Podcast: Cove Reber Reflects on Saosin’s “In Search of Solid Ground”

Ten years have passed since post-hardcore act Saosin released In Search of Solid Ground, the final album to feature lead vocalist Cove Reber (now in Dead American). On the latest episode of It’s All Dead, Reber joins Kiel Hauck to reflect on the events leading up to and during the recording of the album and discuss why its legacy has changed so dramatically over the past decade. Reber shares stories from the studio and explains how tensions within the band, and with their record label, impacted his experience in creating the record. Listen in, and be sure to check out Cove’s new band, Dead American!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

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Podcast: Making Sense of Blink-182’s “Nine”

It’s been three weeks since the release of Blink-182’s new album Nine, so Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz hop on the podcast to break down the release. The two discuss their opinions on the new album, break down their favorite tracks, and attempt to rank it within the rest of Blink-182’s discography. They also share their opinions about the band’s music since their 2009 reunion and discuss the band’s legacy after two solid outings in Nine and California. Listen in!

Like our podcast? Come join the conversation on Flick Chat and subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts.

What is your favorite Blink-182 album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: The Early November – Lilac

I read once that The Early November chose their name because, much like that time of year, they changed their sound as often as the late seasons. I have no idea how true that actually is, but it has always rang true to me. The Early November have altered and changed from album to album, never staying with one sound for too long. The only constant is the emotional vulnerability that every song brings. Lilac brings not only the biggest change to the sound the band have developed after almost 20 years, it is quite possibly the most robust album the band has delivered since The Room Is Too Cold.

You can buy or stream Lilac on Apple Music.

Lilac is a stylistically diverse album, a fact it presents almost immediately. The Early November manage to juggle the sound of punk rock, Fall Out Boy-lite pop elements and incredibly intricate instrumentation. The flourish of trumpets or the somber whale of a french horn pepper into songs and constantly surprise the listener. The lilac flower is a symbol of innocence, and it shows across the album with tales of finding the lowest of emotional depths, only to pull yourself together. In the end, Lilac is an album of redemption.

Vocalist and songwriter Ace Enders pushes the sound of the band further than ever before. No two songs sound alike and each flows seamlessly to the next. Guitarists Bill Lugg and Enders find a variety of sounds from punk rock (“My Weakness”) to twinkling indie rock (“Hit By A Car (Euphoria)”) to dance riffs that act as a background to the rest of the instrumentation (“Fame”). Bassist Sergio Anello rips through a series of deep riffs (“My Weakness”) while multi-instrumentalist Joseph Marro’s piano and guitars layer thick (“You Own My Mind”). Drummer Jeff Kummer keeps pace with Enders, varying from intricate dance beats (“Perfect Sphere (Bubble)”) to deep melancholic bursts (“I Dissolve”).

Enders himself delivers a vocal performance different from any past release, whether that be with The Early November or his solo project, I Can Make A Mess. He pushes his vocals to shout and croon (“Hit By a Car”), enters the realm of pop (“Fame”; “You Own My Mind”), and almost whispers melody (“The Lilac”).

Opening song “Perfect Sphere (Bubble)” quickly sets Lilac apart from TEN’s discography. The energetic pianos, etherial guitars and Enders’ angelic croons deliver a sound that stands out against the moody rock of years past. “My Weakness”, a garage rock jam with a bridge and chorus that hint at what it would be like to hear Taylor Swift write a punk song, especially with Enders’ styled squeak during the chorus.

“Ave Maria” dances through an uplifting beat as Enders reflects on letting himself and a loved one down (“I thought if I looked nice, I would feel nice / And you would see me right, you would see me right / But it was an old lie, it was a cold lie / It was a long night.”). But for each downer, Enders weighs it with one of hope, such as the moody “Our Choice”. The song wrestles with the idea of addiction, as he swings back and forth between feeling enslaved to it and fighting back. “There is a choice to be alive, when failure keeps you up at night / So every morning, I will try / I will never stop the fire / I have a choice to be alright”.

