Podcast: Reacting to “Red (Taylor’s Version)”

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It’s been a week since Taylor Swift blessed us with Red (Taylor’s Version). And we have thoughts! Kiel Hauck is joined by fellow It’s All Dead-ians Kyle Schultz and Nadia Alves to delve into the nooks and crannies of all 30 tracks of this new release. They share takes on the best and most interesting re-recorded songs and weigh in some of the best “From the Vault” tracks that round out the album. Is the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” better than the original? Are there still easter eggs within the album that have yet to be uncovered by Swiftie Sleuths? Who had the best guest appearance on the album? And what album is coming next? All of these questions (and more) are addressed – listen in!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Michelle Branch – The Spirit Room

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A couple of times a year, I find myself spending days at a time inside The Spirit Room. I’ve said it countless times in the two decades since its release, but the debut album from Michelle Branch is perfect. And as it reaches its 20th anniversary, I’ve thought a lot about its legacy, and how the album unexpectedly became a blueprint of sorts.

We’ve talked extensively this year about Sour, the debut from Olivia Rodrigo, and how it so perfectly encapsulates the emotions and experience of adolescence. One of the many things that makes Sour so impressive is Rodrigo’s ability to shape-shift within genre, often tapping into nostalgic pop rock sounds that feel both fresh and familiar. It’s hard to listen to the album and not think of Branch.

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You can buy or stream The Spirit Room on Apple Music

The story of how The Spirit Room came to be back in 2001 has been reported in detail, but it’s still fascinating to think about a teenager operating independently from major label influence and creating an album so different from what was expected from a young female artist at the time. It worked, and what followed was a new wave of young singer-songwriters following in her pop rock footsteps. Even Taylor Swift has spoken of the album’s influence in her own writing.

It was a sound that clearly caught my attention at the time, and Branch’s lonely, bedroom daydream songwriting resonated as well. When I listen to the album now, I’m transported back to a very specific time in my life in the best way. There isn’t another album that captures those feelings quite as well for me. When I hear “Goodbye to You”, I see Branch performing the song from the stage of The Bronze on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When I hear “All You Wanted” I’m reminded of late night drives in my first car. “Everywhere” transports me back to my freshman dorm room.

For all of these reasons, it was captivating to hear Branch’s 20th anniversary re-recording of the album. Unlike Swift’s current explorations of her past work (which I also love), Branch has allowed the passage of time to change her approach to these tracks. Her voice sounds slightly weathered, the songs have more room to breathe and move at a slightly slower pace. If you close your eyes, you can imagine her playing these songs to a small audience in a smoky lounge room. There’s an innocence that’s missing and it gives the album an entirely new feeling. The fact that it works this well speaks to the timeless beauty of the songwriting.

Last month, I purchased a ticket to Branch’s live stream performance of the album, expecting a full band rendition of the songs I know so well. When the stream began with Branch sitting on a stool, holding an acoustic guitar and strumming her way through “Everywhere”, I was taken aback. But by the opening moments of second track “You Get Me”, I was sold. The songs just work in every context, and in this case, some of them became even more alive with emotion and meaning. 

The early years of the 2000s were a transitional period for popular music, which is perhaps why it feels as though The Spirit Room sometimes gets forgotten in conversations around modern classic albums. It feels out of place when you think about the final gasps of bubblegum pop giving way to the oncoming avalanche of garage rock, hip hop and pop punk. But taken in a vacuum, it’s hard to poke holes in the album. It’s stellar songwriting paired with impeccable production. It moves. It captures hopeless romantic feelings you chase into your adulthood without ever feeling forced or cliché. It opened a new door for young female songwriters to lean into their own individual sounds. It invites you to get lost within it again and again.

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 pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Podcast: Kacey Musgraves and the Anatomy of a Great Divorce Album

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Kacey Musgraves recently returned with a new album, Star-Crossed, which explores her divorce from Ruston Kelly. As it turns out, there’s a long history of albums reckoning with the fallout of divorce and they all share some very common threads. Area Code Network’s own Richard Clark joins Kiel Hauck on the podcast to discuss the anatomy of a great divorce album and how the concept has evolved over the decades. They also break down the highs and lows of Star-Crossed and how the album stacks up to other recently released albums that explore the concept of leaving (Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish). Take a listen!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Phoebe Bridgers Reunion Tour: An Experience Worth Waiting For

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It had been just over two years since the last time I had attended a concert. I was apprehensive. I wondered if that passage of time had somehow quelled my love of the setting. Maybe I didn’t need live music experiences anymore, at least not with the same frequency as before. That’s what I was thinking, but then the lights went down, a band came on stage, I raised my camera to capture the moment, and felt that familiar rush wash over me. I missed this more than I knew.

