Nirvana Members Reunite to Play Cal Jam 2018

This weekend, Foo Fighters held their second annual Cal Jam music festival at San Bernardino, California, resulting in a surprise set from Nirvana. During the six-song set, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic were joined on stage by Deer Tick’s John McCauley and Joan Jett, filling in for Kurt Cobain for three songs each.

Jett joined the band for “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “All Apologies”, and “Breed”, while McCauley took the stage for “In Bloom”, “Serve the Servants”, and “Scentless Apprentice”.

Watch a few of the performances below:

Grohl and Novoselic previously got back together to perform during Nirvana’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction and during a 2012 “Saturday Night Live” appearance with Paul McCartney.

Which song from the performance is your favorite? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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What Makes for a Great Autumn Album?

My favorite season has officially arrived. On a crisp Sunday morning, I’ve found myself cooking pumpkin pancakes in the kitchen, sipping my coffee as cool air comes in through the open window. Yes, I’m “that” guy. But perhaps my favorite part of the morning is listening to the sounds of one of my favorite fall albums: Copeland’s In Motion spins on the turntable as I cook.

But what does In Motion have to do with autumn? This is the question I’ve been seeking to answer ever since someone put me on the spot a few weeks ago, asking me what I mean when I talk about my favorite fall albums. I realized that I didn’t have a good, succinct answer. Maybe there wasn’t one.

Listen to our podcast: The Best Music of Autumn

I’m convinced that this idea is extremely subjective and differs from person to person, but nevertheless, in order to at least answer for myself, I’ve been able to define four variables that impact my tendency to listen to an album when the leaves turn and the temperature drops. Take a look below and feel free to share your thoughts in the replies!

When it Was Released

This one is obvious. I’m drawn to dates and anniversaries, so if an album came out a certain time of year, I’m inclined to revisit it during that timeframe. A great example is Mayday Parade’s self-titled release, which dropped in October of 2011. The album really doesn’t meet any of the other criteria outlined below, but every fall, it’s one of the first albums I reach for.

When I listen to Mayday Parade, it takes me back to the early dating days with my wife and how often I played the album on the hour-long car ride to her home in Bloomington, Indiana, during our first fall together.

Other times, release dates align perfectly with the sound of an album. My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade arrived a week before Halloween in 2006 and is almost custom-made for the season with its themes of death and imagery of hellish characters. It’s now my go-to album to spin during our annual pumpkin carving.

How it Sounds

We now move to a much more arbitrary point, but I would argue that some songs and albums just “sound” like the season. Here, I think of cool, sometimes dark, music that reminds me of shorter days and how I feel when I see my breath in the air early in the morning.

A few albums that come to mind here are Armor For Sleep’s Dream to Make Believe and Chiodos’ Bone Palace Ballet. Armor For Sleep is a summer band for many, and their second album, What to Do When You Are Dead, is a warm-weather staple of mine, but Dream to Make Believe has a raw, harsh quality that sets it apart. A track like “Frost and Front Steps” is nearly impossible not to associate with the season.

Likewise, Bone Palace Ballet, with its crunching guitars and theatrics reminds me of the looming darkness of the season, checking the boxes of both sound and lyrics, with its eerie and spooky themes.

What it Has to Say

Speaking of lyrics, perhaps the most obvious delineator of an autumn album is what it has to say. Here, I think of albums or songs that call attention to the most visual and visceral aspects of the season. While many equate Cartel’s Chroma to summer, it’s a distinctly transition-to-fall album for me, especially with a track like “Luckie St.” serving as an autumn anthem.

With Halloween being my favorite holiday, many albums qualify simply for their creepy subject matter. Think My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge or The Devil Wears Prada’s Zombie EP, along with several tracks from Showbread’s first two albums (“Dead By Dawn” from their debut is a Halloween staple of mine).

Not to be outdone, He is Legend has their own history of horror-filled tales. Suck out the Poison is a go-to for me this time of year, due both to its release date nostalgia (released October, 2006), and because of its subject matter, with songs like “Attack of the Dungeon Witch” leading the way.

How it Looks

Anyone who knows me knows of my insistence that the visual presentation of an album matters. My vinyl collection started years ago as a way to still admire the artwork of my favorite albums, even as our transition to streaming made full art and liner notes less accessible and robust. Thus, albums that incorporate autumn colors and visuals can’t be forgotten when determining their seasonal placement.

All of this brings us back to Copeland, whose album In Motion features yellow/brown leaves on its cover and captures the colors of fall throughout the album artwork. Likewise, Anberlin’s debut Blueprints for the Black Market, with its reddish brown tones, harkens of late autumn, capped off with cool-sounding guitars and references to cold.

