Review: State Champs – Living Proof

The worst thing about Living Proof, the new album from State Champs, is that it was written in 2018 and not 2004. This is an album that is full-blown pop punk in every way, wearing the genre proudly on its sleeve. Every single song is a potential single, expertly crafted to play on repeat in your head, even when you’re not listening to them.

Had this been released last decade, this is an album that could compete for the fame of Sum 41 or early Fall Out Boy. However, in 2018, it struggles to find an identity of its own. Instead, the album feels like an amalgamation of the best parts of every pop punk band in the last two decades combined to create one super album primed to dominate your summer.

You can buy Living Proof on Apple Music.

I’m not terribly familiar with State Champs, but after my first playthrough of Living Proof, I immediately went back to listen to their earlier albums. I’m in love with the band, and won’t be making the mistake of sitting on them again. Living Proof is one those rare albums designed to be a hit. Every song is radio ready and hypnotically enchanting. The production is crystal clear and does its best to propel the energy of the music.

Guitarists Tyler Szalkowski and Tony Diaz are a perfect duo, wrapping melody and sharp power chords in smart ways. There is a massive amount of pop on this album, but the energy and mayhem behind it is gorgeous and rests somewhere between the punk aesthetic of New Found Glory (“Criminal”) and the pop of All Time Low (“Safe Haven”). Bassist Ryan Graham is thankfully turned up to be heard clearly in every song and adds a noticeable backbone that other bands could only hope for (“Cut Through the Static”). Drummer Evan Ambrosio may be the hidden MVP of the album, as his wall of percussion constantly stole my attention at odd times with thunderous beats (“Mine Is Gold”). Vocalist Derek DiSanio pushes himself to great lengths throughout the record. He finds a great balance between crisp notes and letting his voice struggle to hit the high notes, adding an urgency and envious power.

The best and worst feature of Living Proof is that it is so enamored in pop punk that it fails to carve it’s own path. In fact, comparing the album to All Time Low circa 2010 is almost impossible not to do. The record sounds like a b-side collection of singles ATL forgot to release. This problem could be remedied if the songs had more substance to them, but each line is forged from classic pop punk archetypes. Vague lines about relationships permeate throughout.

The nice thing is that the lyrics fit perfectly together and make you want to shout them as loud as you can. However, there is no weight behind them, such as “Safe Haven” as DiSanio sings, “Congratulations, I’m a wreck again / Messed around, feeling down, thought it was all pretend / I’m realizing I’ve got time to kill so / give me a remedy to lift me up / Until it all falls back just like you said”. There are vague ideas of hope, such as when he sings, “And I feel when you’re looking at me / that you’re far from happy / If only we could wait for the truth / When you know it’s not so dramatic / Let’s cut through the static and be the living, the living proof”.

Living Proof is an album that will absolutely enchant half of its listeners and possibly turn off others hoping for something more than pop punk basics. But that shouldn’t take anything away from what State Champs have accomplished­ – a masterful pop punk album that relishes in every aspect of the genre. This album will potentially dominate the summer season and could potentially revive mainstream interest in the genre if it received the attention it deserves. After this album, I simply can’t wait to see them live at the first possible opportunity.

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 accidentally splattered a girl with gym sweat as she fled from a spider hanging on its web today. Not his fault, but no one was happy about the encounter. Especially the spider. It was crushed by a train and mocked mercilessly by a crowd.

Advertisements

Review: Mayday Parade – Sunnyland

Almost everyone who went through a major emo phase loved Mayday Parade at some point or another. It’s a given. There wasn’t a MySpace page that didn’t have a quote from “Miserable At Best” or “Oh Well, Oh Well”. I’m the exception to this rule, per usual.

My “emo” phase (if you could even call it that) happened a lot later than most kids’ did. I wasn’t around the music scene for the heyday of many of these bands. I came in a little later: For example, I’m much more familiar with Paramore’s Brand New Eyes rather than All We Know Is Falling. In short, I was too young for the Golden Age of Emo, and therefore too young for Mayday Parade.

