Review: The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

It took a long time for me to get into The 1975. I thought they were another record-company-manufactured English boy band because, if you recall, we were still in the age of One Direction when their first album, The 1975, released in 2013. It wasn’t until 2016 when their second album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it came out that the band caught my interest. Now, both albums are in heavy rotation for me, and I found myself excited for their third.

You can buy or stream a Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships on Apple Music.

According to every signal we got from the band throughout 2018, the album was slated for a release in the summer. We got a single instead, the first of several, and the album got pushed until now. They changed the title from Music for Cars to A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The album is perfectly titled.

At the crux of this album is a picture of today’s society. We’re a generation rampant with social anxiety, and science shows that this is due largely to the presence of the Internet in our lives. We’re constantly within arm’s length of what’s happening in any part of the world, whether it’s positive or negative. Matty Healy and the other members of The 1975 have taken two-and-a-half years forming an album that’s really a plea for change in these habits. Heck, Healy even sings that we should be “going outside” in the lead single, “Give Yourself a Try”. He has seen firsthand the negative effects that fame and constantly being in the spotlight has brought him and is begging us to use responsibility in our social media habits and other personal spheres of influence.

Like the other two albums by The 1975, A Brief Inquiry talks a lot about heroin and other drug use. Healy has excitedly been clean and sober for some time now, but does talk about his experiences in some of the tracks – largely, “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” and “Surrounded By Heads and Bodies”, as well as some smaller references sprinkled in others. Like any medical problem, addiction is so hard to recover from, and Healy tells us that it’s even harder when he is “…connecting with 10,000 people and then going to a hotel room by myself.”

The band prides itself in its creativity. They’re never one to do the same thing twice. Each iteration of the first track on each album, “The 1975”, is composed as an entrance into the world the album intends to transport us to. In their first album, we had songs about partying and doing drugs and other frivolous behavior. In I like it when you sleep, Healy went on a personal journey of introspection. There were songs about drugs and parties, sure, but there was also a song about losing his grandmother, and a song about fighting to find some faith somewhere. Healy had started the growing-up process.

This third album, though, is taking an outrospective look at what’s around him. He sees where he’s failed in relationships because of the intense need to be connected to the rest of the world. He looks at the political climate of the United States and is appalled at what he sees. He wrote a song about gun control.

Sometimes, an album can have such a great lyrical depth that the musical side is left lacking. Not so with A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The band has equally composed a soundtrack that very well may have gotten the point across even without lyrics. Where there are many electronic and computer-y effects toward the beginning, there’s a change in the middle, followed by songs like “Mine”, which is straight-up jazz.

One might say at first glance that the constant stylistic changes don’t work, but it’s The 1975. If they don’t care about what works, why should we? It took me a little while to get used to how the album flows – or rather, doesn’t flow. Each track sits well on its own, but the way it’s all tied together lyrically is enough to counteract how strangely it jumps from both genre to genre and era to era. There are some 80’s inspired synths, and then there’s “Be My Mistake”, a song I could see being performed at a Woodstock Festival.

I would be making a huge mistake if I didn’t draw special attention to the final track. “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)” starts like it could be the end-credits track to a sappy emotional movie, but it’s a great picture of how depression can cloud everything. A person who’s deep in that mindset can feel like it’s always been that way, that there’s never been a time they’ve been truly happy. But the truth is, it’s only sometimes. Healy is reminding us to remember the “sometimes.” I think it’s the most beautiful thing The 1975 has offered us, and it’s a perfect ending to an album that is imploring us to live life to the fullest.

Conceptually, the album is wonderful. It puts forth a strong message about how the world desperately needs to change. There are hard-hitting lines about politics, climate change, and even a spoken word about a man who falls in love with the Internet (a.k.a. all of us, in some way or another).

It’s a hard lesson to learn on our own, never mind when we’re being reprimanded for all of these bad habits by a band who we’ve generally just enjoyed the music of. Now they’re asking us to put effort into being present in our daily lives? Yeah, they are. Which is what makes The 1975 so great. They’re obsessed with pushing their own creative boundaries so much, that we’re forced to grow with them. So maybe we should close our browsers, but I think we should keep our headphones plugged in.

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.

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Review: Mumford and Sons – Delta

I thought Marcus Mumford was done. With the release of Wilder Mind in 2015, the band went in a direction that wasn’t overly popular with either their fans or, seemingly, the band itself. They barely toured the album, only playing festivals and small shows. I personally ended up loving the album, but I will admit I was leery at first. I had heard that they had put down their banjos and I wasn’t really ready for the end of the original Mumford incarnation. With their new release Delta, though, the band has shown that electric guitars and banjos can live together in harmony.

You can buy or stream Delta on Apple Music.