The Early November constantly shift and push themselves in directions that no one sees coming. But consistency isn’t needed with a band so confident in themselves. Lilac bucks every expectation placed upon it, and steps away as one of the fullest albums The Early November have ever written. It demonstrates just how much the group can adapt and shift, but never remain predictable for long.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and just realized his air conditioner is running even though it is like, 50 degrees outside. What a silly goose he is.

Reflecting On: Blessthefall – Witness

“We’re not dead / We’re not like you said / We’re not dead / We’re not like you!”

In music, there are those special moments that send a chill up your spine no matter how many times you’ve heard them. The opening refrain of Witness, the sophomore album from blessthefall, still cause my hair to stand on end. It’s the rallying cry of a band that many had written off after the departure of lead singer Craig Mabbit, and it’s an explosive introduction to a new era of metalcore that would set the tone for the next decade of heavy music.

You can buy or stream Witness on Apple Music.

Even though blessthefall have released better albums over the course of their 15-year career (Hollow Bodies, Hard Feelings), I go back to Witness constantly – multiple times a year. With an October release date, the record brings back memories of autumn, but truly, this is an album that could spin year round. It’s heavy, but not punishingly so. It’s full of melody, but you’d never confuse it with the pop-screamo scene that proceeded it.

By late 2009, a new wave of metalcore acts were beginning to become household names in the scene. The Devil Wears Prada had achieved a rapid rise through Plagues and With Roots Above and Branches Below and Bring Me the Horizon had bled into the States with the success of Suicide Season. But those bands required a certain proclivity for and background in heavy music to fully appreciate. Witness offered an entry into metal while never feeling like it was compromising. It’s a heavy album that allows you space to breathe.

New lead singer Beau Bokan was just that – a singer. The band’s heaviness came from bassist Jared Warth’s brutal screams, guitarist Eric Lambert’s drop-D riffing, and drummer Matt Traynor’s machine-gun drumming. That opening cry of “We’re not dead” still resonates because of its urgency and authenticity. With Mabbit leaving for the seemingly greener grasses of Escape the Fate, blessthefall had a lot to prove in 2009, having just signed to Fearless Records with a new lead singer and a new sound. What the band delivered was nothing short of astonishing.

What Bokan brought to the band that Mabbit hadn’t with the band’s decent, but relatively pedestrian debut album, His Last Walk, was personality. Getting called up to the big leagues from indie band Take the Crown, Bokan immediately resonated with fans through his live performance and soaring vocals. That opening track leads into “What’s Left of Me”, which finds Bokan singing, “Blood is dropping from my hands / Tell me, is this what you wanted?” The entire album feels rife with bad blood – towards Mabbit and anyone who dared doubt the band could carry on. On the title track, Warth bellows the lines, “Don’t try so hard / We see right through you / You’re a liar, you don’t need to breathe / You said, you said, you said we’re done”.

Even the album’s iconic artwork hammers the point home. A lone monarch butterfly amidst a post-apocalyptic wasteland with the word “WITNESS” in all caps lets us know we’re about to watch something rise from the ashes. It’s at once beautiful and menacing, but mostly, it’s a statement of purpose.

Yet for all of the vigor, anger, and drive found throughout Witness, the band still manages to find small moments of space for reflection, such as album closer “Stay Still”, in which Bokan carries the vocals entirely. On fan favorite “Hey Baby, Here’s that Song You Wanted”, the band leans into scene dramatics, kick-starting the track with a voicemail from a spurned former lover of Bokan’s that I’m still not sure is real or staged. The energy never dies, but the pace does shift enough to allow you to rest your neck.

