Review: Clear Eyes Fanzine – Season One, Episodes 1-6

I’ve never seen “Friday Night Lights”, movie or television series, but I constantly hear about how great of a series it is. The evidence is clearly mounting after the creation of Clear Eyes Fanzine, a side project from Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years and Ace Enders of The Early November. Season One, Episodes 1-6 is exactly what it sounds like. Both Ace and Dan provide three songs inspired by each episode. It’s a great concept that has created some of the most intense, provoking and emotionally wrenching songs either songwriter has ever written.

You can buy Season One, Episodes 1-6 on Bandcamp.

The main takeaway from SO, E1-6 is how much these songs sound like Campbell and Enders. The first three tracks, written by Campbell are basically tracks from Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties. The second half of the record is Enders prominently displaying his penchant for atmospheric minimalism that his I Can Make a Mess project has perfected. There aren’t any surprises, just damn good songs.

Campbell’s side of the record focuses on physical ailments and trauma. Whether that be physical exhaustion and determination from “On Tim Riggins as He Prepares for His Sophomore Year” (“I puked through my mask / And the smell never fucking leaves”), or brain trauma of CTE from “Coming Up for Air” (“I don’t talk about the headaches / I don’t talk about the nights when I forget where we are”), Campbell’s descriptions of the damage from playing football are brutal and unforgiving. It’s also some of his best work to date.

Enders, taking the back half, focuses much more on the emotional toll of the characters. His songs are ethereal and soft, feeding the energy of emotional drama. “Good Get Coach” begins with whispers and Enders harmonizing with himself before exploding with a chorus of, “Another rivalry begins, watching you watching him / I wish that I could let myself just let it all out”. Meanwhile, “The Fields” explores a back and forth conversation between characters. Enders sings, “I hate that they get applauded / It’s just a stupid game / In 15 years, that varsity jacket just won’t wear the same”, before the chorus kicks in with a differing viewpoint: “In the field, we fight for our tiny lives / It tore my father down, cuz nobody gets out”.

Clear Eyes Fanzine is fun, emotionally draining and comes from two songwriters who love “Friday Night Lights”. While each artist’s songs are incredible, the wasted opportunity for the two to share a song together is astounding. However, there’s always hope for the next few episodes. As a whole piece, the EP is an emotionally gripping exercise in writing.

4/5

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 HAS TOO MUCH TELEVISION!!! There is so much to watch, and not enough time to learn how to make wicker baskets.

 

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Mini Review: Hikaru Utada – Face My Fears EP

At this point, Hikaru Utada is almost synonymous with the Kingdom Hearts video game franchise. She provided the theme song to the first two main games in the series, which have both been remixed over the years for each new game in the long running series. After nearly 13 years, Kingdom Hearts III is finally here, and with it comes two new theme songs that do the series justice.

Where “Face My Fears” sets the tone for the new game as the opening song, “Don’t Think Twice” is the theme song for the game itself. It’s a song that directly addresses players with earthy piano and angelic vocals. With Kingdom Hearts III set to close out the “Darkseeker” storyline with a final battle against the villain who has plagued the franchise since 2002, “Don’t Think Twice” is as encouraging as it is a resolute ‘thank you’ for anyone who finishes the game.

The Face My Fears EP offers a glimpse of this era of Utada, after she returned from a multi-year hiatus in 2016. With the help of Skrillex, “Face My Fears” is one of her most energetic songs of late. Beginning as a somber piano ballad, the song quickly explodes into an electropop fantasy that balances the melancholy state the heroes of the Kingdom Hearts series find themselves in at the start of KHIII, and the flamboyant hope that everything Disney brings. “Face My Fears” conveys both the breathless burden of marching into war (“Breath, should I take a deep? / Faith, should I take a leap?”) and the courage of accepting the fight (“Let me face, let me face, let me face my fears / Won’t be long, won’t be long, I’m almost here”).

“Don’t Think Twice” is a much more peaceful affair that celebrates the end of a journey. This version of “Chikai”, a single off of last year’s album Hatsukoi, appears to be a love song on the surface (such as “Simple & Clean” from the original KH). However, the song addresses the Kingdom Hearts game in direct and indirect ways soothingly. Along with vague commentary on the development cycle (“I’m only crying ’cause I never dreamed / It’d take this long, it’d take this long”), Utada changes the lyrics in the English version to reflect the third game in the series “Kiss me once, kiss me twice, kiss me three times / Cross the line”).