This fourth album is everything we loved about Mumford’s first two albums and the things we admired from their third. It’s still a totally different direction for the band, but in the way that you still have to go through some of the same routes to get back home after a cross-country road trip. Some of it is familiar, and some of it takes advantage of the new scenery and stops at the roadside attractions.

Delta is a geographical term for where a river and a larger, slower-moving body of water meet. This is a very fitting title for the album because thematically it deals with all of the major changes life can hold. There’s a song about death (“Beloved”), a song about divorce (“If I Say”), and a couple of songs about being happily in love (“Woman” is one of them).

Musically, the album is a perfect mix of their past works with some surprises thrown in. Marcus seems to sing at a higher register than he has previously; it adds a new dimension to the way this album feels as compared to their others. “Woman” features some synth-y backgrounds, akin to Judah and the Lion and Ed Sheeran, and it’s also my favorite track. There’s a heavy use of strings throughout the album, which provides a larger than life vibe. Mumford and Sons placed a high priority on uniqueness with this album, and it shows. “Beloved” featured what I’m pretty sure is a sitar, which is super fun and not widely used in American/European music. It also kind of ties in the concept of a delta: two different things meeting and becoming intertwined.

The first track, “42” is four minutes long, but I think of it more of an intro piece than really a track on its own because it ties so many of the album’s themes together. The next track, “Guiding Light”, was the first of two singles, the other being “If I Say”.

From a lyrical standpoint, this is easily the most personal release we’ve received from Mumford and Sons. Marcus sings about things that have happened in his life, in the other band members’ lives, and even about stories they’ve heard from people they’ve met. It’s accessible in a way that Mumford hasn’t really been known for, especially as a folk band. “Beloved,” in particular, speaks about death and ends with these lines: “And as you leave / See my children playing at your feet”. It’s a testament to both the innocence of childhood and also the legacy a family matriarch or patriarch leaves behind.

Their past albums use a lot of literary references, specifically Sigh No More, which alluded to (among others) “The Odyssey”, Shakespeare’s plays, and even “The Wizard of Oz”. In Delta, though, these are missing, except for the track “Darkness Visible” which is a passage from John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. I did miss those small touches, because I enjoy doing deep dives into lyrics so much, but I suppose the layers of personal details the band has substituted are equally as interesting, and also it’s not my album so I really have no say here.

This album is full of heart and soul. Mumford and Sons brings you into their experiences more than they ever have before. It’s great to see a band become so comfortable in both where they are in their lives and in their sound. Delta is a great example of how we can walk away from the things we’ve known, but then turn back around. We learn things when we step outside of our comfort zone, but in the end, there’s no place like home…or a banjo.

4/5

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: Emery – Eve

I’m obsessed with Emery. The harmonies, musicianship and lyricism have both spoken to me and impacted the rest of my musical taste in a way (almost) no other band has. I get excited whenever they even think about releasing something new. This stems from the time I saw the music video for “Butcher’s Mouth”. Something about that song (the video was just a means to an end, I guess) opened up a possibility to me about the span of music that was outside my adolescent bubble, and I’ve followed the band ever since, from albums to podcasts. I’ve never seen them live, which is really to say, hey, Emery, please come to Boston.

You can buy or stream Eve on Apple Music.

With 2015’s You Were Never Alone, my personal favorite album, the band embarked on a Kickstarter journey to self-fund the music they create. They broke up with Tooth & Nail Records and, with no offense to Brandon Ebel, started creating the best music of their career. This led to the release of last year’s Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined, and their latest, Eve.

Eve looks like a heck of a long album with 15 tracks, but it’s only 41 minutes long. Throughout the album, the band gets personal in a way they haven’t really done before. Generally, an Emery album consists of a bunch of songs about breakups, but (and I’m not sure whether this is a correlation) with the split from Tooth & Nail, the band’s last two albums constantly touch on new themes for Emery. There’s an entire set of Break It Down (Matt Carter’s podcast) episodes about You Were Never Alone. I won’t give you the details of them because it’s much more fulfilling to listen to them. The time and thought Emery puts into their art is really showcased in the episodes and really made me appreciate them more than I already had.

“Fear Yourself” might be the heaviest track here. Talking about sin and the hypocrisy in the church, Toby sings in the chorus: “Fear yourself is all I heard / Horror-struck from the Holy Word” and, “…outside those walls they mauled the witness / And we got back to business”. Very on-brand for the members to sing about; they deal with it in virtually every episode of their “Bad Christian” podcast. I mean, they wouldn’t have to deal with it so much if it weren’t so true and physically visible, but c’est la vie. These guys have become a voice of dissension in millennial church circles, but I happen to think it’s necessary.

“Safe” is a song that Devin and Matt wrote after both of their mothers passed away during the recording of Eve. It’s a lovely tribute, and the harmonies Emery is so known for really shine here.

A highlight of the album is the ridiculously titled, “People Always Ask Me If We’re Going to Cuss in an Emery Song”. Emery did not. I’m pretty sure this is a song to everyone who listens to their podcast (in which profanity is abundant) and, other than the question in the title, ask: “How can you guys talk like that and still be religious?” Emery’s reply is that they’re just words and they don’t matter.

Needless to say, I’m psyched with the new Emery album. I’ve got to take a little more time to dive into the lyrics and figure out where it fits into my Emery album ranking, but, so far, it’s pretty high up there. Kickstarter was made to release albums like this. The band has proven three times now that they’re capable of producing exquisite art, and Eve is another great example of that.

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: Architects – Holy Hell

“Into the night we burn and rage / In depth we repay for time on this stage / The lights are bright, but don’t lose your way / ‘Cause once it ignites, the flame must decay”

It’s nearly impossible to approach Holy Hell objectively. The eight full-length studio album from British metalcore giants Architects lives entirely in the aftermath of guitarist and lead songwriter Tom Searle’s passing in 2016 after a three-year battle with skin cancer. As such, it’s a deeply emotional and personal document. Even so, its excellence in craft cannot be denied.

You can buy or stream Holy Hell on Apple Music.

From a broad perspective, Holy Hell is an unsurprising crash course in the complexity and devastation of grief. At times, it reads like a letter from Searle’s brother, and Architects’ drummer, Dan. At others, it dwells in the depths of sorrow, desperately searching for a path forward. On a molecular level, it almost inexplicably manages to build and evolve on a sound the band had presumably perfected in recent years.

All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us solidified Architects as titans of metalcore, as if more proof was needed. Unbeknownst to listeners upon its release, that album allowed the late Searle to explore his fate in painful detail. “Death is Not Defeat”, the opening track of Holy Hell finds Dan responding to his brother’s final lyrics, acknowledging the pain of a finite existence, while gripping tightly to hope: “Now you’re finally complete / I will see you where oceans meet”.

We could spend the remainder of this review exploring the beauty of Dan Searle’s lyrics and uncanny ability to capture the journey of grief  – and there are no shortage of moments to share. But it’s all brought to life through a band stretching itself and allowing their collective pain to forge a path forward.

New guitarist Josh Middleton makes his presence felt throughout, whether it be found in surprisingly melodic riffs during the opening moments of the album’s title track or in the band’s signature mathematic breakdowns on singles “Hereafter” and “Modern Misery”. Throughout Holy Hell, the band sprinkle in elements, such as dark synthesizers and stringed instruments that blend gently into the mix, adding emotion without sounding out of place. These additions take tracks like album closer “A Wasted Hymn” to a deeper place than the band has ever been able to explore.

Atop it all, Sam Carter, long considered one of the genre’s best vocalists, delivers his finest performance. Here, Carter finds new ways to splinter, be it delicately, as on “Royal Beggars” or in outright fury as on “The Seventh Circle”. On the former, Carter fights through sorrow while singing, “Royal beggars / Do you wanna / Live forever / Alone?” On “Seventh Circle”, Carter shreds his vocal chords non-stop for 1:30 as he helplessly bellows, “I feel the blood drip from my face / Maybe it’s better to never have been”. One can only imagine the scene in the studio while putting such a performance to tape.

Carter’s ability to evolve as a vocalist, transcending the traditional role of metalcore frontman, is made even more extraordinary when considering the circumstances. On back-to-back albums, he has been tasked with delivering a surreptitious farewell and then the mournful response of the bereaved. It must be the kind of responsibility that allows one to tap into parts of themselves they never knew existed. It has resulted in the kind of work that defines a career.

In the face of such loss, it would have been understandable had the remaining members of Architects chosen to walk away. That they chose to carry on is laudable. That they were able to take their collective grief and infuse it into something so life affirming, beautiful and real is inspiring. The band’s excellence is no longer debatable. Architects stand among the elite in modern metalcore.

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 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.

Review: All Get Out – No Bouquet

All Get Out is definitely one of the most underrated bands in the scene. If you’re unfamiliar with the band, here’s some backstory. They’re comprised of two members: Nathan Hussey and Kyle Samuel. They’ve got three albums for you to choose from: 2011’s The Season, 2016’s Nobody Likes a Quitter, and now this year’s No Bouquet. I first discovered them when they joined Aaron Gillespie and William Beckett on an acoustic tour.

You can buy or stream No Bouquet on Apple Music.

Since that show, both my husband and I have become avid followers of the band. We saw them play a full band set a year or two ago and had a great time. I’m always shocked at how small the crowds are their shows…I mean, they’re such a great band, and I’m proud to call myself a fan.

So it’s been two years since they put anything out. In that span, they signed to Equal Vision (a personal favorite label), and Nathan Hussey released a solo album called Hitchens. I like his solo stuff, of course, but I was wondering when I would get more of the hard hitting alt rock that All Get Out does so well. I didn’t have to wait too much longer, because they released the first single from No Bouquet, ”However Long”, a couple of months later. It’s probably the first bonafide All Get Out love song.