One of my personal favorite moments on the album comes on “We’ll Sleep When We’re Dead”. Bokan, a vocal fan of Fall Out Boy, drops some of his most Pete Wentz-esque lyrics, singing, “Hide your makeshift hearts / We’re taking aim / And we won’t be leaving”. On “Five Ninety”, a track that bookends melody with crushing breakdowns, finds Bokan digging at the nerves the band likely felt when crafting this debut-redo, “This road is getting darker / You’ve been dying to find your inspiration”.

Though I have no definitive proof, I feel strongly that Witness was the gateway drug that led to the full metalcore explosion that came in the following years. Blessthefall (along with bands like A Day to Remember) allowed both musicians and fans alike to realize that there was room to write for multiple audiences and that the traditional pop punk Warped Tour crowd was open to listening to something a bit heavier if crafted in the right way. Witness doesn’t suffer from a weak moment or a lack of identity. It sets the stage for not only the next 10 years of a band that has become a mainstay and trendsetter, but a decade’s worth of bands hoping to catch that same fire.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Reflecting On: Paramore – Brand New Eyes

Oftentimes when I write these 10-year reflections, I’m coming at them as a person who fell in love with them years after their release. We’re finally coming up to some of the anniversaries of albums that have impacted me from the point of their release, and what better album to speak about first than Paramore’s brand new eyes.

You can buy or stream brand new eyes on Apple Music.

This is a deeply personal album for me, but then again, I feel like it’s a personal album for every Paramore fan. Whether the album hit you hard because of your own life or you were devastated at the fate of the band during the period of 2009 to 2011, there’s no question that this is the discography’s most important album. Sure, Riot! brought them international acclaim and made Paramore a household name. But, for me at least, it was brand new eyes that made me a true fan. 

From the beginning of the album, Paramore proved that things were changing in their sphere. In interviews and live performances the band conducted during the album cycle, the band was visibly distant and on their guard. Tracks like “Careful” and “Feeling Sorry” made it clear that there was trouble in paradise. As hard as that was for the band, both personally and professionally, they needed to release brand new eyes. It brought to light the things Paramore had been holding back throughout their career. We wouldn’t have the self-titled album or After Laughter if Hayley hadn’t made everyone in the band face the problems they were clearly having.

In preparation for writing this, I listened to brand new eyes a bunch. It’s totally nostalgic, but there’s still things I’m gleaning from it even now. I realize now that the way I see faith, love, friendship, and quite honestly, conflict resolution has totally been molded by this album. “Playing God” and “Turn It Off” were some of the first songs that kind of burst my perfect religion bubble. With this album, I finally found it okay to raise some questions about myself that I was afraid of acknowledging. I feel like it was kind of the same for Hayley. After releasing brand new eyes, she had let go of the idea that she needed to please everyone. Paramore was always kind of that quasi-Christian rock band, and I feel like they were finally able to drop that label and come into their own. 

Now that the sob story is over, the album also jams incredibly hard. It’s got some of Paramore’s best vocals, lyricism, and music. The band really put their all into it, almost like they kind of sensed it was the end of their first act. It took four years for them to release anything new, and quite honestly, it was so up in the air as to whether they would. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and we know the happy ending to the brand new eyes story is the fact that everyone was able to reconcile their differences for the most part. I think that’s why I still find it so easy to listen to. I know how it ends. Everyone comes home.

With Zac’s (very good) side project Halfnoise, and Hayley’s (very good) hair dye company, there’s no telling whether we’ll get another Paramore album anytime soon. In the meantime, there’s still things to learn and gain from listening to their past albums. “God knows that the world doesn’t need another band / But what a waste it would’ve been / Can’t believe that we almost hung it up / We’re just getting started”. On this 10-year anniversary of brand new eyes, I’m thankful that they didn’t hang it up.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Tiny Moving Parts – Breathe

I first heard Minnesota’s Tiny Moving Parts when they opened for The Wonder Years in 2016. I was a very casual listener until they released Swell last year. Swell became one of my favorite albums and one I consider to be among 2018’s best. When they announced that there would be a new album this year, I was psyched. They’re one of the most creative bands in the scene at the moment, and they bring some much needed positivity to a genre that is often a beacon of the opposite. 