So there you have it. It’s not a science, but there are certainly real factors that determine my own interest in an album by season, particularly when autumn rolls around. Here’s to another season of late nights by the campfire, horror movie sofa sessions, and pumpkin pancake cooking with the sounds of fall.

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: Anberlin – New Surrender

“When I was 13 / I had my first love / There was nobody that compares to my baby / And nobody came between us / No one could ever come above”.

What does Ludacris’ verse on Justin Bieber’s critically acclaimed single “Baby” have to do with Anberlin? If you’re like me: Everything.

You can buy or stream New Surrender on Apple Music.

When I was 13, I thought I knew everything there was to know about music. I thought Tooth and Nail was the best record label. I was trying to come into my own personality. In reality, I was just pretentious and nobody wanted to listen to the cool music I found because of my attitude. The biggest band for me during that time period was Anberlin. They opened the door to the rest of the alt rock world and still continue to blow me away today.

When I found them, I was listening to my favorite internet station, RadioU. The band’s cover of New Order’s “True Faith” was playing and I was obsessed with the guitar riff. I know, weird to get into a band via a song that’s not even theirs. If you actually listen to the track, though, (you’ll have to do so on YouTube, as it’s no longer on Spotify), it sounds authentically Anberlin. It took me a while to find out who it was (it being the radio and all), but once I did, there was no turning back. I became a fan of Anberlin—a Fanberlin, if you will.

All of this brings me to their 2008 release, New Surrender. The album is criminally underrated. It came a mere year after what many claim is their greatest achievement, Cities. It can be tempting to write off the album that comes after a band’s best, and oftentimes, you’d be correct to do that. But with New Surrender, I think you’d be wrong to.

I’ll admit that the album isn’t Anberlin’s strongest. It came in a tumultuous period in the band’s history. They’d just signed to a major label and released the best album of their career. It’s hard to put your best foot forward as that kind of pressure mounts. So the band gave it a shot. New Surrender isn’t hard-hitting like Cities was, and it’s not quite as melodically pleasing like Never Take Friendship Personal. The album, though, has some of the most meaningful lyrics Anberlin has to offer. From the emotional and mildly petty “Breaking” to the thematically heavy “Soft Skeletons”, the band really gave something for everyone.

Here is an overview of some of my favorite tracks:

“Breaking”, simply because it’s a classic. There’s no Anberlin without “Breaking”. If you disagree, you can come fight me. You know I’m right.

“Burn Out Brighter (Northern Lights)” because of the story. The song was written because of an episode of plane turbulence and basically reckoning with the fact that it could all be over in a second, making the most of what we have and the time we have to enjoy it.

“Younglife” has a special meaning for me lately in a way it hasn’t previously. I used to think fondly of high school and hanging out with my friends and messing around, like in the first verse. But as I think about my upcoming marriage, I think about the second verse: “Hey lover / Do you remember when / We used to dance in our apartment ‘till neighbors would knock on our door / And I remember / Do you remember when / We had no money to speak of / Nowhere else to eat but your floor / I wanna do it again”.

“Haight St.” has that same kind of connotation for me. It’s a fun track and one of the band’s more upbeat offerings, so there’s that for a stylistic approach. The whole album just holds this intense nostalgia as I’m looking back at my younger days. Old enough to know, too young to care.

So I don’t know if this has been so much of a reflection as it has been a, “Hey this album is still very relevant!” That’s what makes New Surrender timeless. It brought me through high school and the weird turbulence that is adolescence and now it’s here to remind me of the little things like building my first dining room table. It’s a picture of how to hone in on the finer points of life.

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.

Podcast: The Best of Anberlin

Later this month, New Surrender turns 10 years old. Kiel Hauck and Nadia Paiva took the album’s anniversary as an opportunity to discuss Anberlin’s legacy and the impact of their major label debut. They break down Anberlin’s discography, rank their favorite songs, and share some of their favorite memories of one of the most influential and underrated bands in the history of the scene. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What is your favorite Anberlin album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Jukebox the Ghost Jumpstart the Fun in Indianapolis

In college, when I became president of a student organization, I needed to collect around 75 phone numbers. To make the process of adding contacts less monotonous, I asked each member to send me their name and their favorite song of the moment. I listened to every song that was sent to me and responded with my thoughts; I had a lot of really fun conversations about music and made some new friends. Right away, though, the members of this organization knew two things: I like music, and I like to talk about music (good things to know, in all honesty).

And that is how I discovered “Girl” by Jukebox the Ghost.

Jukebox the Ghost

I was so excited to see Jukebox live. Their recent performance at The Hi-Fi in Indianapolis was a scream-every-word, dance-along, feel-good show; overall, a show I would return to again and again. I love Jukebox for their old-meets-new pop sound. They use keyboard settings that sound exactly like a classic piano, which feels both nostalgic and fresh in a sea of electronic-only pop.