It’s wild to think about how much has changed for Phoebe Bridgers since the last time she took the stage. Pre-pandemic, Bridgers was still carving her path, building on the early momentum of her debut, Stranger in the Alps, and her collaborative projects, boygenius and Better Oblivion Community. But then came Punisher, a perfect album that changed everything, but all took place in isolation. There was Bridgers in February, in attendance at a bizarre Grammys in her skeleton pajamas, never having had the chance to perform the songs that had changed her life in front of a live audience.

Truthfully, after all we’ve endured, it has made this late summer’s Reunion Tour the perfect opportunity to finally re-connect and share our experience of Punisher together. The tour’s dates were recently moved to outdoor venues, requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for entry. It felt about as safe as you can feel these days at an event filled with strangers.

MUNA opened the night – an electro pop trio I had no prior knowledge of. And guess what; it’s still so much fun to discover a new band at a concert. Led by vocalist Katie Gavin, the band exhibited an infectious joy onstage throughout their set, making it impossible to look away. Opening with tracks like “Number One Fan” and “Stayaway” from their 2019 full-length album, Saves the World, the band’s knack for creating dance-worthy tracks ranging in emotion and energy set the tone for the night. When they debuted their new track “Silk Chiffon” (featuring Bridgers), it made clear that MUNA is on the cusp of reaching another level.

To finally experience Punisher in person was…therapeutic? Healing? Relieving? It was something. Bridgers opened with “Motion Sickness” from her debut, making a subtle nod to the idea of our collective reunion. “Let’s experience something familiar before we dive into the new stuff.” From there, “DVD Menu” led into “Garden Song” which led into “Kyoto” and oh my god every song still sounds so perfect. Every track from the album happened in sequence with various other songs from Bridgers’ other works sprinkled within.

The setting fit the mood – dark, but lit with just enough light to create a “vibe.” A backing screen featuring an opening book that visualized the chapters of the performance. And of course, Bridgers and band decked in those skeleton PJs. Highlights of the show depended on your own personal attachments. For me, “Moon Song” proved just as sad and lovely as I had hoped. But it’s hard to outdo a choir of screaming to those final moments of “I Know the End”. Every song was delivered with care. Every moment felt worth absorbing.

In hindsight, I can’t think of a better show to reacquaint myself with the setting. Punisher has meant more to me in this past year than I can put into words. Having the opportunity, after all of this time, to experience it like this? In a weird way, it almost felt worth the wait.

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.

Podcast: Reviews of the New Albums from Halsey and CHVRCHES

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Woah! What a new music Friday we just had. Highlighting the release schedule were Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power and CHVRCHES’ Screen Violence. Kiel Hauck hops on the mic to break down his thoughts on both new albums, keying in on the artistic evolution of Halsey and their journey as one of the most important pop-adjacent artists of the past decade and how CHVRCHES rebounded from their major label debut to re-discover themselves in unexpected ways. Take a listen!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: Hella Mega Tour and the Return of Live Music

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Have you heard? Live music is happening at a venue near you! Our very own Kyle Schultz recently found himself at such an event, and it was a big one. Kyle joins Kiel Hauck to talk about his experience at the recent Chicago stop of the Hella Mega Tour. Kyle shares the general vibe and experience of attending a concert again and gives his full breakdown of the mammoth-sized tour, including standout songs and performances. Who brought the house down the most: Weezer, Fall Out Boy, or Green Day? Take a listen and find out!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: Our Favorite Bad Songs

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What songs do you listen to when you switch Spotify to private mode? We all do it. So let’s talk about it! Kiel Hauck is joined by Nadia Alves and Kyle Schultz to share their deepest, darkest music secrets. The songs we love that we don’t tell our friends about. The songs that move us that we don’t share with the world. And why they mean so much to us. So what are some of our favorite “bad” songs? Take a listen and find out!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: Cole Cuchna Talks Yeezus, Olivia Rodrigo, and the Music that Gives Us Chills

