A Half-Assed Theory on Discovering New Music

Over the last several years, I have been been improving myself mentally. I heard new music but wasn’t listening. Now in a better place, I am revisiting some albums with fresh eyes to see what it means to me now. Cheers.

Finding new music is easy, but loving new music is a chore. When I think of the bands I love the most, it’s because I discovered them during a transition in my life. Going to high school (New Found Glory), first girlfriend (Saves the Day), college and first apartment (Panic! at the Disco, Lucky Boys Confusion), and discovering the real world (The Wonder Years), led to me listening to this music nonstop for decades, as well as other bands that cropped up in the same eras.

However, stagnation and depression hamper the joy in personal growth. In retrospect, it seems obvious that such memorable moments imprint themselves in the music we listen to. But seeing it in action in real time is a special moment everyone should experience. Thus, I have developed a theory!

I recently started a new day job, which is the biggest change to my life in years. It required spending two weeks in Wisconsin by myself for training. I tried to prep music for the trip, but felt bored looking over my usual soundtracks. Instead, I prepped a bunch of music I’ve reviewed for It’s All Dead in years past or bought for my collection and then (for no reason at all) never listened to again: Neck Deep, State Champs, We Are the In Crowd, Superet, Honeyblood, and many more.

There are many ways to connect to music, whether that be a connection with the lyrics or the music filling your veins with energy. Oftentimes, music means so much to us because of the nostalgia and memories we associate with it. My theory on falling in love with music is obvious, but is proposed as such: the most direct appreciation to new music is during a new life experience.

The first nerve-wracking day of my job, I played Neck Deep’s Life’s Not Out to Get You twice throughout the day, as it seemed appropriate for someone who waits for the worst to happen and then adjusts accordingly. Checking into my hotel, “Threat Level Midnight” played as I walked through the halls. As vocalist Ben Barlow sang, “I’ll see your face down here real soon / A welcome home to a swift farewell”, I opened my door and found another family staying in my room. Dirty clothes, pool toys, suitcases and children’s toys were spread across the room, so I panicked and quickly shut the door.

The hotel told me that there was a family refusing to leave and squatting in the room; they had torn the phone from the wall and refused to respond to maintenance knocking on the door as “Can’t Kick Up the Roots” rang through one ear bud (“Yeah this place is a shipwreck / But this shipwreck, it is mine”). Although a misunderstanding all around, it took an hour to get me a room and Neck Deep kept me company at the counter during frenzied calls and panicked looks from the staff in my direction after being told, “Everything is under control.” Ironically, Neck Deep was also playing when the keys to my room didn’t work the second week and the entire staff recognized me as I told them I was locked out (“All eyes on me, but that’s not reality /… claustrophobic in my own skin / From holding it all in” – “The Grand Delusion”; The Peace and the Panic).

There is a massive public pathway that traces the lake in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. My first night there, I found myself alone in the dark, walking a treacherous path with only the moon lighting the lake to my side as I hurried back to the hotel with Superet jamming away in my head (“And when the lights go out / Will you be having fun alone? / I need revolution / It’s you, only you” – “Bone Bag”; How To Work a Room).

I discovered smoking in bars is still acceptable in Wisconsin, as I stepped into a pub and saw 20 locals starring at me with suspicion with We Are The In Crowd blasting away through my phone (“I guess it was wishful to think / I was different from the rest / Now I’m red in the face / I don’t think I’m impressed” – “Better Luck Next Time”; Best Intentions). I fell asleep to State Champs playing quietly, vividly aware that I didn’t have to worry as much about money for a while (“Wash away all the thoughts that come at you like monsters at night / I don’t wanna live this way / Strong enough to break these chains / Broken pieces can mend…This is our time, our time to go” – “Our Time To Go”; Living Proof).

This massive life event has spawned moment after moment that I will never forget, each accompanied by bands I should have been in love with years ago. I can blame depression for hampering my ability to connect to the music before now, but the truth is I should have been listening regardless. The fact that I felt a connection to so many bands the last couple of weeks means I should have enjoyed them before now. Using a life event to listen to them finally feels like a crutch, and I wish I had spent more time loving them on my own. However, I will never forget these bands or the memories I made listening to them during these two weeks that changed my life.