The beginning of “Jumpstarted” is a perfect example; the huge keyboard build of the first 30 seconds culminates in a dance-worthy beat and high-flying vocals. Ben Thornewill (vocals and piano), Tommy Siegel (vocals and guitar), and Jesse Kristin (drums and vocals) tag-teamed noteworthy performances of “Everybody’s Lonely”, “Postcard”, “Time and I”, and “Stay the Night”. I wouldn’t say JukeBox’s lyrics are particularly groundbreaking, but the songs are so catchy. In my opinion, that combination makes great pop music.

It was fun to see a band doesn’t take themselves too seriously. While Jukebox has a discography that could easily fill entire set, they opted to cover some really fun songs. From Electric Light Orchestra to Shania Twain, I was always on my toes and had a great time dancing along. I particularly loved when Jesse, the drummer, stepped out from behind the kit for a cover of “Havana” by Camila Cabello.

Jukebox’s humor and self-deprecation was also a highlight of the show. The keyboard was out of tune, causing the band to restart mid-song at one point. Ben forgot a few lyrics during the encore; he took an audience suggestion of “Victoria” instead. The band members took all of these bumps in stride. It was refreshing to see them laugh and banter during a show in a way that’s not robotic, a risk of some long-term tour shows that can come off a little scripted late in the run.

The Greeting Committee

I also have to give a huge shout out to the opener, The Greeting Committee. I saw them live in Cincinnati about a year ago, and I was absolutely blown away by how much they have improved as musicians. I really appreciate the bands that don’t rest on their laurels, continually working to bring a better sound and show to the audience. Brandon Yangmi’s riffs were spot on and Addie Sartino voice brings an almost grungy, rough-around-the-edges sound.

While it did not make this particular setlist, my favorite song by The Greeting Committee is “Someone Else”. Judging by their newest single, “Don’t Go”, I would definitely recommend keeping an eye out for their new album dropping at the end of this year.

by Katie Baird

kiel_hauckKatie Baird is a lover of music that firmly believes transitions between songs on playlists matter, albums are made to be listened to in order, and songs that don’t mention the title in the lyrics are just *better.” Her music obsession began with classic rock records and has evolved to include all genres, with a soft spot for alt pop. While she could talk about music all day, this is her first time writing about it.

Reflecting On: Underoath – Lost in the Sound of Separation

Underoath’s sixth studio album, Lost in the Sound of Separation, released on Tuesday, September 2, 2008. I purchased a copy of the album on my birthday, three days prior, thanks to a very cool FYE employee who retrieved a deluxe version of the record from the store’s back room, quietly informing me not to tell anyone as he handed me the CD. I proceeded to listen to the album non-stop for well over a week, soaking in every detail I could.

You can buy or stream Lost in the Sound of Separation on Apple Music.

I share this story because it was one of the last times I would be so excited about an album – so eager and impatient that I would boldly ask a retail employee to let me buy the album before it went on sale. So enthralled with a band that I would schedule my days to ensure time was carved out for quiet, uninterrupted listening sessions.

By the release of Lost in the Sound of Separation, Underoath was still on top of the heavy music world, with 2006’s Define the Great Line landing at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and launching the band to a new level of stardom. Not only did that album set the stage for the next decade of post-hardcore, it showcased a band that was unafraid to take risks.

Sharing the same production team (Adam Dutkiewicz and Matt Goldman) as Define, Lost in the Sound of Separation feels like a brilliant second chapter – one in which the story’s authors had fully honed the very craft that made their art so acclaimed in the first place. It is at once violently chaotic and oddly serene.

If They’re Only Chasing Safety holds the title of Underoath’s most accessible work and Define the Great Line as their most critically acclaimed, Lost in the Sound of Separation may very well be the best work ever released by one of the genre’s most revered bands. Call it their In Utero – a thematically and sonically dense, under-appreciated album that now flies mostly under the radar for lack commercial appeal.

Also, much like that Nirvana classic, Separation was created to be raw and real. The band utilized space and setting when recording the album in hopes of making something that could be translated to a live setting without tricks. Passages that required vocal layering employed all members of the band. Long hallways and nooks and crannies were used to add natural effect and echo. Guitar tracks were laid down without cutting out natural flaws in performance.

At a time when heavy music had begun fully embracing the kind of clean, pure production that made albums like They’re Only Chasing Safety such a smash, Underoath bucked in the opposite direction. Despite its aforementioned similarities to Define the Great Line, deep listens reveal the idiosyncrasies that set it apart.

