy Ficker doing some of his best work vocally. The multi-layered vocal tracks help create one of the most relatable and honest moments on the album. Eventually, the track crawls to a segway into “Silhouette,” one of their most exciting cuts.
“Silhouette” begins with a catchy guitar line and percussion leading into a quiet verse, eventually crafting their most accessible song. This is about as radio-friendly as the band gets, and it’s done very well. “Silhouette” and it’s follow up, “Furniture & Despair,” are the six strongest minutes on the album.
It’s after “Furniture & Despair” that & starts to show its shortcomings. “L’appel du vide” is a minute-and-a-half of ambient instrumentation that fails to really add anything notable to the flow of the album. Nigel & the Dropout included several of these tracks: short instrumentals that display interesting musicianship and excellent production, but ultimately end up forgettable, meshing with songs around them. It sounds like musical ideas that are underdeveloped. It seems like they had potential but were left unfinished.
“Expiration Date” gets the album on steady footing again, featuring exceptionally produced vocals and instrumentation taking a song to all the possible places it can go. Deep, rich synths and floating vocals fit in place with bright guitars and a precise beat. One of their longest songs ends up being one of their best.
The album closes on “Causa Sui,” which from Latin translates to “cause of itself”. It’s a fitting end to an entirely self-produced, self-released album. “Causa Sui” is the longest song on the album, reaching more than five minutes, and starts slowly, as Ficker sings over slow, muted instrumentation that builds on itself for several minutes. The song ultimately cascades to multiple vocal tracks playing over guitar and deep percussion. Maybe it’s because the song is so slow, or maybe it’s because the climax isn’t easily identifiable, but when the album ends, it’s almost unexpected. “Causa Sui” is a good piece, but like most of the album, I was left with the thought that there might have been the possibility of something better.
Make no mistake, Nigel & the Dropout’s & is a very good album. Its highs are very high and its lows aren’t so much lows as they are lulls in an otherwise enriching experience. The band’s musicianship is excellent, and Ficker utilizes his vocal talents perfectly in combination with the music. The album concludes with endless possibilities for a band that has the potential to create something truly astounding. & isn’t it, but in no way does that mean it’s not worth your time.