Review: From Indian Lakes – Dimly Lit

I’ve taken more than a few days to try to start writing about From Indian Lakes’ new album Dimly Lit. I don’t always know why it takes me longer to write about certain albums and some albums I can sit and write about 10 minutes after I have listened to it once, but I feel like it often has to do with a few factors. One is how familiar I am with their previous material, another is how detailed the album is. 

You can buy or stream Dimly Lit on Apple Music.

With Dimly Lit, I fell more on the side of album detail. I’ve been listening to From Indian Lakes for years now, even writing my own review of Absent Sounds when it released in 2014. I love the band unashamedly, often pushing their albums onto my friends, assuring them they’ll enjoy the creativity and soothing vocals of Joey Vannucchi. I’m always right. From Indian Lakes has progressed quite a bit since 2014, but even more so since their first album The Man With Wooden Legs. Joey’s music is almost unrecognizable from that first album, filled with harsh vocals and an emo-revival goal. What hasn’t changed is how he grips you from the first track. 

“New Love” is a completely opposite sound from Everything Feels Better Now’s “Happy Machines”. Joey has completely bloomed. While EFBN is more introspective and a late night drive album, Dimly Lit begs to be played on a boombox outside of your girlfriend’s window, waking up the neighbors. From “Your Heartbeat Against Mine” to “Garden Bed”, it’s a beautiful expression of affection and genuine emotion.

This time around, Joey decided he didn’t want to go it alone. He asked a bunch of friends to sing with him on the album, including Lynn Gunn of PVRIS (“Did We Change”), and Miriam Devora of Queen of Jeans (“Garden Bed”, “Faces”). The guests keep the album from being too monotonous and are always perfectly suited for the tracks they took on.

The whole album is an absolute treat and it loops so beautifully that I didn’t even realize it had played all the way through. It clocks in at just about an hour and is worth every second. Joey released it independently, which might be the most surprising fact because of how cohesive it sounds. From Indian Lakes will be joined by Queen of Jeans and Yummm this fall to tour Dimly Lit, and you can bet I’ll be there vibing in the front.

5/5

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.

Review: The Early November – Lilac

I read once that The Early November chose their name because, much like that time of year, they changed their sound as often as the late seasons. I have no idea how true that actually is, but it has always rang true to me. The Early November have altered and changed from album to album, never staying with one sound for too long. The only constant is the emotional vulnerability that every song brings. Lilac brings not only the biggest change to the sound the band have developed after almost 20 years, it is quite possibly the most robust album the band has delivered since The Room Is Too Cold.

You can buy or stream Lilac on Apple Music.

Lilac is a stylistically diverse album, a fact it presents almost immediately. The Early November manage to juggle the sound of punk rock, Fall Out Boy-lite pop elements and incredibly intricate instrumentation. The flourish of trumpets or the somber whale of a french horn pepper into songs and constantly surprise the listener. The lilac flower is a symbol of innocence, and it shows across the album with tales of finding the lowest of emotional depths, only to pull yourself together. In the end, Lilac is an album of redemption.

Vocalist and songwriter Ace Enders pushes the sound of the band further than ever before. No two songs sound alike and each flows seamlessly to the next. Guitarists Bill Lugg and Enders find a variety of sounds from punk rock (“My Weakness”) to twinkling indie rock (“Hit By A Car (Euphoria)”) to dance riffs that act as a background to the rest of the instrumentation (“Fame”). Bassist Sergio Anello rips through a series of deep riffs (“My Weakness”) while multi-instrumentalist Joseph Marro’s piano and guitars layer thick (“You Own My Mind”). Drummer Jeff Kummer keeps pace with Enders, varying from intricate dance beats (“Perfect Sphere (Bubble)”) to deep melancholic bursts (“I Dissolve”).

Enders himself delivers a vocal performance different from any past release, whether that be with The Early November or his solo project, I Can Make A Mess. He pushes his vocals to shout and croon (“Hit By a Car”), enters the realm of pop (“Fame”; “You Own My Mind”), and almost whispers melody (“The Lilac”).