Spencer Chamberlain’s opening cries of, “I’m the desperate and you’re the savior” remain one of the most distinct moments in the band’s catalogue. The brutal opening to the record is intensified by the lack of vocals from Aaron Gillespie, who doesn’t join the fray until a few minutes into the second track. Nevertheless, his presence is felt throughout thanks to the most stick-splintering drumming of his career.

The electronic influence of Chris Dudley is at its most sinister on Separation – listen back to the haunting keyboards that bring “A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine” to a close and ask yourself if the concept was ever used as effectively on another hardcore record. Guitarists Tim McTague and James Smith combine with bassist Grant Brandell for dark, sludgy passages on “Emergency Broadcast: The End is Near” that mark a startling departure from anything the band had put to tape at the time.

Later, on the criminally underrated “Coming Down is Calming Down”, McTague shreds so hard that you can hear every squeal and squawk of his guitar. By the album’s end, the chaos subsides on “Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear” and “Desolate Earth: The End is Here”, giving way to a darkly delicate close featuring a cello and a muffled Chamberlain crying out for God to “save us all.” It’s a chilling end, to be sure, and interpretations of the outcome are certain to vary.

Impressively, for all of its bite and brutality, Lost in the Sound of Separation debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200, leading to more headlining tours and top billings at festivals. Nevertheless, the album’s cycle would become linked with a transition for the band, as Aaron Gillespie stepped away before the band would record Ø (Disambiguation) and disband. Like each of Underoath’s releases, Separation is a time capsule inescapably linked with storylines and intrigue.

When the band reunited for 2016’s Rebirth Tour, I found it interesting that the band chose to play Safety and Define in their entirety. While certainly their most commercially successful and “popular” releases, the absent Separation seems to hold a deep connection for many longtime fans. Even now, the band seems hesitant to explore the record, including only “Breathing in a New Mentality” on setlists. It’s hard not to wonder why the album that was created with live performances in mind is so rarely chosen for that setting.

While I await the day that tracks from Lost in the Sound of Separation find their way back into Underoath setlists, I have carried on a decade-long tradition of celebrating the album on my birthday with focused, intentional listens that remind of how I felt in 2008 when the album was everything I had been waiting for. It’s still just as satisfying as it was back then, and to me, that is truly the sign of a great album.

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 Delightful Return of MxPx

Last month, pop punk legends MxPx returned with a surprise self-titled album that quickly became lauded as one of the band’s best. On our latest podcast, Kiel Hauck is joined by Richard Clark of Christianity Today to discuss what makes the new album so much fun and how the band’s reflections on growing up have resonated with their longtime fanbase. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What is your favorite MxPx album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: Our Favorite Summer Soundtracks

Summer is almost over! What better way to hold onto the season than to reminisce on our favorite summer soundtracks. Kyle Schultz and Nadia Paiva join Kiel Hauck to break down some of their favorite albums to spin during summer and discuss what makes for great summer music. As follow-up on our Summer Soundtracks series, the trio chat about great releases from bands like Cobra Starship, Lydia, Jimmy Eat World, Paramore, and much more. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What are your favorite albums to listen to during the summer season? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Emily Blue Releases New EP “*69”

When Emily Blue opens the track “Cellophane” with the line, “Don’t you wish everything was still like it was back then?” it could easily be interpreted as the voice of her detractors, both musical and ideological.

Blue’s latest EP, *69, dropped last Friday and is another evolution of her art, leaving behind her more subtle offerings for loud, sensual, danceable pop aimed at smashing the patriarchy. It is at once fun and socially conscious.

Opener “Microscope” is much more layered and spastic than her previous releases, analyzing sexual autonomy, as Blue sings, “And you know how it goes, the lights go up / And suddenly you’re under the microscope and everyone wants to see”. Later, on the bass-heavy “Dum Blonde”, as if to hammer home *69’s most important refrain, she repeatedly exclaims, “You’ve got to know your power”.

“Falling in Love” is an alt throwback number blended with modern indie pop while “Waterfallz” shows off Blue’s vocal abilities with a soaring chorus. Across the EP’s five tracks, Emily Blue expands her sonic capabilities while building on her commanding themes of female empowerment and self-discovery.

Delightfully entertaining and a vitally important listen, *69 is the perfect end-of-summer EP. You can stream *69 on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud.

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: As It Is Talks About “The Great Depression”

For our latest podcast episode, we caught up with Patty Walters and Benjamin Langford-Biss of As It Is at Warped Tour to discuss their upcoming album, The Great Depression. During the conversation, the two share their approach to discussing mental health and depression and how the subjectivity of art prevents it from offering firm answers. Instead, As It Is aims to have a more honest and open dialogue about the challenges of mental health and much more. The band also talks about their new look and sound and how they approached the writing process for their third album. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What are your expectations for the new As It Is album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck