Review: Tigers Jaw – I Won’t Care How You Remember Me

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If there’s anything we all have in common in living the past year and a half together, it’s that we’ve all grown up a little faster. I was looking at pictures the other day and I was struck by how closely we were standing together. Clinging to one another like it was the last human contact we’d ever have. In I Won’t Care How You Remember Me, Tigers Jaw reflects on that with their most mature album yet.

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You can buy or stream I Won’t Care How You Remember Me on Apple Music.

It’s something that I would say everyone has gone through. I broke up with my childhood best friend and somehow we made our way back to each other. We don’t agree on everything and there are definitely things that we remember that caused our time apart, but all in all, it’s okay. Maybe Tigers Jaw’s next album will see that kind of redemption. For now though, these songs remind me of how I felt when I was a teen and high school got the better of me.

Spin was released to wide acclaim in 2017, and I came into I Won’t Care How You Remember Me warily. Despite having the same team and the same band, I wrongly found myself wishing I had Spin 2.0. 

The latest album was written before quarantine, but it really does echo how a lot of us felt without our friends this past year, and the fact that some of us are exiting pandemic times without some of those we held dear, whether we lost them physically or just emotionally. Songs like the title track, with lines like, “I see the pain not healing” and “Commit” with, “If you wanted to ask for forgiveness / Then commit and say it”, really do point to a true loss and hurt that they’ve experienced. 

Is this album Spin? Not quite. It is certainly an important chapter in their story, and I know these songs will translate well to live shows because of how relatable they are. The aesthetic of the band has grown up in this album cycle, and so has their songwriting and musical expertise. It’s difficult to say that I had different expectations, because none of us can truly know what an artist will do next, so I’m willing to look at I Won’t Care How You Remember Me at face value and as a stand alone piece, as I know Tigers Jaw intended.

I’ve always gone to Tigers Jaw no matter what I’m feeling. They’ve consistently been a more positive band in the alt scene and I almost need them to remind me to smile a little bit. Now, we finally see Tigers Jaw move away from that and make a breakup album. But of course, there’s a Tigers Jaw flair to it — we’re not mourning lost love here, but something that can honestly be more painful: the ending of a friendship.

3.5/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over the Country Club

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Lana Del Rey has had a pretty big year. Coming down from the high of 2019’s Norman F’ing Rockwell, to the release of her first book, “Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass”, it’s safe to say that these are her prime years. In Chemtrails Over the Country Club, she continues to ride the wave and has given us a great new collection of stories.

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You can buy or stream Chemtrails Over the Country Club on Apple Music.

The album starts off with a song that I consider to be a little bit of a misfit. Stylistically, I know what she’s doing – reflecting on her days before fame and wondering whether all of this has been worth it, but in execution, it comes off as kind of awkward. It feels like a strange way to start an otherwise engaging body of work. Admittedly, it does fit, but I don’t know… I guess I would’ve made it the final track. I’m not Lana though, so who cares what I think.

I like the fact that this album is shorter and more fully fleshed out than Norman was. I felt like that album dragged itself out and while it was a great album, it would’ve done well as a two album project, at least according to my attention span. Chemtrails is certainly a winding road, but we end at a destination, there’s no ground left to cover here. It’s a return to the music I think she has always been wanting to make, even before becoming Lana Del Rey.

I really like this iteration of Lana. She’s secure in her choice of grassroots, homage-to-Joanie-Mitchell romanticization of the 70s. So secure in fact, that she covered one of Mitchell’s songs as the final track. And despite all of her various media controversies, we always know where her heart lies because of her songwriting. This album is a love letter to the people she loves. 

A vein that has always run through her music is the wish to return to a time before fame, to return to anonymity. But Lana can’t stay out of the spotlight. Even as I’m writing this, a day after Chemtrails released, she announced yet another album, Rock Candy Sweet with a date of June 1st. For a gal who seems obsessed with wanting a house in the middle of nowhere, she seems to like being famous an awful lot. She is stuck between wanting to stay exactly where she is, and returning to her roots and re-becoming Lizzy Grant. Listening to the B-sides and original recordings, we can see her trying to do exactly that, but when coupled with the flashy visuals like the title track’s music video, there’s a strange juxtaposition. Which side of her art is she willing to give up?