Included on the EP are the original Japanese versions of both songs. The natural poetry of the language they were written in is beautiful, and contain almost entirely different lyrics depending on the translations. They make a fine counterbalance to the English versions and a different experience for anyone who hasn’t already delved into the world of J-pop.

The Face My Fears EP is a tiny sliver of Utada, one of Japan’s most famous artists. The songs are softer than what would be expected as anthems of a big budget action videogame with backing from Disney, but they set the mood perfectly. Together, they feel like an ending cap to the ridiculously upbeat “Simple & Clean” (“Hikari”, Kingdom Hearts), and the war-drums of “Sanctuary” (“Passion”, Kingdom Hearts II). However Kingdom Hearts III turns out after years of extraordinarily high expectation, it’s reassuring to know that its soundtrack will at least do the series justice.

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 has literally thought about Kingdom Hearts III almost every day for the last year. He has gaming fever. Please send medicine. Or bagels.

 

Podcast: Who Won the 2018 Hip Hop Title Belt?

With another year in the books, Brock Benefiel drops by the It’s All Dead podcast studio to chat with Kiel Hauck about which rapper took the Hip Hop Title Belt in 2018. The two discuss some of hip hop’s hottest storylines of the year, break down 2018’s best hip hop tracks, and look ahead to what might come in 2019. So who won the belt? The conversation includes candidates such as Cardi B, Drake, Travis Scott, Vince Staples, Pusha T, and many more. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What were your favorite hip hop tracks in 2018? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Most Anticipated of 2019: #1 Childish Gambino Makes His Final(?) Appearance

A year-and-a-half has passed since Donald Glover announced at the Governors Ball Music Festival his intention on releasing one final Childish Gambino album before riding off into the sunset. Since that time, Glover has released one of most powerful songs of the decade (“This is America”), unexpectedly dropped a new Summer Pack EP, created another wildly successful season of his TV series Atlanta, and starred as Lando in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Glover has never been one to rest on his laurels, and the past several years have been a whirlwind of creative success. If the next Childish Gambino album truly is his last, we can rest assured that whenever it comes, and whatever it is, it will surely be great. His artistic progression from Camp to Because the Internet to Awaken, My Love! has been fascinating to watch, and there’s no telling where he might take his sound next.

Whether that rumored final album drops in 2019, or whether we receive something else completely (which seems just as likely), we patiently await whatever comes next from one of the most important and mysterious artistic voices on the planet.

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.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #2 Aaron West Roars into 2019

We Don’t Have Each Other was one of the best albums of 2014, and one of the most unique albums of the last decade. With only a handful of songs released over the last four-and-a-half years to keep the story of Aaron West moving, a second album is long overdue. Fortunately, it’s looking to be coming sooner than later.

With a steady touring schedule and The Wonder Years in between album releases, it’s an ideal time for Aaron West to grab the spotlight. Also, the official Aaron West Twitter account claimed Dan Campbell to have been in the studio as recently as November 2018. With over four years since their last release, there is a plethora of story for Campbell to cover and room for the character of Aaron to grow.

If the band’s second album can even remotely come close to the intensity of the first album, it will already be a contender for album of the year.

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 could not be more excited for new music to tickle his ears in 2019.

Podcast: The Best Debut Albums of the Past 50 Years with Evan Sawdey

Music critic Evan Sawdey makes his return to the It’s All Dead podcast to discuss a recent feature for Yardbarker in which he named the best debut albums of the past 50 years, by year. During the conversation, Kiel and Evan debate the merits of Britney Spears’ …Baby One More Time, Arcade Fire’s Funeral, Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory and many more classic debuts. Evan also discusses the power of a debut album and how it can set the stage for what’s to come in an artistic career. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What are some of your all time favorite debut albums? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Most Anticipated of 2019: #3 Copeland Put an Emphasis on the Experience

Blushing will be Copeland’s sixth studio album. It’s been almost four years since the release of their comeback album Ixora, and Blushing seems like it will be a worthy follow-up to what was a beautiful representation of where the band was in the six years they were quiet.

The band self-produced their upcoming release, and as we all know, Aaron Marsh’s production skills are top tier. They seem to have a big emphasis on the experience the listener will have with the album, rather than it just being a group of songs thrown together.

A piece on the band’s website explains what their aim with the album is and I couldn’t be more excited about the new direction. It, very appropriately, releases on Valentine’s Day.

