The Contagious Joy of Echosmith on Inside a Dream Tour

There’s just something about watching someone do something they truly love that’s genuinely rewarding. It brings a smile to your face and fills your heart. It’s familiar and it can even instill you with confidence about yourself and your own aspirations. That’s the feeling I got watching Echosmith on stage at Old National Center in Indianapolis last week.

Even without a promised new full-length, Echosmith has managed to maintain the steam they generated in late 2013 with single “Cool Kids” and the success of their debut, Talking Dreams.  Last year’s promised new album turned into an EP titled Inside a Dream, which may have been one of the most overlooked releases of 2017, harnessing the band’s charm with the introduction of well-executed synth-pop.

Echosmith

With those new dance beats now in their arsenal, Echosmith’s live performance has morphed into a therapeutic party of excitement and release. As the band took the stage to “18” from their recent EP, singer Sydney Sierota’s smile lit up the room. The band, consisting of siblings Sydney, Noah, and Graham, parted with their eldest brother Jamie in 2016 when he stepped away to care for his newborn. In his absence, the band has carried on without losing a step on stage.

Despite their early success, it’s these unheeded new tracks that steal the show in the band’s live performance. Yes, it’s easy for onlookers to sing along to Talking Dreams tracks like “Let’s Love’, “Terminal”, and “Bright”, but fresh performances of “Future Me”, “Get Into My Car”, and “Hungry” breathe excitement into the crowd. The best moment of the night includes a stirring performance of “Goodbye”, complete with exploding balls of confetti that rain down on the bouncing congregation.

Echosmith

The tracks on Inside a Dream succeed in tackling the frustrations of youth, regret, and heartbreak while operating atop sparkling synth sounds akin to 1989 or the latest release from PVRIS. It’s a juxtaposition that harkens to the band’s early days while providing a look at what it means to say goodbye to your innocence.

All of this is what makes the smile on Sydney’s face as she sings such a joy to watch. At one point during the evening, she asks the crowd who came to the concert alone and invites those nearby to put arms around their shoulders and sway to the song. It’s a communal experience, which makes sense, because Echosmith has continued to so confidently convey what it means to grow up. Does it hurt at times? Of course. But there’s something to be said for finding comfort in those that journey alongside you.

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.

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Podcast: The Wonder Years Strike Again

On our latest podcast, Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz are joined by It’s All Dead writer Nadia Paiva to discuss the latest release from The Wonder Years. During the discussion, the trio debate the merits of Sister Cities and dialogue about where the album lands among the band’s best releases. They also share their favorite songs from the album and talk about the band’s knack for human stories and connecting with listeners. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What was your favorite song on Sister Cities? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Weeknd Sets New Streaming Record with “My Dear Melancholy,”

Amidst all of the release buzz over the past few weeks, we’d be remiss not to mention The Weeknd’s surprise EP My Dear Melancholy,. Arriving on streaming services on March 30, the release has scored the largest EP streaming debut of all time and provides The Weeknd with his third consecutive No. 1 Album on the Billboard 200 chart.

My Dear Melancholy, strips away the celebratory pop vibe of 2016’s Starboy and returns to the darker vibes found on Beauty Behind the Madness. Melancholy is a cohesive set of six tracks, intertwined with pain and self-loathing that feels familiar. Whether it’s ground you want to retread with the bleary-eyed singer is of personal preference. For me, it’s a welcome return to form – especially in moments like the sultry, crooning chorus of lead single “Call Out My Name”.

Next up for The Weeknd is Coachella 2018 – and with any luck, another tour and potentially a full album will follow. In the meantime, the new EP will be available for purchase on April 13.