If Norman F’ing Rockwell was Lana Del Rey’s tribute to Americana, then Chemtrails Over the Country Club is where she has crossed over completely. Gone are the days of an insecure bar singer, and in her place is a woman who knows where she’s been, where she is, and where she wants to end up. All we have to do is get in the passenger seat and buckle up. For better or for worse, Lana has our attention.

4.5/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: A Day To Remember – You’re Welcome

Part of the charm to A Day To Remember is knowing how much their sound shouldn’t work as well as it does. A conglomeration of hardcore, punk and mainstream pop, most of ADTR’s back catalog is something that feels like it has always kind of been looked at through a lens of a band having fun more than anything else. Although You’re Welcome doesn’t change this dynamic, this is the first album that doesn’t seem to hide the flaws of this amalgamation as well as past records. What remains is an album burdened by an undue weight placed upon it, but may very well be held in much higher esteem a year from now.

You can buy or stream You’re Welcome on Apple Music.

The biggest flaw of You’re Welcome is that fans were forced to wait almost a year and a half for its release after the initial announcement. Delays of a few months can sour fan expectations, but one that long can breed resentment. You’re Welcome is full of big swings for the band that shouldn’t sound as shocking as they sometimes do (“Bloodsucker”) when compared to ADTR’s discography. But with so long to soak in a slew of singles, You’re Welcome feels even less cohesive than it should.

You’re Welcome has a wide range of sound and influences, whether that be hardcore (“Last Chance to Dance (Bad Friend)”), radio pop (“Bloodsucker”) or pop rock (“Permanent”). The issue is that while a lot of these elements aren’t necessarily new for ADTR, they either don’t commit to them enough (“Only Money”) or commit too much (“F.Y.M.”) for them to resonate in any meaningful way.

Peppered throughout You’re Welcome, though, are some truly great songs. “Brick Wall” resonates with the crunching guitars and energy of classics like “The Downfall Of Us All”. Closing track “Everything We Need” is a gorgeous acoustic ballad brimming with the reflection of youth and the swagger of a country song. Meanwhile, “Viva La Mexico” is a rager, allegedly about a bachelor party in Mexico, that feels destined to infect many a playlist.

The hypnotic elegance of “Permanent” proves to be one of the best songs that band has released in some time. While not groundbreaking, it flawlessly intermingles an electronic sound around a harder edge that builds to a well-earned breakdown and may best encapsulate what the band had aimed for throughout the album.

If there is a theme to You’re Welcome, it falls on the mass resentment that people pass on to one another. This is highlighted best in lead single “Degenerates”, a glossy pop punk song with a cheerleader-like chorus (“Why do we tend to hurt one another? / Dividing up all the books by the covers / Like it ain’t hard enough simply being me”).

“Brick Wall” chants defiance at pessimism and includes what may arguably be one of the great circle pit lyrics of all time (“Saddle up, boys / We’re headed for the brick wall”). “Bloodsucker” highlights the negative influence the judgement of religion can play on a person (“I’ve only got a lifetime / So I’ll give no more to you”) while sounding like a swirl of the best of Fall Out Boy and the worst of Maroon 5.

But in the face of this, a song like “F.Y.M.” is bred from that same resentment the album is pushing back on. Although it feels like the laziest written song on the record, it is destined to stick in your head for longer than anticipated as vocalist Jeremy McKinnon sings, “Wait’ll I get some fuck you money”.

You’re Welcome is an album that may not be what fans had hoped for after such an extensive delay, but it earns its place more with each new listen. Removing the weight of prolonged expectation, it feels reminiscent of the disjointed lovability of What Separates Me From You. Fans of every form of ADTR will find something glamorous here, even if they have to look a little harder than they may have initially hoped.