The album beings with “Rose”, which is where the album’s title is found: ”You keep your name / You go home / You’re no bouquet / You’re just a rose”. It’s scathing in a way that only Nathan Hussey can write. I think that’s one of the biggest things that draws people to All Get Out. They’re lyrically so honest, and Hussey puts them to paper in such original and interesting ways,  that it’s impossible to get the ideas out of your head. Other than this rich spin Nate puts on the craft of songwriting is the way the band brings equal prowess to the music behind their words.

I think my favorite track on the album is the second one, “Survive”. It seems to be written from the perspective of a hospital patient, one whose outlook isn’t the best: “We’re pretty sure that I’m dying”, Nate sings. Along with this one, there are a couple tracks on this album that talk a little bit about loss: “Namesake” and, in a different perspective, “However Long”. The end of the song is especially poignant when he sings: ”You bad fever / Steal all my water / Garden variety / Cancer of the home / Unremarkable demon / Average low light ceiling / Conditional love / Excusable behavior / You bad believer / You turn me into boredom / A quiet lobby / You’re why I work from home”.

“God Damn” is probably the most serious and existential track on No Bouquet. Nate and Kyle wrestle with faith and how they’re not too keen on the idea. “What confusing faith / Or have you always been this way / If your tradition makes you ill / Then do not call it will”, and then in the chorus, ”Something so wrecked can give you hope”.

I’d really encourage everyone, if they haven’t already, to take a deeper dive into the world of All Get Out. Who can resist a band who sings lines like, ”It’s okay we’ve all been caught crying / It’s okay to be up front”? The more relatable I find an artist, the more likely I am to become invested in their artistic journey, and with No Bouquet, All Get Out reassures us that their relatability isn’t going anywhere – in fact, it’s only grown.

4/5

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: Saves The Day – 9

“Turn it up, we’re Saves The Day!”

Saves The Day have written a theme song for themselves. If that sentence makes you happy, you will love their latest endeavor, 9. The new album celebrates Saves The Day’s 20th anniversary as a band by delivering an incredibly meta album. 9 tells an oral history of the band that explores as much new territory as it merges the sounds of Through Being Cool and Daybreak. For new fans, this album might feel utterly alien and hard to access. However, 9 is an album aware that it is an album. But it is also a massive thank you to anyone who has taken the time to ever listen to Saves The Day at all.

You can buy or stream 9 on Apple Music.

This era of Saves The Day is a different beast than the band of the mid-2000’s. Singer/ songwriter Chris Conley is in a zen place that emanates positivity. Conley is stoked to be writing this record. After 20 years in the game, anyone even remotely familiar with pop punk knows who Saves The Day is, and Conley knows it. Every song reflects on two decades on the road, stories from the band’s start in the late 90’s and telling the fans directly how much they love them.

What makes 9 special is that the record knows what it is. It is essentially a mini double album that tells fans of Saves The Day “Thank you” every chance it gets. Each song is an experiment in rock that gives a small history of the band and is a message of appreciation for the support throughout Saves The Day’s career. The first eight songs are an album unto themselves, while closing song “29” is a 21-minute epic that takes a more surreal approach to the same topic.

Opening track, “Saves The Day”, is now the band’s official theme song, much in the same way that The Monkees have “(Theme from) The Monkees”. It’s remarkably on the nose, ridiculous and ungodly catchy. The first time you hear, “You know we love it when you sing along / Turn it up, we’re Saves The Day”, you want to roll your eyes. By the end of the song you’re singing along. Punctuated by a double layered guitar solo, “Saves The Day” feels like it was pulled from an updated version of Ups And Downs: Early Recordings And B-Sides and should have been opening up live shows for years by this point.

The rest of 9 plays as a mini oral history of the band. “Suzuki” sounds like a Sound The Alarm song ripped straight from Can’t Slow Down. With harsh bass and ripping guitars, Conley reflects, “On a black and red couch playing a burgundy Les Paul / I played on Can’t Slow Down so many years ago / Writing album number 9 right now”.

While some songs sound like B-sides from previous albums (“Suzuki”, “1997”), others forge utterly new ground. “Kerouac & Cassady” is a simple song with a melody reminiscent of The Black Keys. As the guitars rage from verse to chorus, Conley reflects on the drag of touring nonstop. “Groundhog Day on a loop on a five hour flight / Wednesday sleepwalk around backstage when 10:10 flashes in neon green / Drown in silver light before a four-hour show”.

Near the end of the record is “1997”, a song influenced by classic rock as much as it is Saves The Day’s most recent punk offerings. It’s a hybrid song that encapsulates the band’s 20-year legacy as Conley sings, “20 Years go by like pages from a calendar blowing in the wind / Under highway signs and f‌lashing lights and fading stars and black nights / Days turn into years and seconds last longer than decades fall like sand”.