You can buy Sunnyland on Apple Music.

I never went through a Mayday Parade phase until today. I blasted through their entire discography to prepare myself for their sixth album, Sunnyland. Of course, I dabbled in their singles. You can’t have “Jamie All Over” without the word “jam,” now can you? I know a lot of diehard fans of Mayday, though, so I’ve definitely received expert secondhand knowledge. It’s enough to get me by.

Sunnyland starts with a track called “Never Sure.” I think it’s called this because I’m never sure whether I’m listening to “Melrose Diner” by The Wonder Years or a Mayday Parade song. That being said, it’s a great track and the perfect choice for an opener. This seems like a weird detail to hinge on, but I love the tone Derek Sanders’ vocals in the chorus. He truly shines on this album, whether he’s singing softly or really putting some growl into it.

The album continues with “It’s Hard to Be Religious When Certain People Are Never Incinerated by Bolts of Lightning”, which just might be the longest song name released by a band who isn’t empire! empire! i was a lonely estate. I wasn’t a huge fan of this when it was released as a single. I had never listened to Black Lines since it was released in 2015, so I wasn’t used to a heavier sound from the band. It fits into the album very well, though, and I have a new appreciation for it.

The fourth track really stands out. “Is Nowhere” hits hard and seems to me to reference a toxic relationship. You think everything is great at the beginning, but after a while, true colors come out and the idea of the person’s (or even your own) perfection is shattered. “You smile while the symphony plays / And tell me music is your only escape / Well I don’t hear it anymore / So what do we do now?”

Mayday is probably best known for their heartbreaking ballads. “Miserable At Best”, “Stay”, “Terrible Things”, etc. I think the fifth track, “Take My Breath Away”, is a contender for that prize on Sunnyland. I love this track because it’s so delicate. It’s short, but it definitely stuck with me.

A low point on the album comes for me with “Stay the Same”. I think the chorus is a little bit weak, considering the rich lyrical quality of the verses and bridge. I know I’m really picky when it comes to lyrics, but I don’t think the chorus matches the imagery in the rest of the song. The opposite of a low point, though, is “How Do You Like Me Now”. Another intense track, it has nothing in common (thankfully) with the 1999 Toby Keith song of the same name. There’s a lot of things to think about in a lot of these songs, and the lines that really made me stop were the last three: “The hand you hold is letting go / The sunset is fading / So how do you like me now”.

“Satellite” is a cute track, but I feel like it’s a theme that’s been overdone in music lately. There are a lot of songs comparing love to outer space, and I think this track fell flat for me just based on that cliché. It’s a throwaway track in a sea of other really strong ones. It’s not a hindrance to what the album tries to accomplish, it just seems like an afterthought.

Interestingly, the album’s title has an explanation that we don’t get until the last two songs on the album. It ties everything together and makes the entire album more reflective than it appears before you get to the two final tracks. “Always Leaving” is a look back on the time they’ve spent away from their homes during their time as a band. Derek Sanders has a kid now and I have no doubt that this song was brought from the idea that his line of work forces him to miss out on things at home.

The final track, “Sunnyland”, talks about being kids and having the view that nothing could go wrong. Obviously, if you’ve listened to the rest of the band’s discography, you know that virtually everything went wrong in some way or another. Derek sings, “I left something important back in Sunnyland / And it’s something that I know I’ll never find”.

Sunnyland seems to be the name Mayday Parade created for the concept of nostalgia. They talked about old relationships, driving at night with friends, and playing baseball as kids. They’ve covered the theme in virtually every album they’ve released, but I think this is the first time they’ve really nailed it so heavily. This album is a fantastic piece of art. If emo was dead, Mayday Parade have singlehandedly raised it back to life.