I found a true appreciation of the album during penultimate track “Re-Entry”. The song encapsulate the best of the band while showing both, the frustration and the relief of recording this album and may be the catharsis they needed for when it was finally finished. Over ridiculously playful guitars and cartoonish group vocals during the chorus, there is a genuine drain, relief and joy and McKinnon sings, “I just wanna go home”.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and stubbed his toe on the coffee table so hard he briefly thought his foot was amputated. Send him flowers. And a foot. Just a new foot, please.

Review: Julien Baker – Little Oblivions

In Greek mythology, there is a river in the Underworld called the River Lethe, which was said to bring forgetfulness to those who drank from it. John Milton wrote about it in Paradise Lost and called it “Lethe, the river of oblivion.” In Little Oblivions, Julien Baker makes the same comparison, but she uses a few more words (and instruments) to do it.

You can buy or stream Little Oblivions on Apple Music.

This time around, Julien starts her story with a relapse, which she talks about in “Hardline”, the second single. The album moves quickly, not pausing for reflection so much, like her past albums have. When I first added Little Oblivions to my most anticipated, we only had “Faith Healer”, a song about church trauma, in a sense, but when wrapped into the album as a whole, it’s more about the idea of searching for a solution. 

I’ve seen my fair share of people who claim they can heal, and maybe when I was younger, I thought it was a feasible idea because it was a normalcy in my religious life. But as years passed and people in my life didn’t receive the healing I thought they deserved, or things generally didn’t turn out the way these (obviously fallible) humans said they would, this aspect of faith began to lose its luster for me. And yet. I understand Julien’s desperation in “Faith Healer” probably better than a lot of folks who have found solace in her music. She longs to believe the way she used to, and so do I.

As a person who deals with depression and anxiety from things in the past that shook me when I was too young to be shaken, the question that Julien asks in “Favor” hit me deeply, because I saw myself: “How long do I have until I’ve spent everyone’s goodwill?” We know our hurts affect those around us, and it’s so hard to get out of our own way. I guess that’s why Julien writes songs about it.

I could write forever on each one of these songs that Julien has offered up, and as I finish typing these paragraphs I’m sitting in my own church parking lot, which I feel is symbolic in some strange way. Every one hit me deeply in places I hadn’t expected. In the final track, when she sings, “Good God / When You gonna call it off? / Climb down off of the cross / And change your mind” I feel like Julien is talking to God about herself.

We have the obvious biblical and religious allusions and implications of Christ freeing Himself from the cross at face value, but I feel like Julien is asking to be free of her cross. The religious upbringing, the lack of acceptance across the board in church, the struggles with addiction — it’s all tied together. It seems like Julien feels she’s been ziptied to this cross and wants out. 

Julien has opened herself here, adding more instruments than we’ve ever seen from her — and she played everything herself. The sheer talent she holds is incredible. She has given us three albums that are pretty close to perfect in a short timespan. What takes many artists decades to accomplish has taken Julien Baker, in a professional sense, six years.

But in a personal sense, Julien begs for forgetfulness. She longs to leave her darkest nights in the past, but she just can’t stop singing about them. It’s like she sits at the mouth of the River Lethe, filling up her cup again and again, only to be met with disappointment. These things stay with her, and so they stay with us.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Architects – For Those That Wish to Exist

Legacy is a big and complicated word, regardless of context, but especially when we apply it to the ongoing work of an active artist. Thus, change can be scary. It raises questions and can cause us to prematurely re-evaluate the total body of work. But in some cases, the passing of time reveals those moments of change to have a lasting effect we never could have known in the moment.

You can buy or stream For Those That Wish to Exist on Apple Music.

We need not wait to discuss the impact of For Those That Wish to Exist as it relates to Architects’ legacy. It is a powerful beginning to a new chapter for a band that has defied the odds and overcome the kind of adversity that makes the existence of this very album astonishing. 

Over the course of their last three records, Architects simultaneously climbed to the summit of metalcore excellence while delivering the swan song of guitarist and primary songwriter Tom Searle. Their last outing, Holy Hell, in which the band constructed a story of grief and resolve with building blocks left behind by their bandmate and brother, was masterful in its feelings of finality. 