Opening song “Perfect Sphere (Bubble)” quickly sets Lilac apart from TEN’s discography. The energetic pianos, etherial guitars and Enders’ angelic croons deliver a sound that stands out against the moody rock of years past. “My Weakness”, a garage rock jam with a bridge and chorus that hint at what it would be like to hear Taylor Swift write a punk song, especially with Enders’ styled squeak during the chorus.

“Ave Maria” dances through an uplifting beat as Enders reflects on letting himself and a loved one down (“I thought if I looked nice, I would feel nice / And you would see me right, you would see me right / But it was an old lie, it was a cold lie / It was a long night.”). But for each downer, Enders weighs it with one of hope, such as the moody “Our Choice”. The song wrestles with the idea of addiction, as he swings back and forth between feeling enslaved to it and fighting back. “There is a choice to be alive, when failure keeps you up at night / So every morning, I will try / I will never stop the fire / I have a choice to be alright”.

The Early November constantly shift and push themselves in directions that no one sees coming. But consistency isn’t needed with a band so confident in themselves. Lilac bucks every expectation placed upon it, and steps away as one of the fullest albums The Early November have ever written. It demonstrates just how much the group can adapt and shift, but never remain predictable for long.

4.5/5

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 just realized his air conditioner is running even though it is like, 50 degrees outside. What a silly goose he is.

Review: Tiny Moving Parts – Breathe

I first heard Minnesota’s Tiny Moving Parts when they opened for The Wonder Years in 2016. I was a very casual listener until they released Swell last year. Swell became one of my favorite albums and one I consider to be among 2018’s best. When they announced that there would be a new album this year, I was psyched. They’re one of the most creative bands in the scene at the moment, and they bring some much needed positivity to a genre that is often a beacon of the opposite. 

You can buy or stream Breathe on Apple Music.

Their new album Breathe features artwork by guitarist Matt, and really it couldn’t be more fitting for they album it belongs to. While being their softest album, it’s also arguably their best. With each release, the band keeps refining their sound, and I feel like they’ve finally hit the sweetest spot. I was never a math rock fan until I found Tiny Moving Parts, and now it’s one of my favorite subgenres, and they’re at the forefront.

The album opens with “The Midwest Sky” – one of my personal favorites. It’s a peppy start and definitely a great opener and would also make a pretty great single. Breathe is the perfect mix of what was so cool about Swell, with some new aspects, like the banjo found on “Vertebrae” thrown in for good measure. 

In the lead single, “Medicine”, lead singer Dylan regards death as something that helps us grow rather than something that should tear us down. He doesn’t ignore the fact that it’s painful, but he prefers to give us a reminder that we can grow through the things that hurt. That’s something that’s been prevalent across all of their albums, but here in Breathe, the band tells us to do exactly that — breathe. It’s refreshing in comparison to both their previous albums and the scene in general. I think that’s what made the album stand out to me so much. 

My biggest crisis regarding the album is that there’s not a track where I’m like, “Eh I could skip this.” Some people would say that this review is too positive and lacks critique, but I would say that the album deserves no critique. It’s wonderful from front to back. It’s got fluidity, fantastic musicianship, and they’ve still managed to keep the aspects that have made them a staple in my playlist for the past couple of years. Breathe is a treasure. 

5/5

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.

Review: Blink-182 – Nine

Blink-182 were my first musical love. Over 20 years later, I remember hearing “What’s My Age Again?” for the first time, and the shockwave that it sent through my life, as well as the aftershock of obsession with pop punk. As Blink-182 continue to forge their second identity, it’s easier to see who they are and where they are going. If California (2016) was meant to reassure fans that they were the same band fans fell in love with, Nine is the album that reassures us that Blink-182 aren’t ready to settle on the merits of their past.

You can buy or stream Nine on Apple Music.

What stands out the most about Nine isn’t the new ground that it forges, but how it reaffirms what they have already done. If there is any of Blink’s past albums that this most resembles, it is the often neglected Neighborhoods (2011). Much like their first comeback album, Blink-182 are still searching for an identity years after creating a bedrock for the modern pop punk genre. As much as it takes a step forwards to test the boundaries of modern rock, Nine takes just as many backwards.