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 watched a framed picture fall off the wall of his hotel room for no particular reason while writing this. He blames earthquakes for it so that he doesn’t have to think about ghosts before bed. What a fool!

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Summer Soundtracks: FM Static – What Are You Waiting For?

One of the best things about great summer albums is that you don’t really have to be able to explain why you love them. There’s just something about a perfect summer record that feels right. It’s kind of freeing, in a way.

You can buy or stream What Are You Waiting For? on Apple Music.

The first time I heard FM Static was at a party at the end of the spring semester of my sophomore year in college. Whoever was manning the stereo played their track “Definitely Maybe” and my ears were immediately alert. It makes sense – FM Static featured vocalist Trevor McNevan and drummer Steve Augustine of Thousand Foot Krutch, one of my favorite bands at the time. While certainly a departure from TFK’s signature nu metal sound, McNevan’s voice was unmistakable.

I picked up the band’s debut, What Are You Waiting For? shortly thereafter and memorized every word during the summer of 2004. It wasn’t hard – the album clocks in at around a half-hour with no track going over the three-minute mark. It’s the kind of syrupy pop punk bliss that seemed to dominate nearly every summer during that time of my life.

So what makes What Are You Waiting For? a summer soundtrack I keep returning to? I’m honestly not sure I have a great answer. Nostalgia certainly plays a role, as I have so many fond memories singing along to this record with friends. Musically? It’s fine. Lyrically, it’s full of lines like, “I saw what really happened all those time he went for water / When we were at the movie theatre watching Harry Potter” and “Feels like it’s teenage hunting season”. As cheesy as these lines are, I still sing them at the top of my lungs every time I spin the album.

What Are You Waiting For? came along at a time where I still allowed myself to have fun with the music I listened to. It wouldn’t be long before I entered a more pretentious phase of music fandom – one that scoffed at things that didn’t make you think hard enough or didn’t “push genre boundaries.”

If all of this is making FM Static’s debut seem underwhelming, well…that’s not entirely fair. It’s a perfectly crafted, half-hour pop punk album, which is exactly what McNevan and Augustine were attempting to accomplish. In hindsight, it’s clear that the side project served as a release for them before their return to the more serious nature of Thousand Foot Krutch. FM Static is silly, joyous and almost profound.

While the bulk of the material focuses on the innocence of romantic longing or those exciting first days of a new relationship, the heartbeat of the album is all about connections. Be it the desire to be intentional with our empathy on “Crazy Mary” or the distance that time creates in our friendships on “October”, FM Static has a surprising amount to say for such a light, nonchalant-feeling debut.

The duo would release three more FM Static albums over the course of the next decade, each one holding my attention a little less. All these years later, What Are You Waiting For? is the only one I regularly return to, always during the summertime. The moment that first drum hits on opener “Three Days Later”, I’m sucked back in time to a place filled with smiles, friends and the kinds of songs that you can sing along to with abandon.

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: Set Your Goals – This Will Be the Death of Us

I almost lost my middle finger in 2009. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but while working in a restaurant, I was playing with a keyring during some downtime. Somehow, I slipped my finger through the gap between both endpoints. I remember watching the tip of my finger fall backwards and seeing the bone. It exposed everything I am on the inside for the first time. I managed to keep it together long enough to get stitches. When I went home to my roommates, they had gathered in camaraderie and collectively flipped me off in unison, which helped a little bit.

I had been obsessed with All Time Low’s Nothing Personal for the summer, but I hated myself for being so reckless as to get injured midway through the season. While my friends were out swimming, exploring the local creek, or engaging in some type of sports I was dutifully guarding my finger from infection. I was angry, isolated and days away from my birthday.

You can buy or stream This Will Be the Death of Us on Apple Music.

At some point, All Time Low posted on their social media to support their friends Set Your Goals’ new album. I had never heard of the band, but decided to spend what little money I had to keep me occupied since I wasn’t spending my time being active. All Time Low remain one of my favorite bands, but Set Your Goals stole the year with This Will Be the Death of Us, one of the single best releases of the early 2000’s.

Set Your Goals was my introduction to ‘easycore.’ Hovering somewhere between pop punk and hardcore, This Will Be the Death of Us scratched every itch I had. It even inspired a song by Four Year Strong as a response to the glowing reviews the album received. Set Your Goals tempered the anger I felt towards myself, managed to be an ethical voice in the scene, and felt like one of the opening salvos in the new trend of positive punk. It exposed me to the deficiencies I didn’t realize I had inside.

The rage in This Will Be the Death of Us isn’t focused on the usual suspects in the scene. While the album maintains a positive outlook overall, it is relentless in its attacks on aging bitterly and of neglect towards love of the world and its history (“Our Ethos: A Legacy to Pass On”). It managed to successfully criticize societal issues without sounding like a bunch of privileged kids whining (“Look Closer”). During my last year of college, the global recession was going strong. Hearing a band call the system out for what it was meant the world to me. The album also featured the best cameos of all time (Vinnie Caruana, Hayley Williams, Chad Gilbert and Jon Gula). The guest vocalists played a significant part of their songs, even the music videos (“This Will Be the Death of Us”).

Despite the worldly rage, positivity oozed from this album. At the time, there weren’t a lot of new bands making a splash in the scene, and those that did fell back on the tried-and-true lyricism of failed relationships. Set Your Goals introduced me to songs like “Summer Jam”, which gushed with memories of the band on a year-by-year basis leading up to this release. “Summer Jam” was the first time I had heard of the band Fireworks, and the lyric, “We’re all in a holding cell, but somehow Baloni got away,” led me on a goose chase to learn more about their merch guy. A year later, The Wonder Years would go deeper into this area and change the game of ‘realistic pop punk’ on The Upsides.

Most importantly though, I felt like I gained a worldview from Set Your Goals. While All Time Low got me hooked on catchy lyrics that I still know to this day, Set Your Goals turned the chaos of hardcore punk on its head that sent a message to question the status quo of the world, even if you loved it. It’s the first time that my rebellious college phase realized that you could love the world and fight to break it at the same time.

This Will Be the Death of Us helped me through the summer of 2009 on a daily basis while I sat inside watching my friends play video games and get dirty. I remained low key until the autumn, hiding from anything that could make my finger worse. But I loved the world despite its follies along the way, for better or for worse, during the healing.

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 heavily relates to Jasper from The Simpsons.

Podcast: The Best of Eisley

Over the past decade and a half, Tyler, Texas, band Eisley have made a habit of releasing delightful, poignant, purposeful indie pop. On this episode of It’s All Dead, Kiel Hauck and Nadia Paiva break down the band’s discography, ranking all five full-length albums, from Room Noises to I’m Only Dreaming. They also share their top 10 songs and discuss the band’s wild ride from their early major label breakthrough to their return to their indie roots. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What’s your favorite Eisley album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

PVRIS Release New Song and Video, “Death of Me”

Photo Credit: Lindsey Byrnes

On Friday, electropop trio PVRIS released their first new song in nearly two years titled “Death of Me”. The sinister yet immediately catchy track is accompanied by a music video directed by Katharine White that perfectly encapsulates the song’s tone, complete with references to the occult and divination, according to lead vocalist Lynn Gunn. As dark as it all sounds, it’s the perfect track for hot summer nights.

In 2017, PVRIS followed up their breakout debut, White Noise, with All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell. That release dropped some of the heavier elements of White Noise in favor of more brooding and melodic synthpop. Flanked by Alex Babinski and Brian MacDonald, Gunn took her vocal performances to another level, quickly becoming one of the most heralded vocalists in the scene.

Back in 2014, White Noise caught my attention (and honestly, just about everyone else’s) in a way that a new band hadn’t in a long time. For the past five years, many of predicted that PVRIS is on the verge of an even bigger breakthrough into the mainstream. Who knows what the rest of 2019 holds and what the forthcoming new album (presumably released later this year on Warner Records) will deliver, but for now, “Death of Me” proves once again that PVRIS is pressing forward in all the right ways and creating some of the best synth-driven pop around.