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: Anthony Green – Would You Still Be In Love

My first thought upon first listen to Anthony Green’s surprise solo album, Would You Still Be In Love, was, “How the hell can he be this prolific?!” In the last decade, Green has been the frontman for both Circa Survive and Saosin while releasing five solo records. Somehow, Would You Still Be In Love is as beautiful as it is terrifying. For each image beautifully painted of absolute love, there is a tear in the canvas showing the struggle with mental illness on the other side.

You can buy Would You Still Be In Love on Apple Music.

Green’s solo albums have always experimented with genre, but they have usually been at their best at the acoustic level. Aside from sparsely used percussion and a haunting violin, the majority of Would You Still Be In Love consists of gorgeously melodic acoustic tracks that make the lyrics much darker than they otherwise may have been. While Green pours over his struggles and things begin crashing down, you can hear the beauty of the world around him that he’s trying to reach.

As usual, Green’s lyrics are stunning. The album is a surprisingly dark one that uses stark imagery to show the struggles of mental illness in a relationship. Opener “Vera Lynn” is arguably the poppiest song Green has ever written. It also is a song about the fear of becoming musically irrelevant. It’s both a warning to himself and an understanding of his profession as he sings, “Someday if you hit the big one, everybody wants some from you / It won’t last / Cause then one day you’ll bite the big one / Everyone will move onto somebody new”.

“Love”, a cover from the song made famous in Disney’s Robin Hood animated movie, is a sweet homage to his family. It also sets the tone for how wonderful things can be before collapsing. “You’re So Dead Meat” is where the first doubts begin to pour in about his music. There are lines that show the struggle with art in ways I have never heard before, such as, “These strings are so dead / Holding off on changing them / until one day they will just break”, or “Why should I put everything into all these songs you just steal?”

“When I Come Home” is the showstopper of the record. It highlights the struggle of dealing with personal issues and watching against your own will as things appear to fall to pieces. The song weighs the pressure between true and failed love as Green sings, “Don’t blame me if I’m right / You were always on your way out / You can take your time, I’ll be patient / Don’t hate me if I say, ‘If there’s something I can change’ / You’d still be in love when I come home”.

Closer “Real Magic” manages to find solace with his struggles and ties off his fears. Coming to terms with his fears as a musician from earlier in the album, “Real Magic” justifies the struggles of writing such personal songs as he sings, “Everyday there’s something tragic that helps somebody else”.

Would You Still Be In Love sits amongst Anthony Green’s best solo albums. As tragic as it is redeeming, the record feels complete at nine songs long. Extremely personal, thematic and honest, Green shows yet again that he’s never left the top of his game.

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 listened to this album at 6 am on a Saturday morning because sleeping in is for quitters.

 

Review: Kanye West – Ye

As I watched the live stream listening party for Kanye West’s eighth studio album Ye, I couldn’t help but focus on the flames.

In the middle of a field in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a crowd of listeners surrounded a large bonfire as speakers pulsed with music. As nightfall fell over the mountainous landscape, the fire’s glow seemed to provide a sense of warmth and comfort amidst the chilly surroundings. Yet as the fire crackled and sparked, I kept wondering how close one could stand before getting burned.

It kind of reminded me of what it’s like to be a Kanye West fan in 2018. If I’m being honest with myself, maybe it’s always felt this way.

You can buy Ye on Apple Music.

At seven tracks and just under 24 minutes long, Ye is almost the polar opposite of 2016’s mammoth-sized The Life of Pablo. It’s focused and concise, and even with its short running time, there’s plenty to dissect. It’s also problematic.

But then again, so was Pablo’s “Famous” and Yeezus’ “On Sight” and Graduation’s “Drunk and Hot Girls” and The College Dropout’s “New Workout Plan” and on and on and on. Kanye’s devil has always avoided the details, sitting in plain sight as we collectively shrugged it away, even if it got more difficult as more time passed.

This time around, the new music comes on the heels of candid support of Donald Trump, the elevation of problematic alt-right commentators, and an avalanche of non sequitur ramblings in the name of free thought, including a disastrous comment about slavery being a choice.