What makes For Those That Wish to Exist such a brilliant next step is that it looks, feels, and sounds like something new while maintaining the heart of a band that always wore it on their sleeve. Who would’ve imagined an Architects album featuring orchestral elements, synthesizers, drum machines, and clean vocal deliveries from Sam Carter sounding so true to the band’s mission? Who would’ve thought it would sound this good?

One need not pay mind to the Linkin Park comparisons, which imply a simplification in sound. Yes, many of the more technical metalcore breakdowns are absent, and sure, there are elements of nu metal to be found here, but Architects are interested in experimenting with sound and crafting something distinct. 

The smooth electropop stylings of “Flight Without Feathers”, complete with the most delicate delivery of Sam Carter’s career, still holds the atmospheric weight we’ve come to expect from the band, even if the instruments have changed. The horns on “Dead Butterflies” only magnify the epic nature of one of the band’s most anthemic tracks to date, without Carter ever resorting to a scream. Here, Josh Middleton’s guitar sends the track’s bridge through the roof as opposed to bringing the house down.

Yet for those that wish to hear the band flex their muscle, there’s still plenty to be found. Look no further than mammoth-sized riffs that open tracks like “An Ordinary Extinction” and “Goliath”. The opening verse of “Discourse is Dead” finds Carter shredding his vocal chords atop Middleton and drummer Dan Searle’s chaos, screaming, “Oh it just won’t calculate, a prophesy with a twist / Do you really think Christ was a capitalist?” The heaviness arrives in doses, but when it does, as on the bridge of “Goliath”, it’s breathtaking.

But what truly brings these parts together and turns great moments into a great album is purpose. Carter shares the album’s thesis early on during the pre-chorus of “Black Lungs” as he asks, “What would you do to stay alive if the planet was burning?” Throughout For Those That Wish to Exist, Architects take aim at institutions that wield their power for profit, endangering the future of our species and the survival of our home. On “Giving Blood”, a track that perhaps best showcases the band’s new sonic direction, Carter sings, “Well there’s your eulogy / The water’s polluted / My feathers caught in the spill / Nobody said it would be safe up here”. 

Throughout the album, the band takes special aim at religion and its insistence on ignoring the problem in favor of the promise of an exit to somewhere heavenly. On “Little Wonder”, Carter sings, “If we miss the deadline, we can always blame the divine” before later offering a reprimand: “Nobody could say with a straight face / They didn’t have it coming”. On “Black Lungs” he growls, “You’re gonna taste the ash, you’re gonna taste the dust / ‘Cause this world is dying in our arms”.

For all of the righteous anger found on the album, as the title suggests, the ultimate call to arms of For Those That Wish to Exist is one of personal nature. The idea that every one of us has a decision to make, and collectively, we can make an impact. “Yeah I know that Rome was overthrown, but it wasn’t done alone” sings Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr on “Little Wonder”. On the delicate acoustic closer “Dying is Absolutely Safe”, the band paint an apocalyptic picture, with Carter singing, “It takes a fierce grace to crack us open / A moment sat with our sentencing / And the light comes flooding in / When the leaves fall in the spring”.

For Those That Wish to Exist is an album that benefits from repeated spins, which allow the sonic ebbs and flows to bring a greater picture into view. The only thing holding the album back is its 58-minute run time. With the subtraction of two or three tracks (starting with “Demi God” – the band’s first bad song since Daybreaker), and the album becomes another masterpiece. With that in mind, go forth and make the For Those That Wish to Exist playlist that suits you.

Time will tell how we place the album amongst some of the more colossal releases in the band’s catalogue. But For Those That Wish to Exist is a commanding step into a new era for Architects and one that should satisfy longtime fans of the band while offering an open door for more to join the journey. The legacy of Architects remains one of strength, purpose, and resolve – something that is solidified by this new chapter.

4.5/5

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.