Check out the new video below:

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: Interview with John Floreani of Trophy Eyes

Summer is in full swing, and with it comes an avalanche of summer music festivals. In its inaugural run, the Rockstar Disrupt Festival hosts a stacked lineup, including Newcastle, Australia, rock act Trophy Eyes. Vocalist John Floreani took some time out after one of the band’s recent sets to chat with us about his new solo album Sin, the sonic evolution of Trophy Eyes, and how festival life compares to a typical tour. He also shares about Warped Tour’s impact and how the many tours and festivals taking its place this summer tell the story of a scene that is alive and well. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What tour are you looking forward to the most this summer? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

10 Perfect Albums for Summer Road Trips

Believe it or not, there used to be a day when you didn’t have access to the entire library of recorded music when you got into your car. Long road trips with friends required preparation in the form of CD collections and discussions about which albums got first dibs in the stereo.

While it’s easier than ever to create endless playlists or simply jump tracks during long rides, there’s still something to be said for albums that can play front to back while you cruise down the highway and serve as the perfect soundtrack to life on the road. With summer in full swing, we’ve compiled a list of 10 albums to consider packing (or queueing up) before you take your next sun-drenched road trip with your friends.

Cartel – Chroma

Rule #1 for road trip albums: Every song has to be a banger. Even 14 years after its release, Chroma is fire from front to back and it’s incredibly easy to sing along to every song. Will Pugh’s voice was made for summer, and so was this album.

Key tracks: “Say Anything (Else)”, “If I Fail”

Underoath – They’re Only Chasing Safety

This is a quintessential summertime album for me and one that was the soundtrack to more road trips than I can count from 2004-06. While it’s a heavy album to be sure, there’s enough melody and pop elements crammed in courtesy of Aaron Gillespie and company that this album was made to be heard with the windows down.

Key tracks: “A Boy Brushed Red, Living in Black and White”, “Reinventing Your Exit”

P.O.S. – Never Better

P.O.S. stole the show at Warped Tour 2009 thanks to the catchiness of his breakthrough album, Never Better. An indie hip hop hidden gem, there’s tracks to nod your head to, wild out to, and rap along with your friends to. It’s a gold mine of catchy (and introspective) hits.

Key tracks: “Let it Rattle”, “Savion Glover”

Boys Like Girls – Boys Like Girls

The self-titled debut from Boys Like Girls was peak scene pop punk, masterfully produced to appeal to just about anyone. Every song could serve as a single and it’s impossible to turn the volume down anytime Martin Johnson’s voice hits those high notes.

Key tracks: “The Great Escape”, “Heels Over Head”

Paramore – Riot!

Riot! is truly one of the greatest summer pop punk albums of all time, hitting all of the high notes that a road trip album requires. Hayley Williams comes into her own as a vocalist as the band writes their catchiest and most infectious songs of their young career.

Key tracks: “That’s What You Get”, “Crushcrushcrush”

Mayday Parade – A Lesson in Romantics

Bonus points for road trip soundtracks go to any bands that utilize two singers, allowing travel buddies to trade off on vocals. A Lesson in Romantics is a perfect blend of summer anthems and memorable harmonies from Derek Sanders and Jason Lancaster.

Key tracks: “Jersey”, “Jamie All Over”

A Day to Remember – Homesick

Homesick is the album that took A Day to Remember to another level and it’s also their most instantly arresting version of easy-core that allows for head banging sessions in the car or embarrassingly loud sing-a-longs for everyone on the trip.

Key tracks: “My Life for Hire”, “Mr. Highway’s Thinking About the End”

Gym Class Heroes – As Cruel as School Children

In 2006, Gym Class Heroes were on top of the world thanks to a collection of hit songs from As Cruel as School Children. Lead man Travie McCoy is able to drop a hot verse but also able to flex his songwriting abilities in unexpected, pop-centric ways. This album is just plain fun.

Key tracks: “Shoot Down the Stars”, “Clothes Off!”

Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

Sometimes after all the whining and screaming, you need to cleanse the palate with a tried-and-true pop record. Teenage Dream is hit after hit after hit, and they’re all fun to sing along to. If anyone on the car pretends they don’t know the words…well…they’re lying.

Key tracks: “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”, “E.T.”

Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue

In all honesty, there may not be a better pop punk road trip record than Ocean Avenue, an album that bleeds summer from every corner. It’s catchy, nostalgic, energetic and delightful in pretty much every way. Plus, if you let the album repeat after it finishes, no one will complain.

Key tracks: “Breathing”, “Ocean Avenue”, all of them.

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.