What’s your favorite track on My Dear Melancholy,? Let us know in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: Shea Serrano Talks Rap Rivalries and More

In 2017, The Ringer‘s Shea Serrano released his second New York Times Bestseller in “Basketball and Other Things”, following up the smashing success of “The Rap Year Book”. In our latest podcast episode, Shea joins Kiel Hauck to discuss rap rivalries and how competition impacts the genre. Serrano talks the brilliance of Kendrick Lamar, the lasting greatness of Nas, the political power of hip hop and much more. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Which rapper will hold the hip hop title belt in 2018? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Photo courtesy of Scott Gries/Getty

Reflecting On: Panic at the Disco – Pretty. Odd.

Pretty. Odd. may be the biggest upset in music that I was alive to see. In 2007, to say that Panic! At the Disco were on top of the world is an understatement. Their debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, was a massive hit. The band had more or less overtaken Fall Out Boy as the poster child for record label Fueled By Ramen, and their live shows had become the things of legend. The anticipation for their sophomore release was ravenous, especially after hearing reports that the band had scrapped an entire record themed around fairy tales. Pretty. Odd. caught absolutely everyone off guard except the band that created it.

You can buy Pretty. Odd. on Apple Music.

Pretty. Odd. was a true gamble. Leveraging the fame of Panic!, the band decided to completely and utterly change who they were. Gone were the live stage shows, emo-infused lyrical wordplay, electronic beats and cabaret inspired rock. Even the exclamation point in their name was removed. What took its place was a mock version of The Beatles. It pissed off everyone I knew, and it almost destroyed the band completely.

In retrospect, Pretty. Odd. is a glorious masterpiece. It is a solid rock record, inspired by classic British rock and folk music. It is utterly unique. Nothing like it has been created since, and the current version of Panic! has more or less swept it under the rug. However, while almost everyone (that I know of) prefer any other album from the band, Pretty. Odd. has held up considerably well and has never gotten the full respect it deserved.

The shift in the album’s sound is a stark one, so much so that the opening song, “We’re So Starving”, actually has to tell the audience, “You don’t have to worry, cuz we’re still the same band”. Looking beyond the shift in sound though, is an album that, in almost any other circumstance, would have been regarded as an uncontested indie cornerstone. The pop anthems are expertly crafted, backed by an absolutely massive orchestral piece. Harmonica, violins, mandolin, saxophone and flutes bring a life to the music that is rarely found outside of movie scores.

What they enhance, though, is a series of secretive fairy tales and stories hidden beneath the shock of classic rock. The surreal imagery within the songs is second to none, such as in “Behind the Sea” (“Like bobbing bait for bathing cod / Floating flocks of candled swans / Slowly drift across wax ponds”). Or in the tuba encrusted “From a Mountain in the Middle of the Cabins”, as Brendon Urie sings, “Lying there, with a halo in her hair she cried / There are feathers everywhere, but it’s fine / You do this all the time”.

The legacy of Pretty. Odd. is one of gambles that paid off in ways that no one foresaw. Guitarist and songwriter Ryan Ross allegedly had a large hand in controlling the band’s direction for this release. Removing everything that made Panic! famous in the first place moved the attention aimed on them to the opposite spectrum. The shock was that they weren’t shocking.

Ross threw his full weight behind this direction for the band. It was an utter rebirth of the sound of pop rock from the 60’s, both paying homage to and inspired by the bands of the era. In many ways, Panic! surpassed the bands that inspired this record. When Ross and bassist Jon Walker eventually left to form The Young Veins, they carried this sound with them. Unfortunately, their biggest sin was nothing but timing.

Following A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out with this new sound was a dire mistake. The fan base craved the dark electro-pop that the band had created and the showmanship that oozed from it. As a result, a large portion of fans rebelled. Especially after the near dissolution of Panic! At the Disco, the blowback followed The Young Veins and never gave them the chance that they deserved.

On the other side of the split left by this record, Brendon Urie suddenly had an allowance to literally do anything he wanted. With Pretty. Odd. already in the band’s catalogue, he was free to explore nearly any sound he wanted to going forward with Panic! at the Disco. Without the restraints of fan expectation, Urie wrote some of the group’s biggest hits afterwards.