You can buy or stream Breathe on Apple Music.

Their new album Breathe features artwork by guitarist Matt, and really it couldn’t be more fitting for they album it belongs to. While being their softest album, it’s also arguably their best. With each release, the band keeps refining their sound, and I feel like they’ve finally hit the sweetest spot. I was never a math rock fan until I found Tiny Moving Parts, and now it’s one of my favorite subgenres, and they’re at the forefront.

The album opens with “The Midwest Sky” – one of my personal favorites. It’s a peppy start and definitely a great opener and would also make a pretty great single. Breathe is the perfect mix of what was so cool about Swell, with some new aspects, like the banjo found on “Vertebrae” thrown in for good measure. 

In the lead single, “Medicine”, lead singer Dylan regards death as something that helps us grow rather than something that should tear us down. He doesn’t ignore the fact that it’s painful, but he prefers to give us a reminder that we can grow through the things that hurt. That’s something that’s been prevalent across all of their albums, but here in Breathe, the band tells us to do exactly that — breathe. It’s refreshing in comparison to both their previous albums and the scene in general. I think that’s what made the album stand out to me so much. 

My biggest crisis regarding the album is that there’s not a track where I’m like, “Eh I could skip this.” Some people would say that this review is too positive and lacks critique, but I would say that the album deserves no critique. It’s wonderful from front to back. It’s got fluidity, fantastic musicianship, and they’ve still managed to keep the aspects that have made them a staple in my playlist for the past couple of years. Breathe is a treasure. 

5/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

A Night with Marina on the Love and Fear Tour

Seeing Marina live has been on my bucket list since I started listening to Electra Heart. I have always loved her cinematic approach to music and if you watch any of her music videos, you know she likes to go big or go home. So naturally, when she announced the accompanying tour to her album Love + Fear, I knew I had to be there. I know I say that about every show I go to, but after years of wondering whether I would ever get to see her perform, I really did have to be there.

She brought Daya as her opener, but we got stuck in traffic and only got to hear her play her last song, the song she did with The Chainsmokers, “Don’t Let Me Down”. You could tell that she had done a good job of opening, because everyone was already dancing and having a great time. I was bummed to miss her set.

Marina came on at about 8:30 p.m. and opened with the lead single from Love + Fear, “Handmade Heaven”. She was accompanied by a team of four dancers/background singers and a drummer. She then played “Hollywood” from her first album, The Family Jewels. She split the show in half, the Love half and the Fear half. She chose other songs from her discography that fit into each section and it was pretty cool to think about her sitting and planning her tour, picking and choosing songs that have connected throughout her whole career. 

She played an acoustic version of “Teen Idle” that I mention not only because she played it beautifully, but because of that particular song from Electra Heart. It’s one of the darker songs on the album but she hid that behind a lot of synth and effects. When it was so stripped back, though, it really drew attention to the despair in the lyrics. I think it was a testament of how she’s grown since 2012. Even though Electra Heart was a character she created, Marina’s gone through a lot in her career. She’s dealt with a lot of personal things in the spotlight, and it’s no doubt that she stepped back from music to deal with those things privately. So to hear “Teen Idle” so bare like that was really special. She clearly doesn’t relish in those lyrics anymore, and she doesn’t want us relishing in them either.

All in all, I would absolutely follow Marina through this tour. Her use of dance was a lovely choice, and the setlist couldn’t have been more perfect. From “I Am Not a Robot” to the unreleased track “I’m Not Hungry Anymore”, she really gave everyone something to look forward to. It was a pretty chilly night in Boston, but Marina’s high energy show made us all forget about that for a while.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Blink-182 – Nine

Blink-182 were my first musical love. Over 20 years later, I remember hearing “What’s My Age Again?” for the first time, and the shockwave that it sent through my life, as well as the aftershock of obsession with pop punk. As Blink-182 continue to forge their second identity, it’s easier to see who they are and where they are going. If California (2016) was meant to reassure fans that they were the same band fans fell in love with, Nine is the album that reassures us that Blink-182 aren’t ready to settle on the merits of their past.