Album closer “29” is an epic, the likes of which is almost unseen in the genre today. Essentially seven songs combined into one piece, “29” is more or less the other eight songs of 9 combined into one surrealist piece. Not as direct as the rest of the album, “29” tells the same story as the first eight songs in a massive piece that presents 9 as a “classic” Saves The Day album.

“29” is a song that hides an insane amount of Easter eggs for fans of Saves The Day to look for. References to “Shoulder To The Wheel” and “Morning In The Moonlight” not withstanding, “29” feels like an updated version of “Daybreak” that follows the course of Saves The Day’s career.

The sound of “29” changes every three minutes. It’s something that creates a sense of typical pop punk songs while maintaining its own identity compared to the rest of the album. Retracing the rest of 9 step-by-step, “29” reflects, “Put the record on, blow the speaker up / Tear the dial off, push the pedal down, 99 on the 101 / Flip it over come on sing along”. “29” is reminiscent of songs like “Jessie & My Whetstone” where vague imagery creates a specific story that is pieced together by the listener. Conley describes incidents such as an almost fatal van accident, (“We were driving in my mother’s car / Chicago-Minnesota overnight / Over the frozen overpass over black ice”) or a rift between friends (“Turning all my friends into your allies / Might have been born in a crossf‌ire hurricane / But don’t think twice it wasn’t yesterday”).

9 is an album that will mean a lot to longtime fans of Saves The Day, though may be hard to jump into for new fans. The album is a thank you note to fans that plot the biggest events in Saves The Day’s career over the last 20 years. It can be a bit on-the-nose as much as it is a dreamy summary of Saves The Day. Regardless, 9 is a true celebration of a band that doesn’t back away from the absurd, and has the confidence to make fun of its own legacy as much as it cherishes it.

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 lives less than a mile from where he first saw Saves The Day, his first concert. This nostalgic zilch really dived face first into this album without concern for neighbors or loved ones. Please help.

Review: Hellogoodbye – S’only Natural

Hellogoodbye has become an indie darling through a daring evolution of synth pop. Hellogoodbye mature each album cycle into something new. However, the risk is that sometimes these projects have mixed results. S’only Natural, the band’s newest album, is an infuriating record that I loved and hated in equal measure for the first two weeks after its release. However, after seeing Hellogoodbye live, I can finally appreciate the album in a way that otherwise may not have been possible.

Hellogoodbye played the Subterranean in Chicago two weeks after the release of S’only Natural. I have seen the group live twice before, and am familiar with the energy of their performances. However, this show lacked the stacked keyboards and intimacy of a ukulele. Instead, a glitzy golden sheet flowed across the stage with the words “Club Forrest” emblazoned on in in bright neon. Singer Forrest Kline strode across the stage in a lounge suit, dancing with a relaxed swagger. That’s the moment that S’only Natural finally clicked.

IMG_20181021_214940

Hellogoodbye

S’only Natural is a disco record. It is arguably the best instrumentation of Hellogoodbye’s career. The bass lines are extraordinarily melodic (“S’only Natural”). The guitars are restrained, but flesh out a full-bodied sound encouraging the listener to dance. The keyboards take their time and play a more integral, natural element to the music (“Let It Burn”). Additionally, the percussion is relaxed, but rich. While no song finds the frenetic pace of past records, the beats find a healthy balance between dance numbers and somber tones that perfectly match the bass (“Hang Loose”).

Trumpets, violin, and piano also take center stage at key points. Both “Overture” songs, which start and end the album, are primarily gorgeous violin ballads that sound straight out of the 1950’s.

One of the key things about S’only Natural is that it is a full, single piece. Many songs seem to bleed into the next, or end in such a way that it sets up the next perfectly. It keeps the album moving, but also can cause many songs to sound remarkably similar if you’re not paying attention. The music is amazing, but it lacks the variety of past records. It’s not until after the album is already done that you really see the crescendo of the first half and the soft ballads that swell to end the record (“Mysterious You”).

The most off-putting part of the album is singer Forrest Kline. For a singer who is so full of creativity, he takes zero chances with S’only Natural. Every song is sung in the same quiet pitch, with a backing track of himself almost whispering. Each song, I expected him to finally put a bit of effort into his voice, but instead maintains the same tone and quiet drawl. It’s maddening and beautiful at the same time. At times, it almost renders the lyrics useless.