The sad irony is that had Pretty. Odd. been released as the band’s third album or later, after establishing their sound, they would have had a fan base loyal enough to take the journey with them. There wouldn’t have been the worry that the band had severed ties with what made people love them in the first place. Similar to how My Chemical Romance took on a new persona with each new album, Panic! at the Disco would have had an easier time rallying fans to Pretty. Odd. if they had a firmer grasp of who the band actually was. The shock wouldn’t have kicked in nearly as hard.

Pretty. Odd. is an amazing album that will truly never receive its due credit. The diversity of sound and surreal, dreamlike paintings throughout the record are mesmerizing in ways that no other band has been able to replicate. It is a shame that instead of having an anniversary celebrating this unique entry in their history, Panic! At the Disco has more or less hidden Pretty. Odd. beneath a mountain of top 40 pop songs and dance beats.

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 first listened to Pretty. Odd. in a car full of groaning college kids. They have all since been eaten by alligators and small cats. The album survives.

Podcast: Kanye West Bracketology

March Madness is here, which means lots of buzzer beaters, upsets, and, of course, endless arguments about the best Kanye West songs. Wait, what? After Kanye Madness goes viral, Kiel Hauck and Brock Benefiel sit down to parse through the Kanye West bracket and break down the various match-ups in hopes of finding Kanye’s best song. The two also share their thoughts on why the bracket blew up the internet and what it means about Kanye’s cultural relevancy in 2018. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

You can view the full Kanye Madness bracket below. Which track won your bracket? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: The Ataris – So Long, Astoria

The summer of 2003 is the last year that I consider ‘normal’ from my youth. It’s the first time I was aware of the ticking clock over the heads of my high school friends when we hung out, as they would head to the four corners for college in a couple years. It’s also the last year before the fractures in my parents’ marriage began showing true depth, which would eventually lead to their divorce.

You can buy So Long, Astoria on iTunes.

Ten years later, I packed up my car and drove north for the last time as I moved to Chicago in early 2013. I was leaving my family and everyone I had grown up with. As I hit the interstate, I turned on an album to make sense of the hope I had for my future. The first track defines that moment to me as I drove towards unknown potential – “So Long, Astoria”.

So Long, Astoria by The Ataris lived and died by the era it was written in. Early 2003 saw an epidemic of generic pop punk bands, the likes of which would prove to be the ruin of the genre from mainstream radio. However, it is because of this deluge that allowed a record like this to truly stand out as something special, even if it also got lost in the shuffle without the credit it deserved.

So Long, Astoria is an album about specific moments in life. Each song is a short story littered with tiny details from real points in vocalist/guitarist Kris Roe’s life. That, or he’s a better fiction writer than anyone has given him credit for. Personal memories, such as playing a guitar alone in a bedroom and dreaming of the future (“So Long, Astoria”), or having someone tell you that their best friend likes you (“Summer ‘79”) is what makes life so special and memorable. It’s arguable that The Ataris are responsible for the first album I had ever heard that wrote about the best of memories instead of broken relationships.

Each song focuses on a defining moment while growing up. Whether it be about reflection on life, childhood memories or just taking in the beauty of Americana, the details are astoundingly poignant. Standing on the edge of the Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa, it’s hard not to think of Roe singing, “The sunrise over smoke stacks in the Midwest / The beauty of this abandoned factory / Christmas lights blinking on and off, all out of time / In what used to be / Your pink house dreams of a middle class America” (“All You Can Ever Learn Is What You Already Know”).

The theme of specific moments has always stuck with me. Whether I was aware of it or not, I have always played songs from this album in the background on days or during moments I thought might be important. High school graduation (“Summer ’79″), my first flight in a decade (“Takeoffs And Landings”), and after every romantic breakup, when I didn’t know what else to do but just sit and stare into the middle distance (“A Beautiful Mistake”).