Nine suffers from an identity crisis. While a song like “The First Time” calls back to staples such as “Feeling This”, others such as “Happy Days” reflects the mediocrity of rock, and “Run Away” attempts to find a middle ground. Nine isn’t a bad album, it just doesn’t know what direction to lean into. Years after adding Matt Skiba as a permanent member, Blink-182 somehow sound less cohesive than ever. Some songs sound like they were included as an excuse to show off Travis Barker’s insane drumming (“I Really Wish I Hated You”).

Where Nine shines is how well it melds the legacy of Mark Hoppus’ high marks with the new sounds the band have forged over the last few years. “Heaven” provides Hoppus the chance to shout one of the catchiest choruses on the album, or meld so effortlessly into the anthemic verse and chorus sing-a-long of “Blame It On My Youth”. The signature pop of his bass is refreshing to hear, like seeing a family member again after a long time (“Happy Days”).

The effort Matt Skiba unleashes is astonishing on this album. Skiba manages to somehow make his guitar parts sound reminiscent of Tom DeLonge’s crisp style while still creating a sound different than that and of his work in Alkaline Trio (“No Heart to Speak Of”). However, while his vocals are amazing, Nine attempts to cut the difference between him and DeLonge by adding filters over many of his singing parts. These help bridge the gap between Skiba and DeLonge’s vocal pitches, but do not allow Skiba to shine through the way he should given how powerful of a singer he is.

Drummer Travis Barker erupts through each song, as he should, given he is one of the best drummers currently working and Blink-182’s long-time secret weapon. Oftentimes, Nine feels like it is designed around letting Barker shine through more than anything (“Black Rain”). Barker never stops moving and elevates what would otherwise be a mediocre rock song to become something great (“Blame It On My Youth”).

In many ways, Nine feels like a second attempt to make Neighborhoods, complete with a sequel to “Heart’s All Gone” (“No Heart To Speak Of”). Nine is catchy, fast, and melds rock with R&B drumming in a way that seems to stem directly from the Self-Titled (2003) album, but with less cohesion. Where a song like “Black Rain” pushes Blink-182 to the brink by relying on a post-punk guitar riff and near-EDM style drumming, a song such as “Hungover You” relies on tired guitar heavy choruses and lazy vocals to push it to the finish line. However, something like “On Some Emo Shit” works brilliantly by being a callback to songs from the early 2000’s, complete with a guitar solo pulled straight out of a Get Up Kids song.

Blink-182 have never been known for the weight of their lyrics, but rather for the precise catchiness of them. A Blink-182 song should make you want to sing every time you hear it, no matter what the words may be. In that regard, Nine succeeds in spades. However, if there is one song that actually says something of significance, it is the single “Blame It On My Youth”. Hoppus and Skiba reflect on the path that led them to be who they are today (“I was raised on a rerun / I was bored to death, so I started a band / Cut my teeth on a safety dance / My attention span never stood a chance”).

Other times, small lyrics cut canyons the longer you listen to them. This is especially prominent in “Generational Divide”, which uses about 30 unique words over 49 seconds of raging guitars and drums (“Are we better, are we better now?”).

Nine sees Hoppus, Skiba, and Barker testing the waters of what they want to be as a band and how deep Blink-182 fans can swim. The album pushes boundaries beyond past releases, but still settles in patches that feel far too safe. The combined talents of Blink-182 have earned the right to push themselves and forge new ground. However, Nine finds only hints of what is possible. Much like Neighborhoods, it faces the possibility that it will be forgotten in the shadow of brilliance of whatever follows it.

3/5

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 loves The Crimes of Grindelwald. Yeah, he said it and he’ll say it again to your mother.

Review: Melanie Martinez – K-12

When I think of controversy in music these days, I immediately think of Billie Eilish. Her album was unique and her videos are provocative. Even the way she dresses has made headlines. But before Billie released When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, there was Melanie Martinez. She started as a contestant on season 3 of The Voice, auditioning with Britney’s “Toxic”. She didn’t win, but that appearance catalyzed a career that made it possible for artists like Billie to push the boundaries they do.

You can stream K-12 on YouTube.