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Hellogoodbye

After multiple listens over several weeks, I still had no opinion of this album. It was fun and boring, vibrant and bland at the same time. Which is why it seemed so odd to watch Forrest confidently strut in front of the mic stand. There was far more energy here than anything on the album. Opening the set with album closer “Honeymoon (Forever)”, Kline crooned over the soft taps of the snare and a keyboard, “I will come away with you / You look like you know what to do / Missing both your shoes, disheveled and amused / I’m in love with you”. Gliding over the gold blanket, the lounge jacket buttoned tight, the soft nature of his voice made absolute sense. Even during faster, poppier songs when the percussion and keyboards picked up volume to a staggering pitch, such as “Put It Out”, Kline simply crooned. “You were the autumn that bathed me in gold / And I’m a fool that thinks you were a flame I could hold”.

Almost the entire setlist of the live show was from S’only Natural, with only a few select favorites and fan requests from other albums peppered throughout. By night’s end, S’only Natural finally made sense to me. The instrumentation was the true star of this record. While the band’s music evolved over past records, Kline’s voice and lyrics always seemed to take center stage. This album is a jam. It wants you to dance. It wants anyone listening to be able to sing along with minimal effort. The confidence to play mostly new songs live plays straight into the album’s strength. And while past albums became poppier, S’only Natural looks back at the classic sounds and styles that influenced today’s music. The result is a romantic blend of current dance beats and crooner swing.

S’only Natural is an anomaly of an album. It’s soft, restrained and bursting with energy all at once. Though the lyrics are catchy, they’re a device to bring more attention to the music itself. This era of the band is just as progressive as it is classical. The mountainous bass lines eventually give way to gentle ballads that culminate in a rich album that forces listeners to discover the band’s music in a completely new way. S’only Natural isn’t an album for everyone, but it rewards anyone willing to put in the effort.

3.5/5

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 realized Forrest Kline was standing behind him watching the opening band. When Kyle introduced himself to Forrest, he said, “We’ve actually met before in Columbus. You grabbed my nipples [because I complimented Joseph Morro instead of you].” Forrest looked shocked, took a drink and then danced away into the crowd. He is literally the best people.

 

Review: mewithoutYou – [Untitled]

I feel like everyone prefaces mewithoutYou’s music in the same way that I’m about to. I apologize if this is redundant, but learning the backstory of main lyricist Aaron Weiss is an imperative step in making any sense of this band and their music, which, to the outside, seems to be from another world.

Aaron and his brother, Michael, had an intensely religious upbringing. Their father followed Jewish teachings and their mother followed Episcopal teachings before eventually converting to Sufi Islam. It’s no wonder then, in their artistic outputs, that all of these ideas and more come out. I think this is part of what makes mewithoutYou fit into so many categories. So much religious diversity means that no one is left out – which is also part of the message that mewithoutYou aims to spread.

You can buy or stream [Untitled] on Apple Music.

It took seven albums for mewithoutYou to finally throw up their hands and say, “We don’t know what to call this.” Pretty impressive that it took that long, if you ask me. But for something with no definitive name, this album hits you hard. If you’re not taking a deep dive into the lyrics (and if you aren’t, why?), this album moves fast. There were times when I put it on mindlessly in preparation for writing this and was surprised when it started again. “Lyrical detective” should be a job, and there should be a whole department devoted to mewithoutYou.

I’d like to make the proposition of [Untitled] being A to B Life’s younger brother. Genetically similar with the same attitude, but different enough that no one can mistake the two. This new album is harder than either of the past two they released. It doesn’t even follow the same lyrical patterns of the past two. The last albums have been whimsical and, for the most part, easy to listen to. Aaron decided to look at the tougher side of his religion in [Untitled].

I want to try to go into every track in this album, because it’s so rich and detailed. It would be wrong of me to pretend like I understand every reference and every idea that is brought before me in the album, because I don’t. Like I said, there’s a lot to process, but I hope you’ll take the time to try. I’ll do what I can here, and I hope it can start a discussion.

***

So Aaron’s gone a little bit doom and gloom with the first track, “9:27a.m., 7/29”. He talks about whether salvation is a lasting experience or whether it can be taken away. He talks about the state of current events and laments, ”It’d be a pearl of a time now for a virgin birth”.

“Julia (or, ‘Holy to the Lord On the Bells of Horses’)” is a lovely example of their call to societal unity. He paraphrases Rumi in the first verse: “‘Out beyond ideas of right and wrong is a field / Will I meet you there?” Again at the end of the verse, “So many ways to lose / So many faiths”. A fitting first single — both from a professional sense and a cultural one.

“Another Head for Hydra” is about the influence we have on those around us and the example we’ve set for our children. Aaron talks about fame and how that changes us. He warns us about the dangers of materialism and worrying about a worldly perception that fame and social recognition can bring.

Sonically, two of my favorite tracks are “[dormouse sighs]” and “Winter Solstice”. They’re lyrically interesting, but I can’t really draw any concrete conclusions on what they mean for myself yet. But from a stylistic standpoint, they’re both wonderful. The former is just classic mewithoutYou and sounds like home. The latter, though, is sung in such a soothing and lilting way that reminds me of the mewithoutYou that I fell in love with. I started listening religiously (pardon the pun, I suppose) when Ten Stories was released.