Even so, I can’t claim to be the biggest fan of The Ataris. I’ve never heard another record they have released, and I don’t listen to So Long, Astoria that often. I can’t even claim to know the lyrics of most of the songs, or why I listened to those specific ones until I re-read the lyrics while writing this article and remembered why they meant so much to me.

What is important is the message of the album. Don’t take life for granted. Enjoy the happy times and look back fondly on them and how they made you into who you are today. Nostalgia is great, but what is the point if those cherished memories don’t make you smile each time you think of them?

I don’t see my high school friends very often, and it is hard to imagine my parents together anymore after both have moved on to different and better lives. But I remember the moment I made peace with their divorce and saw how happy they were afterwards (“The Hero Dies In This One”). But I still laugh at the thought of some of the things we got into as my generation became adults. Unintentionally, So Long, Astoria is a diary to a specific moment in my life before things started to fall apart, often for the better. It is a record of youth and the acceptance that something better is always just around the corner. In the end, that is the best legacy it could have left on anyone willing to listen.

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 took two multi-hour walks listening to this album before writing about it. He did not realize how often it came up in his life until that point, because he is a dunce. If you see him, ‘BOO’ him to his face until he cries. He will know why.

Tonight Alive Level Up on Get Free Tour

If you read my review of Tonight Alive’s latest release, Underworld, you’ll know that I thought it was fantastic. It’s poignant, energetic, and everything I was looking for. When they came to Boston, I knew Tonight Alive was a band I wanted to experience up close and personal.

The Get Free Tour started at the beginning of February, and Boston was one of the last dates of the tour. There were four bands in the lineup: Picturesque, Broadside, Tonight Alive and Silverstein.

Tonight Alive

The night actually flowed pretty well, with only about 10 minutes in between sets. I moved around the room a little bit to try to get a better view of the stage (Paradise Rock is set up weirdly) and did manage to find a good spot. Broadside is a band I was excited to see, as their 2015 release Old Bones was a summer favorite of mine. The crowd was into the set, but frontman Ollie Baxter’s attitude and stage presence distracted from the band’s performance, similar to Picturesque’s set before them.

As Tonight Alive took the stage, the band’s progression from a young, scrappy act to seasoned professionals that have come into their own became clear. The band showcased the balanced, energetic stage presence that comes with experience – moving as one unit with everyone equally playing their part.

Tonight Alive

If there was ever a doubt that vocalist Jenna McDougall can sing, it only took their acoustic version of “Oxygen” to dispel the myth. Tonight Alive were high energy and McDougall  really engaged with the crowd. She was attentive to the other guys in the band and the friendships between them seem strong and genuine.

One thing I really appreciated was how McDougall used the entire stage. It’s not a big stage and doesn’t cover the entire length of the floor, but she was intentional in making sure everyone, from the left side of the stage to the balcony, was having a great time and felt like they were part of the experience. She used the time in between songs to drive home a message of freedom and self-esteem.

Tonight Alive

As a newer fan of Tonight Alive, I wasn’t quite as connected with the band as older fans are. They played a lot of tracks from their older albums. I assumed that the majority of the set would be from Underworld, but that wasn’t the case. Each song flowed well and it was evident that they were diligent in choosing their setlist. I chuckled upon realizing that McDougall appeared to have the lyrics to Lynn Gunn’s verse in “Disappear” written on her hand.

Having to sit through the opening sets to get to Tonight Alive’s awesome performance was totally worth it. I hope I can catch them again when they come around, because their energy is completely infectious. The ideas of empowerment and the ability to change the world by changing our thought patterns are so important in today’s culture. Tonight Alive deserves every bit of acclaim they’ve received.

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.

Will Underoath Add to Their Legacy with “Erase Me”?

During a recent conversation with a friend, I lamented how age has impacted my passion for music. It’s not that I don’t love music anymore, it’s just that my youthful enthusiasm has faded with time. The days of pushing to the front of the stage at packed concert venues or growing giddy with excitement about an upcoming release have passed. These days, it’s a much more patient and reserved kind of love.