Review: Hayley Williams – Flowers for Vases / Descansos

As soon as I saw Hayley Williams announce that she was releasing a second album, I was sure I wanted to talk about it. But even in writing this now, I’m still thinking about how I want to approach Flowers for Vases / Descansos, an album completely different from last year’s pop fest that was Petals for Armor. It even took me a couple of days to work up the courage to listen to it in its entirety. This is not Petals, it’s not Paramore. This is the forced cracking of a geode, and whether there are gems inside still remains to be seen.

You can buy or stream Flowers for Vases / Descansos on Apple Music.

For once in my tenure with Hayley Williams as a songwriter and musician, I don’t find myself in her words. Maybe that’s a good thing. If you thought Petals was an intense and honest look at her struggles, then you’re not prepared for Flowers for Vases. I wonder if her wild way of promoting the album is a shield for how nerve wracking it must’ve been to release something so wildly personal.

The first thing I took a look at before listening to the album was the word “descansos” that she uses in the title. “Descanso” is the Spanish word for “place of rest,” and colloquially, it has come to mean the devastatingly lonely crosses on the side of the highway marking the scene of and commemorating the death of a loved one. 

The reason for tacking this onto the title is evident in every track of the album, most notably to me “The First Thing to Go”, but it also colored the way the album sounds. Yes, it’s a moody, acoustic take on the Petals for Armor subject matter, but it reminds me so much of classical Spanish guitar music, and I refuse to believe anything but it being a clear choice Hayley made.

This album is a lot of things. It’s subtle, it’s heart wrenching, it’s raw. I want this to finally be a turning point for Hayley. It wasn’t evident when Petals was released, but the fanfare of that album, the synth and the soaring vocals, was still a way she was holding things back and keeping them tucked away. It’s her right to do, it’s her story and her path to healing, but with Flowers for Vases, it seems she has finally accepted that not only is there more work to be done, but there is a different way she needs to approach it. 

Flowers for Vases is yet another jewel in Hayley Williams’ crown. Mined from hurt and years of pain and emotional neglect, this jewel sits toward the back, hidden from view, and it is sharp and can cut. Yet the crown wouldn’t be complete without it.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Weezer – OK Human

To be a modern Weezer fan is to approach each new release with a sense of skepticism. Having made their mark in rock early on, the band has spent the last decade or so really trying something new with each album. While some incredible success has come from this, there have also been some massive misses. OK Human, the band’s surprise release is a resounding success. The album fundamentally alters the core Weezer sound while retaining their signature mark, analyzes the feeling of passing your prime and still manages to feel fun and goofy. OK Human verges on being the landmark Weezer album none of us knew we wanted.

You can buy or stream OK Human on Apple Music.

OK Human is an indie album in all regards, ditching anything close to the guitar sound associated with Weezer in favor of a full orchestra. It’s odd then that the album’s sound seems to rest comfortably somewhere between Pinkerton’s confessional style of songwriting and The Red Album’s escapism.

The fact that it took the band this long to release a stripped back album seems detrimental in retrospect. Drummer Patrick Wilson stands out more than anyone else, as his relaxed percussion takes center stage without the distraction of guitars (“Numbers”). Meanwhile, Brian Bell’s keyboards and Scott Shriner’s bass sound completely new in the context of being part of an orchestra (“Dead Roses”). For his part, singer and primary songwriter Rivers Cuomo sounds at home against the gentler sound. Although he never truly pushes his voice, he finds gracious melodies that fit the softer tone of these songs (“Bird With a Broken Wing”).

For its part, the orchestral backing does a shockingly adept job of performing a pop melody for the bigger, Weezer-esque songs (“All My Favorite Songs”) and an appropriate tension for darker, more thematic tracks (“Dead Roses”). For being one of the more distinctive steps outside of Weezer’s comfort zone, the orchestra does an amazing job of finding the perfect balance between a new sound and the brisk balance of pop tracks.

At its best, OK Human is a study of finding one’s place in an ever evolving world that only sees the value of your past accomplishments. The most straightforward song on this topic is “Bird With a Broken Wing” as Rivers sings “Long ago, I was flying in the air / Looking at the sea below / I was hunting to kill”, before lamenting, “I’m just a bird with a broken wing / And this beautiful song to sing / Don’t feel sad for me, I’m right where I wanna be”.