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Music podcaster extraordinaire Cole Cuchna just wrapped up season 8 of the wildly successful Dissect Podcast and also recently launched Key Notes – an interactive music show that combines full songs with original musical and lyrical analysis. Cole joined Kiel Hauck on Long Live the Music to discuss the complexity of Yeezus and how he approached the album for Dissect. Cole also talks about why some music gives us chills and what it is about Olivia Rodrigo’s smash hit “Driver’s License” that checks all of the neurological boxes. They also discuss a new generation’s fascination with the alternative, guitar-driven music of the 90s and what might come next in the evolution of popular music as a whole. Take a listen!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: The Best Albums of 2021 (So Far)

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The year is half over. How is it possible? Only scientists can explain. But we’ll use the opportunity to break down some of the best music that’s been released so far this year. Kiel Hauck kicks things off by sharing summertime Warped Tour memories and discussing the return of live music. With tours being announced left and right, we’re all making big decisions about when, where, and how we return to concert settings. Then Kiel shares some words about some of the albums that have been impacting the Long Live the Music crew so far in 2021, from Architects to Olivia Rodrigo to J. Cole and more. Listen in!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Eras of Influence: 2004-2010 – Underoath

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This article is part of an ongoing series in which I examine the artists and music that defined specific eras of my life. You can read my previous installment on L.A. Symphony, covering the years 2000-2004.

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Each year when summer arrives, there is a specific rotation of music that takes over my stereo. You know the sound, because it’s likely the same for you. There’s music that just sounds like summer. It’s a season unlike any other in that regard. And for me, there’s no other album that better captures everything I want to feel in summertime than They’re Only Chasing Safety by Underoath. Because in the summer of 2004 when the album was released, I found my favorite band.

I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to write this article. Each of my past Eras of Influence features have effortlessly tumbled straight out of my mind and onto the screen through a fury of fluid keystrokes. But I’ve literally held off for months in writing about how Underoath defined this period of my life. They’re my all-time favorite band. I’ve seen them 10 times in concert. I’ve written so exhaustively about them through the years, that it’s difficult to know what else to say.

So I’m going to write, but I’m also going to link to a lot of other things I’ve written. Because they’re applicable to the story of how this band was so formative during this stretch of my life that every “era” still to come in the years I have remaining will be measured against it.

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You can buy or stream They’re Only Chasing Safety on Apple Music.

I spent the summer of 2004 living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, working for a nonprofit organization with nine other people who were all sharing a house together. One weekend in June, I drove back to my college town to visit some friends – namely Mitch. While in college, I lived with Mitch and his brother Nick who were also in a band with their older brother Travis. It was through these three brothers that I discovered most of the music that defined my college years and beyond. If they were listening to it, chances were high that it was cool.

That June weekend, I was excited to tell Mitch how much I had been enjoying a new band I had discovered called Emery. I shouldn’t have been surprised that Mitch had another band for me. “If you like Emery, you’re going to love this.” He booted up the computer, navigated to the Tooth and Nail Records website, and began playing a grainy, low quality music video for a song called “Reinventing Your Exit”. It’s well documented how much Underoath took the scene by storm that fateful summer of 2004, and I imagine that some of you had a very similar experience. If you were sharing one album with your friends that year, it was They’re Only Chasing Safety.

Further reading: Reflecting On Underoath – They’re Only Chasing Safety

Although that album opened the screamo floodgates and I gobbled up every lookalike that came in the wake of Safety, no one quite had the “It” factor like Underoath. I spent the next summer in Tulsa again, crammed into a house with 14 people this time, several of whom had also discovered Underoath. It was spreading. And even though we were diving into other new bands like Hawthorne Heights, Chiodos, and From First to Last, we always defaulted back to Underoath.

But what made Underoath not just a cool band that came into my life one summer, like so many other cool bands have over the years, is what happened in the summer of 2006. Once again, I was in Tulsa, and on Tuesday, June 20, I woke up early and drove to Wal-Mart where I kindly asked an employee to open boxes of new CDs until they uncovered the special edition version of Define the Great Line. I spent the remainder of the summer listening to it daily. Alone in my room. Driving in the car. Taking a late evening walk. It didn’t matter when, where, or how many times I played it. Because every time I listened, I heard something new.