Sleeping with Sirens “Leave it All Behind” with New Single

Last week, Sleeping with Sirens returned with a new track, “Leave it All Behind”, their first new song since the release of Gossip in 2017. No longer signed to major label Warner Records, the band now resides with Sumerian and will release their new album How It Feels to Be Lost on September 6.

For a band that spent the past several years evolving toward a pop sound, cultivating in Gossip, “Leave It All Behind” feels like a course correction back to the sound that helped the band break through on earlier work like Let’s Cheers to This. While the band’s pop sensibilities are still present, vocalist Kellin Quinn allows his signature scream to return while the band sounds refreshingly aggressive once more.

While the accessibility of Gossip undoubtedly opened new doors for Sleeping with Sirens, its reception was mixed among critics and longtime fans. Apparently, the album cycle took a toll on the band as well, as Quinn recently revealed to Loudwire that felt directionless after the album and considered taking a hiatus. On a person level, Quinn admits, “I had a really hard time going on stage and believing the things I was saying.”

In many ways, it’s a tale as old as time, but if Sleeping with Sirens’ stint on a major label brought us back to a sound that feels honest and fresh, perhaps the brief exodus was worth it. Matt Good helmed the production for How It Feels to Be Lost, and Quinn communicated to Good early on in the recording process, “I want you to go back to the Heroine From First to Last days and just write something you wouldn’t expect Sleeping With Sirens to do.”

Given Good’s growing track record as a producer (The Word Alive, Asking Alexandria, Memphis May Fire), along with his own journey as primary songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist for From First to Last, this feels like the perfect match to capture a new spark for Sleeping With Sirens. Take a listen to “Leave it All Behind” below and be sure to preorder the album if you like what you hear!

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: The Best of Emery

Last month, Emery released a new 4-song EP as part of Emeryland, an interactive online community that promises exclusive new music leading up to the band’s eighth full-length album. Nadia Paiva joined Kiel Hauck on the pod to break down the band’s discography and discuss how their unique evolution has helped sustain their career and make them one of the most interesting bands to come from the modern post-hardcore genre. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Interested in checking out Emeryland? You can learn more on the band’s Indiegogo page.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Emery – …In Shallow Seas We Sail

I still remember the first time I heard an Emery song. It was probably about 2012 or so, and it was while watching the video for their 2009 track “Butcher’s Mouth”. The video for the song was shot documentary style from (presumably) tour, and, no offense, isn’t really anything to write home about. I just watched it for the first time in a couple of years, and it’s pretty dated now, but I’m still so fond of it. I specifically have always remembered the end, where Toby says, “The key to this world is money. Girls only like material things, and guys only like girls. So, guys, buy stuff for girls, and then the girls will like you.”  There’s just so much personality in the video, and I actually think that’s one of the reasons I ended up liking the band so much.

You can buy or stream …In Shallow Seas We Sail on Apple Music.

So it’s been 10 years since the album …In Shallow Seas We Sail was released. The band has really expanded past music since then, and I’d argue they’re still one of the most successful post-hardcore bands today. They figured out how to grow with the times, and that’s really only been to their benefit. Between podcasts and record labels, the band has constantly used their musical talent over the years to positively further the scene they’re in.

We obviously know now, though, that it hasn’t always been that way. And I doubt it would be this way without this 2009 release. 2007’s I’m Only A Man was pretty experimental for the band in a negative sense. I don’t know how the band members feel about the album, but fans weren’t really into it. I wasn’t familiar with the band at this point, and maybe it’s for the better, because I kind of like I’m Only A Man. I think that In Shallow Seas We Sail is definitely a better album and I like it more, but I’ve never really gotten why folks don’t care for I’m Only A Man.  

I think what makes this such a memorable and important addition to the Emery discography is the same as every one of their other albums. With each release, the band raises the bar up one more time in some aspect, whether it be production or songwriting or vocals. With …In Shallow Seas We Sail, they revamped the entirety of what made them great in their first two albums. They brought maturity into this fourth project, maturity gained from the experience of releasing music, experience from being signed to a label, and experience gained from having a project that wasn’t totally loved by the listeners.

They are truly the definition of a band who does this more for themselves than for the fans. They are constantly interested in how they can be better, and that’s what’s made them last so long as a band, and what’s made me last so long as a listener.

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.