Or so I thought.

If you haven’t heard, my favorite band is releasing their first new album in eight years. Underoath is that band for me – the band that changed the way I looked at and thought about music. Since their 2015 reunion, I’ve avoided the slightest notion that they might make their way to the studio, mostly because it feels healthier to avoid wild, unwarranted speculation and simply enjoy the music we were given during their heyday.

You can pre-order Erase Me on iTunes.

Last week, we got our first taste of what the next chapter of Underoath will sound like with the release of “On My Teeth”. It’s been interesting to watch discussion unfold across online forums as fans absorb news of the band’s return. What I’ve found most intriguing are posts pining for the band to return to the sound of their personal favorite album, whichever that may be, and choices tend to vary.

What these kinds of discussions fail to acknowledge is the very thing that made Underoath one of the most revered and inventive bands in post-hardcore. With every release, the band managed to shapeshift in such a way as to push genre boundaries and test new waters. The result of this approach is a full catalogue of classic albums, each distinct in sound and voice.

I’ve certainly got my favorites – Define the Great Line standing at the front of the pack – but I still hold each album with esteem. In fact, I’m a firm believer that Underoath improved as a unit with each and every release, with Ø (Disambiguation) standing as the band’s greatest feat. While this seems to be a prevailing opinion among many, it seems odd that anyone would want the band to deviate from what has made them so beloved.

Can you imagine the 2018 version of Underoath releasing an album akin to They’re Only Chasing Safety? Furthermore, can you imagine enjoying it? On April 6, Erase Me will unfold as something new and something fresh. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea upon first listen, there’s little doubt in my mind that it will be another standalone record that showcases the band’s growth and desire to forge ahead.

Personally, I’m excited to hear the band battle their demons (figuratively and literally), wrestling through the fallout with their religious affiliations. Perhaps no band in recent memory has so openly discussed their inner turmoil and the strength it takes to fight for your friendships. That honesty is something that sets Underoath apart, and it’s something that certainly must have served them well during the writing of this album.

Whatever comes, we fortunately won’t have long to wait. Until April 6, my friends will continue to politely nod and smile as I ramble on about the band’s discography and explain how they re-defined a genre. If I’m lucky, they’ll even stick around to hear me gush about Erase Me well into the summer. I feel giddy again. And I like it.

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.

Photo credit: Nick Fancher

Watch New Underoath Music Video for “On My Teeth”

Just as we (and everyone else) began speculating, the return of Underoath (with original drummer Aaron Gillespie) is upon us. The Florida post-hardcore act has signed to Fearless Records and will release their first full-length album in eight years on April 6. Preorder packages for Erase Me are now available on the band’s website.

In addition to the announcement, the band has also released the first single from Erase Me titled, “On My Teeth”. You can watch the music video for the new track below, which includes an introduction from the band for Erase Me. Take a look:

Additionally, in a press release this afternoon, Aaron Gillespie provided insight into the band’s return and their approach to creating a new album:

“We’ve had success and we’ve come through a lot of waters. “There’s been 11,000 things we’ve been through so you would think, almost rhetorically, ‘What do you need now?’ All of us are finally in that place in our lives where the only thing we care about is inclusion for everybody—for the world. For me, exclusion is the scariest thing in the world. And I think Underoath coming back now with a new record—which none of us thought was possible—we want people to know that this is your music and you can feel however the fuck you want about it. I just want to prove that we are doing everything in the most honest way we ever have. This is the healthiest we’ve ever been as a group of people, as musicians, and in our worldview.”

Underoath reunited in 2015 for the Rebirth Tour – a trek that saw the band play fan favorite albums like They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line in their entirety. Since the reunion, the band has played select festivals as fans speculated on the possibility of new music. It looks like we’ve finally got our answer. Welcome back, Underoath.

What are your thoughts on the new track? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Photo credit: Nick Fancher