While other songs tackle the same issue, such as “La Brea Tar Pits” (“Cause I’m sinking in the La Brea Tar Pits / And I don’t want to die cause there’s still so much to give”), others examine it in indirect ways. “Screens” looks at a world lacking human contact as Cuomo sings “Now the real world is dying / As everybody moves into the cloud. / Can you tell me where we’re going?”

OK Human also sees some of the best lyricism Cuomo has written in quite some time. “Dead Roses” traces the sorrow of what an imagined relationship verses what it actually is in brutal, haunting poetry (“Lamplight falls, and casts a laughing phantom / I imagine your smile and the life that we could share / But with the last of my steps, I see the truth lying there”).

Another recurring theme, the struggle to adjust to an ever increasing world reliant on technology appears early on, with much more straightforward prose. “Numbers” tackles the depression of social media and the obsession with being seen (“Look at him, look at her, they’ve got a million likes / … / Numbers are out to get you”).

Where OK Human falters is when Cuomo seems to almost stop trying to find the perfect allegory to what he wants to say, and instead just blurts out whatever is in front of him at the time, including several tech services that may ultimately date the album to an extremely specific period in time. “Playing My Piano”, a catchy song about losing himself in music, is hampered by extremely stagnant lyricism (“My wife is upstairs, my kids are upstairs / … / I should get back to these Zoom interviews, but I get so absorbed and time flies”).

“Grapes of Wrath”, an ingenious song idea about relaxing while listening to audiobooks, stumbles in the chorus as it sounds like an advertisement more than a heartfelt ode (“I’m gonna rock my Audible / Headphones, Grapes of Wrath, drift off to oblivion”).

Slightly more focused, OK Human could have been the next legendary Weezer album. That said, it’s still an incredible work of art that mostly succeeds at its experimentation. In terms of Weezer’s discography, it sounds distinct and vibrant, and oddly seems to stand amongst the louder of the band’s legendary catalog. If nothing else, it proves that Weezer still have so much left so say.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and accidentally drank from a water glass he remembered he saw his cat drink from 20 minutes beforehand as he gulped it down. He drank cat water. He is now know as, “Cat Mouth.”

Review: Taylor Swift – evermore

At one point in my life, I was astounded that some of my favorite artists were able to release new albums in back-to-back years. What a naive summer child I was. Taylor Swift’s third album in less than a year-and-a-half is an astounding achievement. The morning it was announced, I almost couldn’t believe that it wasn’t just an album of folklore B-sides. Swift’s ninth studio album, evermore, is its own beast, despite being a sister to this year’s folklore. Although not quite the achievement that folklore felt like at the time, the fact that evermore exists is less impressive than the fact that it is another of Swift’s absolute definitive albums.

You can buy or stream Evermore on Apple Music.

Considering that all of Swift’s records since 2012’s Red have sounded drastically different from each other, the biggest surprise from evermore is that it still holds its own identity despite being a continuation and a sequel album. Keeping most of the elements of folklore’s indie folk songwriting, evermore leans more toward indie pop with more of a polish than its predecessor. Although silence itself seems to act as an instrument at times, it’s less prominent than it was before, even on Lover, leaving an album that stands on its own as much as it highlights the best of Swift. 

Co-written with folklore’s superstar cast of Aaron Dessner of The National (who appear on “coney island”), Jack Antonoff, William Bowery (Joe Alwyn) and Bon Iver, and including an appearance by Haim on the outlaw country song “no body, no crime”, it’s no surprise that evermore follows similar beats to its predecessor. However, where folklore found hope and light throughout its runtime, evermore is more downtrodden. Evermore is folklore’s shadow in substance as well as release date. It may be difficult to see both albums as individuals in the future since they reflect one another in hindsight, somewhat similar to David Bowie’s famed Berlin Trilogy. 