“Flee, Thou Matadors” is written from the perspective of Ferdinand VIII and Isabella, king and queen of Spain. Historically, he’s known as one of the worst kings, while his wife, Isabella, was religious to the extreme. The spin that mewithoutYou puts on the story is the battle of good (Isabella) and evil (Ferdinand) they face as humans in everyday life.

There’s a lot of talk about responsibility in this album. This is seen in “Tortoises All the Way Down”, which is about how actions have consequences and is kind of Ecclesiastical, honestly. The mistakes we make will be made again at some point in history.

“2,459 Miles” and “Wendy and Betsy” are kind of a new direction for the band in the sense that they’re relatable. In the first, Aaron’s talking from the perspective of tour and being away from home and missing his family. In the second, he talks about his wife. They’re great tracks just in themselves but also (strangely enough) they’re a reminder that Aaron is a real live human. I think we all get so caught up in how head-in-the-clouds Aaron usually is as a songwriter that we can forget he has a real life away from mewithoutYou.

“New Wine, New Skins” brings up something that older Christians say a lot: ”God willing”. Aaron says, “‘God’s will’ or ‘come what fortune gives’ / Or is this truly how you’d choose to live / Managing the narrative”, as almost a taunt to his fellow believers about their (lack of) faith.

“Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore”, while also being a paramount spiritual in the hymnal, is a heavy track in which, like in the first track, Aaron wonders about his eternal state, as well as the eternal state of his family. He sings in the last line: “Have you heard from heaven today? / Tell me then, what’d Gabriel say? / Am I still on that narrow way?”

***

It’s fitting that the last line of this album is “Someday I’ll find me”. Throughout each track, Aaron has gone to each of the spiritual struggles he’s facing and dealt with them head on.

“Someday I’ll find me” is such a poignant way to end that search. Did he succeed? I think that when we take a deep look into ourselves and see who we truly are and who we’re becoming, it brings up more questions than what we bargained for. Maybe that’s why the album is [Untitled]. Maybe it’s because Aaron found more than what he planned – and maybe he didn’t like it.

If you have the time and perseverance to take a real look at this album, I think you’ll find what I found. I, like Aaron, have to take that look at myself and decide where I stand with the issues that plague society, the issues that I see in my personal life that affect only myself and those close to me. That’s what I love the most about mewithoutYou. They always force me to turn the lyrics right back onto myself and do some self-reflection. Sometimes, I don’t like what I find, but it’s okay, because the art that mewithoutYou creates is a reminder that I’m not alone not liking what I find within my heart, and I’m not alone in that I want to be better. Someday, I’ll find me.

4.5/5

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: Justin Courtney Pierre – In The Drink

Despite the mounting evidence, Justine Courtney Pierre is fun. His musical career has been a series of self deprecation and hapless attempts at romance set to the tune of upbeat synth pop. That’s why it makes sense that his first solo outing, In The Drink doesn’t stray too far from familiar territory. In fact, it feels reassuring to know that Motion City Soundtrack’s lyrical content came from a place so honest that it follows through to his own music.

You can buy or stream In the Drink on Apple Music.

It is going to be impossible not to compare Pierre’s first solo album to Motion City Soundtrack. The album is still a pop rock album filled with dreamy lyrical downers. However, this is the first time Pierre has allowed himself to truly experiment with sounds. Produced by former Motion City guitarist Joshua Allen Cain, Pierre adds more garage influences to an otherwise MCS styled album. Be it the faded drumming and horn section of “Undone”, the fuzzed guitar nightmare of “Goodnight Hiroyuki”, or adding influences from Weezer’s Pinkerton to Motion City’s My Dinosaur Life to create a pop rock chimera like “Anchor”, Pierre somehow surprises as much as he plays to his base.

Perhaps most surprising is the fact that Pierre himself plays every instrument except for drumming duties, which are handled by David Jarnstrom (Gratitude, BNLX). Pierre’s lead and rhythm guitar sections are as hypnotic as anything he’s ever done. He truly finds a career-spanning range from the soft pop of Even If It Kills Me in “Moonbeam” to the raging guitars of My Dinosaur Life in “In The Drink”. Perhaps most surprising is how much his bass lines pop and stand on their own. At times, the bass threatens to overtake the lead guitar as the main instrument (“Ready Player One”, “Shoulder the Weight”) in surprisingly diverse ways.

Pierre himself remains as versatile as ever. While his vocal range doesn’t attempt anything new, he remains one of the most impressive singers in pop punk. Silky smooth, Pierre manages to sound both relatable and impressive as his imagery-filled lyrics slide off of his tongue. Subtle wavers of the voice (“I Don’t Know Why She Ran Away”) and confident bellows (“In The Drink”) fill the album. While he doesn’t sound like a choir boy, it’s absolutely impossible not to want to sing along because you feel like you can.