Melanie released her first album, Cry Baby, in 2015, then went on to direct and star in music videos for all 13 tracks. The album covers issues like abuse, alcoholism and kidnapping. You name it, Melanie has written about it. The album tells the story of a girl named Cry Baby and her childhood. It took me some time to get into her style – the original horror-trope filled pop, disguised in the color pink and cupcake frosting – but eventually, at the prompting of a friend, I bought the album. Melanie was accused of sexual assault in 2017, although not criminally charged. She was very quiet while all of this happening, leaving social media, as well as leaving fans wondering whether she would ever release more music.

This past May, she became active on social media again and announced that she was releasing an album/film combo called K-12. It would continue the story of her alter ego Cry Baby to a boarding school with ulterior motives. It was released to YouTube on September 6th.

The album opens with “Wheels On the Bus”. She talks about how adults don’t tend to take adolescents seriously and about some of the activities teens partake in, casual sex and drugs being her choice examples. This album is much more mature than her last album from a lyrical standpoint. She seems to have taken into account the sensitive nature of her lyrics and toned it down. She hits on a lot of heavy subjects, but none as violent as tracks from her last album like “Sippy Cup” or “Tag, You’re It”.

“Class Fight” is about bullying, but in the film, there’s a moment that starts to show the project’s true intent. The class is told to stand for the pledge and a young African-American boy refuses. He says, “You hear that? Liberty and justice for all? That’s BS.” His dissenting voice is quickly silenced by school authorities, and it’s a nod to civil rights and another stab at the idea that children aren’t as wise as the authority around them.

The girl, Kelly, mentioned in “Class Fight” is another antagonist in the film that serves to further the tracks about body image, “Strawberry Shortcake” and “Orange Juice”. The latter is a very poignant track about eating disorders. “Show and Tell” is about Melanie’s experience with fame, and the idea that she’s a person, not a puppet.

Each track is obviously pivotal to the film, but as an album, the project feels long. She sings about so many things that it can feel bombarding, and after a while (before watching the film), I didn’t really know which details to focus on. I’d much rather sit and watch the hour and a half long film. The album alone kind of feels like listening to The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack without ever seeing the Broadway play. The film is free to stream on YouTube, and with its beautiful cinematography and choreography, it’s well worth the timestamp, and ends on quite the cliffhanger. As for future plans, Melanie stated in an interview that she’s planning on producing two more films.

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.

Review: The Regrettes – How Do You Love?

Music videos are dead. The last video that caught my attention enough to follow the band was OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” (and every one since then). But when a video catches you correctly, it can spawn a lifelong love for the band. I still remember where I was when I saw the iPod commercial featuring The Fratellis’ “Flathead”. I thought those days were dead. But sometimes, magic strikes out of nowhere. Such is the case with The Regrettes.

You can buy or stream How Do You Love? on Apple Music.

Like The Fratellis, after seeing their video for the single, “I Dare You”, not only did I count down the days until the release of their sophomore album How Do You Love?, but the single that hooked me turned out to be one of my least favorite tracks when compared to the rest of the album. The Regrettes are a force to be reckoned with, and they’ve only just begun.

“I Dare You” is a great song that is paired with an infectiously creative music video. But it doesn’t convey the power behind the rest of the album. How Do You Love? is a tamed rock album that feels just as confident behind power chords as it does the quiet reflection on the chaos of relationships. On a weird level, How Do You Love? is an awkward concept album about the glorious feelings and dreadful lows of falling in love. The energy behind the music conveys the feelings enough to feel the pulse of budding romance. Just try not to feel butterflies while listening to the anxious energy of “California Friends”.

Guitarists Genessa Gariano and Lydia Night sway effortlessly as they blend raging garage punk, giddy pub rock and tender acoustics (“How Do You Love?”). They manage to harness a balance in songwriting that rests comfortably between the indie sound of Rilo Kiley and The Hives’ frantic need to kick down a wall, while still sounding unique from either. Bassist Brooke Dickson threatens to steal every song (“Here You Go”), and drummer Drew Thomsen keeps the songs playful and attentive (“Dress Up”).

Vocalist Lydia Night is at home maintaining a balance that is equal parts punk and quietly contemplative. She adjusts song from song to portray the high or low of falling in love, but never loses attention. “California Friends” explores the awkward touch and go of attraction and the electrifying feeling it gives, as she sings over fuzzed guitars, “Check out this band from California / I can make you a playlist of their songs / Won’t you come and hold me close now?”