You can buy or stream Nine on Apple Music.

What stands out the most about Nine isn’t the new ground that it forges, but how it reaffirms what they have already done. If there is any of Blink’s past albums that this most resembles, it is the often neglected Neighborhoods (2011). Much like their first comeback album, Blink-182 are still searching for an identity years after creating a bedrock for the modern pop punk genre. As much as it takes a step forwards to test the boundaries of modern rock, Nine takes just as many backwards.

Nine suffers from an identity crisis. While a song like “The First Time” calls back to staples such as “Feeling This”, others such as “Happy Days” reflects the mediocrity of rock, and “Run Away” attempts to find a middle ground. Nine isn’t a bad album, it just doesn’t know what direction to lean into. Years after adding Matt Skiba as a permanent member, Blink-182 somehow sound less cohesive than ever. Some songs sound like they were included as an excuse to show off Travis Barker’s insane drumming (“I Really Wish I Hated You”).

Where Nine shines is how well it melds the legacy of Mark Hoppus’ high marks with the new sounds the band have forged over the last few years. “Heaven” provides Hoppus the chance to shout one of the catchiest choruses on the album, or meld so effortlessly into the anthemic verse and chorus sing-a-long of “Blame It On My Youth”. The signature pop of his bass is refreshing to hear, like seeing a family member again after a long time (“Happy Days”).

The effort Matt Skiba unleashes is astonishing on this album. Skiba manages to somehow make his guitar parts sound reminiscent of Tom DeLonge’s crisp style while still creating a sound different than that and of his work in Alkaline Trio (“No Heart to Speak Of”). However, while his vocals are amazing, Nine attempts to cut the difference between him and DeLonge by adding filters over many of his singing parts. These help bridge the gap between Skiba and DeLonge’s vocal pitches, but do not allow Skiba to shine through the way he should given how powerful of a singer he is.

Drummer Travis Barker erupts through each song, as he should, given he is one of the best drummers currently working and Blink-182’s long-time secret weapon. Oftentimes, Nine feels like it is designed around letting Barker shine through more than anything (“Black Rain”). Barker never stops moving and elevates what would otherwise be a mediocre rock song to become something great (“Blame It On My Youth”).

In many ways, Nine feels like a second attempt to make Neighborhoods, complete with a sequel to “Heart’s All Gone” (“No Heart To Speak Of”). Nine is catchy, fast, and melds rock with R&B drumming in a way that seems to stem directly from the Self-Titled (2003) album, but with less cohesion. Where a song like “Black Rain” pushes Blink-182 to the brink by relying on a post-punk guitar riff and near-EDM style drumming, a song such as “Hungover You” relies on tired guitar heavy choruses and lazy vocals to push it to the finish line. However, something like “On Some Emo Shit” works brilliantly by being a callback to songs from the early 2000’s, complete with a guitar solo pulled straight out of a Get Up Kids song.

Blink-182 have never been known for the weight of their lyrics, but rather for the precise catchiness of them. A Blink-182 song should make you want to sing every time you hear it, no matter what the words may be. In that regard, Nine succeeds in spades. However, if there is one song that actually says something of significance, it is the single “Blame It On My Youth”. Hoppus and Skiba reflect on the path that led them to be who they are today (“I was raised on a rerun / I was bored to death, so I started a band / Cut my teeth on a safety dance / My attention span never stood a chance”).

Other times, small lyrics cut canyons the longer you listen to them. This is especially prominent in “Generational Divide”, which uses about 30 unique words over 49 seconds of raging guitars and drums (“Are we better, are we better now?”).