Thematically, In The Drink is on par for anything else Justin Pierre has written. On the opening track, “Undone”, Pierre admits, “Hey, I won’t leave the party today / I have nothing new to relate / There is only sadness, it always ends this way”.

“I Don’t Know Why She Ran Away” feels like a sister song to the Motion City Soundtrack staple “Her Words Destroyed My Planet”. Not quite as lively, the song still revolves around a man trying to put the pieces together about a broken relationship with Weezer-esque guitars raging behind the vocals. “Don’t stay. Baby please stay, you can’t stay / Every night of my life ends the same way / I want to. I don’t want to. It’s both true / Why can’t I figure this out?”

However, Pierre isn’t constantly in the ditch. “Ready Player One” sees him coming to terms with himself and finding balance with his demons, even in the midst of relationship turmoil. “Think what you will I was never as bad as they say / Okay maybe I was but back then I was outta my mind / And I’m all quips and chatter each quivering section of spine / And I’m here to it, here like I never could ever before cause I was afraid, but now I’m ready”.

In The Drink is the next logical step for Justin Pierre, even if it sounds like the next Motion City Soundtrack album. Aggressive, experimental and familiar, Justin Courtney Pierre delivers a hell of an album, even if it’s somewhat expected. What makes In The Drink so spectacular is the fact that it justifies every song Justin Pierre has written and shows not only how authentic Pierre has been throughout his career, but how close to the vest Motion City Soundtrack was through their lifetime. Whether you’re discovering Pierre for the first time, or coming for the nostalgia, In The Drink is an album that we’ve been waiting for.

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 accidentally let his apples go bad. Who does that? Has anyone ever bought TWO APPLES and gone, “No, I’ll hold onto these until they rot”? Literally no one until today.

Review: Twenty One Pilots – Trench

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that Twenty One Pilots are one of the biggest bands on the planet. I’d say it’s been that way since they released Vessel in 2013, although maybe that’s because I found them during that album cycle. Either way, I’m unironically and unapologetically obsessed with them.

I was just as excited as everyone when I saw their social media go dark. A little sad, sure, because Blurryface was such a good album and really marked when the band gained the most acclaim. 2015 was a great year for Twenty One Pilots.

You can buy or stream Trench on Apple Music.

So, let’s get into Trench. As themed as everything had seemed leading up to the album’s release, there are only a couple of instances where the concept of Trench as a physical place and the bishops we saw in the “Jumpsuit” video are brought to life. To me, Trench seems to be the new incarnation of Blurryface from the last album.

Per the usual, the band continues to create new standards for how good an album’s production can and should be. I think that what makes Twenty One Pilots who they are isn’t the band as a concept. It’s the members. The band’s incarnation, in a sense, changes with each album. What is always consistent, though, is how Tyler and Josh treat the art they’ve created — with reverence and ingenuity. They’re obsessed with moving higher and higher up the creativity ladder and it’s paying off. My favorite example of this on Trench is “Pet Cheetah”.

There’s only one pitfall to this album for me: they built it up as having a continuous storyline and created a narrative that, when listening to the album as a whole, doesn’t really come out for me. It worked for the singles they released, but it does kind of jump around a little bit. To be fair, perhaps I just haven’t spent enough time with it — it isn’t even a week old — but it seems a little rollercoaster-y.

I’m not going to get into favorite tracks here because there are 14 total songs on the album and they’re all good in their own way. TOP has found a formula with how their albums are laid out and this one is no different. There are tracks that are significant changes of theme in their discography here, though. Somehow, they’ve become bolder — how they talk about mental illness in “Neon Gravestones” and how Tyler addresses faith in the final track “Leave the City”.

I do want to touch on “Legend”. Written for Joseph’s deceased grandfather, this song is intensely meaningful in a way the band has never touched on. We see vulnerability about mental health and other personal issues everywhere in music, but nothing could compare to how I felt when I heard the last couple of lines: “Then the day that it happened / I recorded this last bit  / I look forward to having / A lunch with you again”.

I’ve touched on the loss of my own grandmother in other contributions for the site but nothing really hit so close to home as this line when it comes to bringing back that feeling. I get it.

I’m sure they wouldn’t want to admit this, but fame has changed Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun. They have a different attitude with this album cycle than the last. It’s not necessarily a negative change, but it’s still evident. They’re more protective over the thing they’ve created — and I think they have every right to do so.

By now I’m sure you’ve guessed that I really like Trench. It’s continuously original and interesting, and they’ve brought up new views to the topics they’ve proven to be passionate about in their past offerings. Trench is a masterpiece. They (again) topped an album that didn’t seem top-able. Take some time to digest this album; I think there’s a lot we can glean from it.

4.5/5

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.