With Define the Great Line, Underoath made the bold and now legendary decision to completely abandon the sound that had made them a sensation. Instead of crafting another melodic and instantly catchy collection of songs, they made an album. An album without choruses, full of experimentation, designed to be listened to in full, from front to back. And it was heavy as hell. 

On paper, it should have swiftly ended the band’s run of dominance, but instead, it only made them bigger. And that can only happen when a band is simply operating on a different level of talent and vision than any of their counterparts. During this stretch, Underoath was more than just a band in the scene. They were the band by which every one of their peers was measured.

Further reading: Reflecting On Underoath – Define the Great Line

During these years, Underoath was a topic of conversation for me to a point where I’m sure it actually caused annoyance. I couldn’t stop talking about them. There has never been another point in time in which I was as obsessed with a band or artist. When Underoath abruptly dropped off Warped Tour in the summer of 2006, I felt like my own circle of friends may be in danger of breaking up. When drummer Aaron Gillespie left the band in 2010, I cried. 

Aaron, Spencer, Tim, Chris, Grant, and James felt like people I actually knew (even though I didn’t). And not in some creepy way, but in a “I love this music so much, I want to understand what’s inspiring the people who are making it” kind of way. I attended their shows any time the band came within striking distance. I owned more Underoath t-shirts than was reasonable. I bought every magazine on which they graced the cover. And every new band I discovered, I heard with a different set of ears because Underoath truly changed the way I listened to and understood music.

Further reading: Underoath 20 January 2013 – Chicago

After those early summers, it was obvious that Underoath was a band that was meant to shapeshift. Each new album was going to sound different and tread new ground, and it was exciting to ponder what would come next. Underoath defines this era of my life because of the way they sounded, but more importantly, they are my favorite band because of what they had to say.

From 2004 to 2010, which included the release of Underoath’s four best albums, a lot happened in my life. I finished college and left my days of youth behind me, entering the cold adult world. I became cemented in my Christian faith and went off to seminary to study further before abandoning the faith completely. I got married. I got divorced. I moved halfway across the country to a new city where I knew no one, but ended up meeting some of my closest friends. Through therapy, I came to understand that I struggled with depression and I began trying to climb out of that dark hole.

That’s a lot of life for any one band to provide the soundtrack, but somehow, Underoath pulled it off. Spencer Chamberlain’s own inner demons were battled consistently throughout the band’s catalogue. They openly and honestly wrestled with the complicated nature of faith and belief. Their constant shifts in sound were a perfect fit for the many city, apartment, and job changes I experienced. And I’m forever grateful for what they created, because it’s hard to imagine surviving the chaos of those years of my life without their music.

Further Reading: Reinventing Their Exit: Reflections on the Music of Underoath

The year 2010 brought Underoath’s Disambiguation, an album that closed a chapter for the band and preceded their breakup. That final note somehow perfectly bookended a period of my life, as everything would change in 2011. A new relationship. A new city. A new community of friends. A new start. By the time I found my footing, Underoath would return with the perfect album for new beginnings. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

I’m excited to explore the next two eras of my life that bring us to the present day, because each of them holds important moments of progress for me, both as a person and as a consumer of art. But at this point, I feel fairly confident that no new band or artist will ever hold the level of captivation Underoath has held in my life. And that’s okay. Pretty much all of us have that one band that changed everything. The one band that we can go back to again and again and again without ever tiring. Our favorite band.

As I write this, the summer of 2021 has arrived. And I can’t wait to spin They’re Only Chasing Safety. I know exactly how it will make me feel. And it’s a very good feeling.

Second Tier: Saosin, Paramore, Anberlin, My Chemical Romance, Kanye West

More Reading:

Podcast: Interview with Chris Dudley of Underoath

Illuminator feat Underoath: 15 July 2011

Review: Underoath – Erase Me

Reflecting On: Underoath – Lost in the Sound of Separation

Reflecting On: Underoath – Ø (Disambiguation)

Underoath Return from the Shadows on Rebirth Tour

The Unmatched Urgency of Underoath on No Fix Tour

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 pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.