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: Mae – Multisensory Aesthetic Experience

In my experience, when an artist decides to create something and title it after themselves, it’s their way of saying that the collection of songs we’re about to hear are quintessential to the artist’s perception of themselves or the art they create. For Mae’s new album Multisensory Aesthetic Experience, this is both a blessing and a curse.

You can buy or stream Multisensory Aesthetic Experience on Apple Music.

It’s been 12(!) years since Mae offered us Singularity, their third full-length album. Maybe it’s too honest of me to say, but, up until this latest album, I’d only ever listened to The Everglow in its entirety. Strangely enough though, I join the masses of fans who judge Mae by that album, and with new one, it was no different. Multisensory Aesthetic Experience didn’t quite live up to the standard set by The Everglow.

Musically, the album is breathtaking. It soars in unexpected places and is just subtle enough in others. It’s constantly interesting and keeps everyone guessing. The opener, “Kaleidoscope”, is stunning with its use of strings. The creative direction they took with the composition of the album is what makes me enjoy it so much. It’s what I imagine outer space sounds like. This is why it’s self-titled. Mae’s ability to take a sonic concept and fulfill it to its highest capacity is something to behold.

I wish they had done the same with the lyrics. Whether it’s just weak lyrically or it’s personal, is up to each listener. The comments on YouTube are equally convincing for either side. It’s not quite what I’ve been used to from Mae, either from The Everglow or the other tracks I’ve heard throughout the years. There are tracks that I don’t feel this way about, like “5 Light Years”, which obviously plays to the space theme I mentioned before, or “Let It Die”, which sounds like the old Mae. “The Overview”, however, is a strange sort of spoken word that totally brings us back down and, for me at least, slows it down.

I’d have to say that “Simple Words” is probably my favorite track here, when it comes to the less experimental side of things. It sounds like an Everglow B-side, and I know that’s probably not a great reason to name a track your favorite, but that’s really my only reason. I’ve always loved the way Mae deals with the topic of young love and this is a wonderful embodiment of that.

This was a difficult album to write about because of how disjointed it seems to be. On one hand, we have what’s probably the finest example of what Mae is capable of as musicians and producers. On the other hand, their songwriting is rusty. My reasoning is that they figured that staying close to home lyrically while letting the music transport us would be the best bet to keep the album somewhat grounded. But it doesn’t really work, because we all know Mae is better than that. They’ve never been ones to shy away from loftier goals than what they’ve achieved in past releases. What I love so much about their old stuff is the whimsy they poured into each aspect, and that amount of effort isn’t quite present enough on what should be their defining album.

3.5/5

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.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #4 Dua Lipa Dances into 2019

For Dua Lipa, the period between her debut and forthcoming sophomore album has been anything but quiet. In June of 2017, her self-titled release dropped to relatively modest fanfare, but 2018 saw the English pop star’s profile reach a fever pitch. Following the success of early singles like “New Rules” and “IDGAF”, Lipa struck gold last summer, featuring on Calvin Harris’ number-one single “One Kiss” before later partnering with Silk City for “Electricity” – one of the best dance tracks of the year.

In gearing up for what comes next, Lipa let slip that her anticipated follow-up would be heavily influenced by Prince and Outkast, an intriguing concept, to be sure. Both acts made names for themselves by pushing the limits of their respective genres and exploring new territory with each release. It stands to reason that 2019 may present us with a sonic side of Dua Lipa that we have yet to hear.

At the age of 23, she has already proven herself to be a hit factory with one of the most fun and inviting personalities in pop music. It shouldn’t be long before Dua Lipa’s name rings out among the elite popular artists of our time.

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.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #5 Taylor Swift Leaves Her Reputation Behind

Though Taylor Swift is one of the biggest names in the world, Reputation left many wanting. Swift claims that each new album is used to document a new chapter of her life. Although Reputation is barely a year old, this chapter seems to be closed after an extremely popular worldwide tour and Netflix Special.

There are already hints that Swift is already hard at work on her next album and there’s no reason to think it will be anything less than a stellar deep dive into the pop ether. Since most of her albums come after about two years, it’s par for the course to expect her seventh album to drop before the end of 2019.

After defending her reputation against feuds with Kanye West, Katy Perry, and public perception, this next chapter is looking to pick of the pieces of what’s left and run free.

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 could not be more excited for new music to tickle his ears in 2019.