While folklore provided some type of hope in this insane year, evermore shows the tiredness that the world faces 10 months into the pandemic. This is conveyed through the fictionalized stories written for each song, something that was highlighted the most on folklore. Though these stories are darker, they’re no less powerful and harken to the best of country songs, despite only housing a couple of songs that hint at a reflection of her roots. 

Driven by piano and acoustic guitar, evermore finds its footing standing between folklore’s indie vibe and Red’s mixture of pop and country. It captures a more produced effort than folklore, while balancing the sound between a mixture of genres. Although similar in texture, the albums depart in theme and sound just enough to stand apart.

Many songs on evermore reflect the sound of lost loves and the failings of love. Songs like “champagne problems” tell the story if a failed marriage proposal, and people telling the would be groom that the girl suffered from mental problems as a way to explain the outcome (“‘She would’ve made such a lovely bride / what a shame she’s fucked in the head,’ they said”). 

The deceptively titled “happiness” looks at the life after the destructive ending of what was once considered a great relationship (“Past the curses and cries / Beyond the terror in the nightfall / Haunted by the look in my eyes, that would’ve loved you for a lifetime / Leave it all behind, and there is happiness”). 

Although it’s harder to find standout tracks on the album, such as folklore’s “the last great american dynasty”, those songs still exist. “Marjorie” explores the regret of letting a loved one pass without learning everything they had to teach (“I should’ve asked you questions / I should’ve asked you how to be, asked you to write down for me / Should’ve kept every grocery store receipt”). 

Evermore is an album that delves into the melancholy just as much as its sister, folklore, delved into the positive. Although not as striking or as distinct as its immediate predecessors, evermore finds its identity by blending the last two albums sonically despite exploring the darkness of relationships. Despite the extensive ground covered in evermore, there is a constant threat of the album always being overshadowed and ultimately lost in Swift’s discography, despite how unique it is.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and longs for the holidays next year, when there is a possibility that enough family members will be vaccinated enough to be able to cough in their eyes. HE WANTS TO COUGH IN EYES!!!

Review: Goldfinger – Never Look Back

This year has been a surprisingly busy one for Goldfinger. During the early days of the pandemic, the band released a series of re-recordings of their favorite hits from separate locations, which became a shockingly well-received reprieve from the dark times of quarantine. Never Look Back, the band’s new album, launches directly from the momentum of those videos, creating a quasi “best of” in terms of sound by incorporating every grand element of the band’s discography into an elegantly written punk rock album. 

You can buy or stream Never Look Back on Apple Music.

Never Look Back feels like a ‘classic’ Goldfinger album as much as it does a modern punk record. Each track sizzles with raging guitar riffs that, more often than not, incorporates ska into most of the album. For an album steeped in the essence of the past, it sounds incredibly fresh in 2020. Comprised of a semi supergroup, Goldfinger simply sound better than they ever have. 

Songwriter and singer John Feldmann sounds incredible, pushing his vocals from chorus to chorus and carrying a melodic monotone through most verses that have helped define the band. MXPX frontman Mike Herrera settles in once again as bassist, shifting from blistering punk tracks and backup singer (“Good Guy”) to smooth ska rhythms (“The Best Life”). Guitarists Philip Sneed and original Goldfinger member Charlie Paulson rage through tracks, crafting some of the best songs in the band’s career (“Cannonball”, “The City”). Drummer Nick Gross keeps percussion running between genres, picking up seamlessly after Travis Barker‘s run on the band’s last album. 

Despite the title, Never Look Back revels in reflection. Sonically, the album reverts to Goldfinger’s early records, reinvigorating the ska elements and leaning heavily into the pop punk elements of more recent albums. Lyrically, the album settles into the tried-and-true concepts of failed relationships and energetically addressing grievances (“Nothing To Me”). Don’t expect Never Look Back to have a message that will make you think too hard. Instead, it will have you fist pumping to elegantly simple choruses primed for swirling mosh pits.