“Coloring Book” finds that breathless sensation of being completely overtaken by someone else. An amped acoustic song, Night emotes against the silence as much as the music as she sings, “I can’t believe you’re sitting next to me / Just open up your eyes and tell me, what do you see? / Do you see somebody looking back at you / Or do you see somebody that’s in love with you?”

Meanwhile, the title song, “How Do You Love?” harnesses the pub rock aspect as Night laments not understanding what it takes to keep a relationship, despite the intense feelings that cropped up throughout the album (“It’s the little things I can’t understand / How they love, lie, pass it, and keep holding hands”).

The Regrettes are an impressive young band. How Do You Love? is an album that bases itself on the most basic of premises (a rock album about adolescent love) and still manages to hang with the best of bangers. It’s the type of album that makes you think rock can still be a mainstream hit. More importantly, it’s the type of album that friends bond over and draws people to music.

5/5

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 is petting the head of a toy Tyrannosaurus Rex instead of his cat. He regrets nothing.

Review: Queen of Jeans – If You’re Not Afraid, I’m Not Afraid

When I saw Queen of Jeans open for Balance and Composure in 2017, I was thoroughly impressed. The trio from Philly gave their all on stage, describing their art as a “90s-esque band playing 60s music.” It was right up my alley, and I promptly purchased a t-shirt and told them how much I enjoyed their set. I became a casual listener, but when I learned they were releasing a full-length on Topshelf Records, I was psyched. The album isn’t what I expected based on what I know of the band. But it’s what the band members needed to release, and it’s what we all need to hear.

You can buy or stream If You’re Not Afraid, I’m Not Afraid on Apple Music.

The lead single and first track, “Get Lost”, from Queen of Jeans’ newest album If you’re not afraid, I’m not afraid, starts off unassumingly. It’s a song that lead vocalist Miriam Devora wrote about the process of losing her mom and how she’s had to learn to move on. It’s a tough song to listen to if you follow Miriam on social media and saw her heartbreaking post about the experience. The album continues on in the theme of learning how to become yourself, especially when you’re missing one of the most important people who has been such an integral part of that growth.

The album is about sadness in every sense of the word – from the loss of Miriam’s mother, to the past relationships that didn’t work out, to the social disparages women face. Miriam and guitarist Matheson Glass are very vocal about their sexualities and the difficulties that being so open have brought to both their personal and artistic lives. They deal with it in the most mature, yet raw way. In “Tell Me”, Miriam sings “While you spew sick intolerance / I’m afraid to leave my house”. I appreciate the fact that they’ve decided to keep things on their own terms. They own their opinions and won’t change for anything that comes their way.

Musically, there’s been a ton of growth. The production on the album is beautiful, and while still holding on to the original spirit of their past releases, took advantage of moving from a garage band to being signed to a label. Miriam’s vocals totally shine, and she’s clearly put a ton of work and practice into honing her skills.

My favorite tracks on the album are “Centuries”, “Not a Minute Too Soon” and “I Am In Love with Your Mind”. They all showcase both the band’s musical and lyrical strengths. 

The album is a lovely testament to how women have the tendency to feel deeply. It’s soft and thoughtful, and is the perfect catalyst to this band’s future as one of the biggest voices in indie rock.

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.

Review: Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell

Lana Del Rey is America’s queen. She’s an expert in mixing the modern with the retro. Her cinematic take on Americana remains fresh with each release and Norman F*****g Rockwell is no different. 

While initially very skeptical of Lana’s brand, these days, I call myself a die-hard fan. Born to Die came to me in a time where I was really desperate to branch out and I had started to really look at women in music and embracing artists like Marina Diamandis and Lorde. My background in music is very male oriented, and I listened to a lot of rock and indie bands – genres that, in the mid 2000s, were generally devoid of female talent. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become a personal goal that I openly support women in music. So I started listening to Lana Del Rey.

You can buy or stream Norman Fucking Rockwell on Apple Music.

My favorite thing about her music is how she seamlessly moves from genre to genre and era to era. She’ll have Jazz Age influences in one track and then in the next it’s like you’ve been transported to Woodstock. I’ve always had a thing for oldies, and the fact that she can pull it off so authentically has always intrigued me. With each album, I feel like we’re moving further in time, and with Norman F*****g Rockwell, we’re arrived in the late 70s, early 80s.