Nine sees Hoppus, Skiba, and Barker testing the waters of what they want to be as a band and how deep Blink-182 fans can swim. The album pushes boundaries beyond past releases, but still settles in patches that feel far too safe. The combined talents of Blink-182 have earned the right to push themselves and forge new ground. However, Nine finds only hints of what is possible. Much like Neighborhoods, it faces the possibility that it will be forgotten in the shadow of brilliance of whatever follows it.

3/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and loves The Crimes of Grindelwald. Yeah, he said it and he’ll say it again to your mother.

Podcast: Summer 2019 and the Death of Genre

This year’s song of the summer is undeniable, but what does it tell us about the future of music? Evan Sawdey of PopMatters joins Kiel Hauck to break down the success of “Old Town Road”, the rise of Billie Eilish, and the odd absence of some of pop music’s biggest stars on the charts this summer. They also discuss Taylor Swift’s new album, Lover, break down their “deserted island discographies,” and share their most anticipated albums set to release in the back half of 2019. Listen in!

Like our podcast? Come join the conversation on Flick Chat.

What was your song of the summer? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Melanie Martinez – K-12

When I think of controversy in music these days, I immediately think of Billie Eilish. Her album was unique and her videos are provocative. Even the way she dresses has made headlines. But before Billie released When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, there was Melanie Martinez. She started as a contestant on season 3 of The Voice, auditioning with Britney’s “Toxic”. She didn’t win, but that appearance catalyzed a career that made it possible for artists like Billie to push the boundaries they do.

You can stream K-12 on YouTube.

Melanie released her first album, Cry Baby, in 2015, then went on to direct and star in music videos for all 13 tracks. The album covers issues like abuse, alcoholism and kidnapping. You name it, Melanie has written about it. The album tells the story of a girl named Cry Baby and her childhood. It took me some time to get into her style – the original horror-trope filled pop, disguised in the color pink and cupcake frosting – but eventually, at the prompting of a friend, I bought the album. Melanie was accused of sexual assault in 2017, although not criminally charged. She was very quiet while all of this happening, leaving social media, as well as leaving fans wondering whether she would ever release more music.

This past May, she became active on social media again and announced that she was releasing an album/film combo called K-12. It would continue the story of her alter ego Cry Baby to a boarding school with ulterior motives. It was released to YouTube on September 6th.

The album opens with “Wheels On the Bus”. She talks about how adults don’t tend to take adolescents seriously and about some of the activities teens partake in, casual sex and drugs being her choice examples. This album is much more mature than her last album from a lyrical standpoint. She seems to have taken into account the sensitive nature of her lyrics and toned it down. She hits on a lot of heavy subjects, but none as violent as tracks from her last album like “Sippy Cup” or “Tag, You’re It”.

“Class Fight” is about bullying, but in the film, there’s a moment that starts to show the project’s true intent. The class is told to stand for the pledge and a young African-American boy refuses. He says, “You hear that? Liberty and justice for all? That’s BS.” His dissenting voice is quickly silenced by school authorities, and it’s a nod to civil rights and another stab at the idea that children aren’t as wise as the authority around them.

The girl, Kelly, mentioned in “Class Fight” is another antagonist in the film that serves to further the tracks about body image, “Strawberry Shortcake” and “Orange Juice”. The latter is a very poignant track about eating disorders. “Show and Tell” is about Melanie’s experience with fame, and the idea that she’s a person, not a puppet.

Each track is obviously pivotal to the film, but as an album, the project feels long. She sings about so many things that it can feel bombarding, and after a while (before watching the film), I didn’t really know which details to focus on. I’d much rather sit and watch the hour and a half long film. The album alone kind of feels like listening to The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack without ever seeing the Broadway play. The film is free to stream on YouTube, and with its beautiful cinematography and choreography, it’s well worth the timestamp, and ends on quite the cliffhanger. As for future plans, Melanie stated in an interview that she’s planning on producing two more films.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.