Opening track “Infinite” explores the pull Feldmann feels producing for seemingly every pop punk band in existence balanced against the expectations set on Goldfinger as one of the few remaining genre bands from the late 90’s (“Save yourself from me / Cause I’m about to change, about to break / Cause everybody wants me to be somebody else”). The song also gives Charlie Paulson and Mike Herrera a chance to take lead vocals on a verse each. 

Lead single “Wallflower”, one of the few positive songs on the album, is a reflection on Feldmann’s wife and plays out as a California love story, complete with an extravagant horn section (“It’s only getting better / Since the day I met her, she wears my sweater / In California weather”).

The nostalgic-named “Golden Days” sounds like a Less Than Jake track from the early 2000’s, reflecting on the lost days of youth and looking fearlessly ahead toward lifelong dreams (“Whatever happened to the golden days? / Whatever happened to the plans we made? / Whatever happened to the late night drives, there was nothing to hide”).

Never Look Back is the type of throwback album 2020 was primed for. Bursting with punk energy and the dance ethics of third-wave ska, the album manages to make the listener feel good despite the angry themes found from song to song. Personifying the frustrations of the year through relationships and reflecting on older, enjoyable times, Never Look Back maintains classic sensibilities through a modern lens. Goldfinger sound more energized than ever, and ready to command a thrilling live presence when shows become a thing again.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and still has a pound of gummi bears to eat despite snacking on them all week. Why would he buy this many gummi bears?!

Review: Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension

Over the years, I’ve gone through a lot of phases in my frequent listening. I’ve talked a lot about my emo years and the time I caved and dove into Top 40 territory, but I’ve never really gotten into the couple of years I spent on the folk side of music. Cottagecore before it was called that, if you will. I used to bake cookies to the dulcet tones of The Lumineers and Ben Howard; it was a brief and peaceful time when I could play music on the kitchen speakers without protest from my family members.

You can buy or stream The Ascension on Apple Music.

Among my favorite albums in this time was 2015’s Carrie and Lowell by Sufjan Stevens. He provided a modern incarnation of what I imagine John Denver would have created had he not been taken from us so soon. I moved into a new season of listening eventually, but have been brought back into Sufjan’s arms with his latest release, The Ascension.

One of the many things I like about Stevens’ music, akin to his musical cousin Bon Iver, is the thoughtfulness with which he creates. Each choice is painstakingly made, but his finished product doesn’t force us to painstakingly listen. With The Ascension, he steps away from a soft sound into pop; a natural progression for Sufjan, because he’s ventured into the territory before. And of course, as many of my pieces tend to do, we have to speak on religion. 

I don’t know what draws me to albums of apostasy and the like, but it’s like a siren song to me. I can’t look away. Songs begging for a higher power to explain things we can’t understand are a heart’s cry of mine; I’m glad when someone else can make sense of the emotion and bring it through the production process so I don’t have to. Right out of the gate, Sufjan asks if he can bargain with God to maybe make this experience of living any easier.  With tracks like my personal favorites, “Ursa Major” and “Landslide”, he’s found himself looking for love and forgiveness, and he ends up finding it.

Carrie and Lowell was a chore of an album, and The Ascension is the opposite. The songwriting is simple and repetitive — a true pop hallmark — but it still carries the weight of a traditional Sufjan album. He still wrestles with his same emotions regarding love (“Run Away with Me”) and loss and society (“Lamentations”), but he wraps it up in a reviving electropop bow, just enough to get our hopes up before opening the box to find another sad Sufjan song. We finish the album with “America”, a scathing portrait of the depravity the USA has fallen into. It’s a fitting end to an album that is mostly introspective, but Sufjan shows the truth that out of the heart the mouth speaks, and we find ourselves wondering whether this album is about him or about us as a whole.

I quite like this iteration of Sufjan Stevens. He’s learned, like many of us over these past few years, that circumstances can change on a dime, so we ought not to take ourselves too seriously. Songs like “Die Happy,” made of just a simple refrain, have become a genuine cry in our time, surrounded by so much death, grief, and loss. With The Ascension, Sufjan shows that these emotions can coexist with positivity, so even though we may be crying, we may as well dance, too.

4/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves 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.