It opens with the title track, one of the softer, but no less hard hitting, songs on the album. Her goal with the album is to draw parallels, something she does through referencing pop culture. She said of the title in an interview with Vanity Fair that, “[She and Jack Antonoff, they] just joke  around constantly about all the random headlines [they] might see that week…but it’s not a cynical thing, really. To [her], it’s hopeful, to see everything as a little bit funnier.”

With that being said, the album isn’t necessarily lighthearted. I would argue that it’s her most personal album yet, from the line in “Mariner’s Apartment Complex” where she refers to an interview she did where the publication titled it, “I wish I was dead already.” To use such a statement as a way to get clicks isn’t fair, and the actual context of what she said has nothing to do with any of those sentiments. 

The album gets more personal about her career than any of the previous five albums before it, but it also pushes the envelope of that career more than the other albums as well. One of the singles, “Venice B***h”, is almost 10 minutes long, and is one of the best tracks on the album. I know I often say this about female artists, but she’s not afraid (and has never been afraid) to take control of her creativity. I feel like that’s because women have to work 50 times as hard to gain any artistic control at all, so the best way is to just keep all of your decisions close, and it’s something that, as unfortunate of a concept as it is, makes for the most authentic and raw music. She’s set the precedent of having complete control, which at the end of the day, gives her the most freedom.

This album is the culmination of everything she’s done up until now. From a little bit of the jazz influence seen in her first two albums, to the transparent lyricism from 2017’s Lust for Life, we have little pieces of each of her past releases showcased here. The closer, “Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have, but I Have It”, is the most poignant of all of her closers. She’s brought everything full circle. Throughout all the difficulties in her life and career she’s still always believed in her art and keeping her creative license. And that’s what makes Norman F*****g Rockwell explosive.

5/5

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.

Review: The Futureheads – Powers

I saw The Futureheads at Chicago’s Pitchfork Festival in 2007. The entirety of the festival, I was distracted by a girlfriend who was drunkenly hanging out at a frat house 3.5 hours away, so it remains a blur to me. However, one of the few remaining memories of the day was this band. Throughout the years, I have occasionally come back to their album News and Tributes, a bouncing rock album that could just as easily be a dance album. A lot has happened in the 12 years since then, and their long anticipated new album, Powers, attempts to catch fans up.

You can buy or stream Powers on Apple Music.

The last proper album from The Futureheads was released in 2010 (The Chaos). Since then, the band released an a cappella album (2012’s Rant) and then went on hiatus. In that sense, Powers doesn’t waste any time jumping back into the indie post-punk sound of their earlier albums. While Powers returns the band to their traditional rock sound, it is also an outlet to describe a mental illness by vocalist Barry Hyde which led to the band’s hiatus several years ago. Powers manages to be a fun rock album that dips its toes into psychedelia (“Mortals”) to express the mental struggles of the last few years that Hyde experienced.

Musically, Powers is reminiscent of what I loved about News and Tributes so many years ago. The album is a jam that manages to mix the nostalgic sounds of brit pop with punk eccentricity. Guitarists Barry Hyde and Ross Miller sway between simple and repetitive punk power chords to elaborate guitar solos and haunting strings at the drop of a hat (“Jekyll”). Bassist David “Jaff” Craig provides an elaborate backing melody (“Across the Border”) while drummer Dave Hyde deposits an unrelenting display of dance beats (“Don’t Look Now”). The music isn’t terribly evolved from their earlier sound (“Good Night Out”), but it is everything expected of The Futureheads. Occasionally, there are spots of Pink Floyd levels of depravity, as the music or vocals distort (“Jekyll”, “Electric Shock”).

Although the album deals with many aspects of Barry’s mental well-being and illness, it addresses it from a distance. Even songs like “Jekyll” are left intentionally vague (“Can you control the anger in your voice / Do you enjoy a spot of violence?”) However, some songs are more brutal than others, such as “Electric Shock”, which features a synth beat reminiscent of a Guitar Hero version of the “Stranger Things” theme song as Hyde sings, “It was the middle of winter when the lights went out / When I was swallowed by the darkness / When I got my electric shock / It knocked me off my feet”. 

Meanwhile, other songs lean into the mental illness aspect, such as “Mortals”, which repeats simple lyrics over simple melodies. The beat is relentless as a cappella sets of lyrics haunt the first 2:40 minutes before breaking into a blistering rock song of redemption (“But life is burning in my bones”).

Powers is a return to form for The Futureheads, which is easy to say but hard to do. The album returns to a traditional tone for the band while forging its own unique identity. The record manages to capture the momentum that the band had over a decade ago while jumping forward in style. Powers is a solid album that manages the fine line of pleasing long-time fans as well as first time listeners that bands spend their entire career trying to achieve. 

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 is running on an ADRENALINE HIGH!!!! 1:30 am! Sleep is for the healthy!

Review: Taylor Swift – Lover

Photo by Valheria Rocha

What I appreciate the most about Taylor Swift is the “re-watch value” of her music. Every new single is almost guaranteed to annoy me on first listen (“ME!”), but in the context of the album itself, become something great. Lover, the seventh album from Swift, is no exception. There is so much to unpack throughout the 18 tracks that one listen can’t possibly be enough to take it all in. What stands out the most about Lover is that it lives and dies by making the listener feel jubilant until the very end.

You can buy or stream Lover on Apple Music.

Lover seemingly picks up where 2014’s 1989 left off—sizzling synth, lyrics dripping in romance, and a bright feeling leveled throughout each song. There isn’t much of a hint of Reputation’s aggressiveness to be found on the surface, save for the opening track (“I Forgot That You Existed”). Looking deeper into the songs though, there is a refinement to her writing that takes shape from Reputation. Lover is, for perhaps the first time, a true mix of all of Swift’s past releases. The poppy synth blends with deep R&B beats, while Swift’s classic twang peeks through her vocals from time to time. Occasionally, songs like “Lover”, which relies on piano and guitar, crank up the nostalgia of her storied career.

Impressive in its own right is Swift’s use of minimalism in her music. She allows the quiet to be an instrument itself behind her smooth vocals (“Cornelia Street”) along with haunted, hushed instrumentation. At other times, a very simple wall of melody lays the bed as a surface for her vocals to jump on (“The Archer”). Meanwhile, “Cruel Summer”, a layered pop jam that chronicles the hesitancy to be vulnerable in a relationship, bounces on its own as a hit single waiting to happen.

Intentional or not, discovering songs that feel like follow ups to stories / songs from past albums is an unexpected joy. The hypnotically cheerful “Paper Rings” follows a simple dance melody and bouncing bass that sounds like a sister song to Red’s “Stay Stay Stay”, a song steeped in cheesy romance so strong it forces a smile. Lead single “ME!” (Featuring the masterful Brendon Urie) is already noted for its marching band-inspired beats and cheer section, reminiscent of the self-empowering “Shake It Off”.

If there is a theme to Lover, it’s one of hope. The album tells many stories, each looking forward to a happy future. “Cruel Summer” hints at the blossoming love between two people (“I scream, ‘For whatever it’s worth / I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?’ / He looks up, grinning like a devil”).

“Miss American & The Heartbreak Prince” is the one track that sounds like a downer, but there are specks of light coming through until the end. The song feels in equal parts a story about young romance (“They whisper in the hallway, ‘she’s a bad bad girl’) and a commentary on politics (“American stories burning before me / I’m feeling helpless, the damsels are depressed / Boys will be boys, then where are the wise men?”). Even here, peppy shouts of “Go! Fight! Win!” punch through the fog of moody synth.

Lover is not a perfect album. It’s hard not to continuously roll your eyes during “London Boy”, and at 18 songs, the album feels just a few tracks too long. Ironically, you could make a pretty aggressive drinking game with the staggering amount of references to alcohol and being drunk that crop up in almost every song. Lover is almost magical in the warmth its synth pop presents. However, songs like “Soon You’ll Get Better”, featuring the Dixie Chicks, an acoustic ballad interwoven with banjo and violin, make it hard not to miss Swift’s past, even if her future is brighter than ever.

4.5/5

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 literally just spilled an ENTIRE cup of water across the ENTIRE kitchen floor in an attempt to keep the cat from doing just that. Please send him towels.