Even in the midst of disgust and heartbreak, a small part of me held out hope that a new album might help correct course or salve wounds. This line of thinking reveals that I have learned little – Ye doesn’t fix anything. It just sounds good.

It takes less than a minute into the album’s second track, “Yikes”, for Kanye to utter the lines, “Russell Simmons wanna pray for me, too / I’ma pray for him ‘cause he got #MeToo’d”. The cringe on my face likely mirrored the one I displayed upon hearing the now infamous Taylor Swift line in “Famous” just two years ago. In both instances, I kept listening because the beat was so good.

And in typical fashion, the production on Ye is something to be admired. But this time, it can’t cover up the flaws, because right now, the emperor truly has no clothes. “All Mine” is reckless in its ideas of women as possessions, and even a genuine attempt by West to address his own misogyny for his daughter’s sake on “Violent Crimes” comes up startlingly short, placing the impetus on North to follow a certain path in order to avoid the pitfalls of a sexist society.

In its best thematic moments, Ye deals openly with Kanye’s battle with bi-polar disorder and thoughts of suicide, and finds him grateful to his wife for not leaving his side amidst his self-created chaos. Like so many Kanye albums, Ye is messy, and in large part, this is what has made his music so approachable, relatable, and powerful. But at 40 years old and deep into his artistic career, is it time to ask for more? Or at least ask for growth in the areas that continue to cause pain and alarm?

There are no easy answers to this and the responses will be varied and deeply personal. On “Ghost Town” Kanye and Kid Cudi team up again, with 070 Shake joining late in the track with a repeated refrain of, “We’re still the kids that we used to be / I put my hand on the stove to see if I still bleed / And nothing hurts anymore, I feel kinda free”. There’s a lot packed into those lines and interpretations will differ, but for me, as long as the stove remains hot and the fire still sparks, I’m comfortable putting a little distance between myself and the flames.

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: William Ryan Key – Thirteen

After the soaring choruses and melodic punk of nearly two decades in Yellowcard, it’s almost a shock to the system to hear William Ryan Key mellowed out. Some of the best Yellowcard songs were the often-overlooked acoustic ballads, and it can cause an undeserved sense of expectation when listening to Key’s new EP, Thirteen for the first time. Scaled back to its simplest form, Key’s work is dipped so far into a folk sound that it can be hard to recognize him. But the stories and pictures he paints are still some of the absolute best in music.

You can buy Thirteen on Apple Music.

Over the five songs on Thirteen, Key takes his time with simple melodies. “Old Friends” features a simple strum and spaced out notes that subtly pick up pace during the chorus. “Vultures” and “Form and Figure” are a bit faster paced, but still rely on a simple melody to carry the songs. Taking a note from Ace Enders, there is a synth line that haunts the background of several songs to give them an added sense of weight that emphasizes the guitar. It’s a soothing way to give the songs atmosphere and depth.

Additionally, Key’s vocals are scaled back significantly. Instead of pushing himself for a raging chorus, his voice is so quiet it can be almost monotonous. For someone who has such a wide range, songs like “Thirty Days” seem hampered because it sounds like he is trying too hard to hold himself back. It keeps the songs folky, but not without sounding at least partially forced.

However, the storytelling and themes are utterly incredible. “Old Friends” is a story about life on the road, and learning how to deal with your friends back home while dealing with the ambition of being in a rock band. “Went searching for the Hollywood sound and my old friends were cursing my name / I thought if I could burn out the sun, everyone would be with me in the shade / Wrong as I was, I wouldn’t change”.

“Form and Figure” deals with the aftermath of a failed relationship (“I stay in a sleepless state all the time / blurry lines / with the dawn about to light”). “Thirty Days” is a song that equally works as a love song and as a description of having found help after addiction. The somber tone of Key’s voice as he sings, “I’ve hung a heroes cape and worn a villain’s face / Is it my reflection on the wall? / Do I even look the same at all? / If you see me, I swear you won’t believe these years have worn on me” brims with both regret and hope in equal measure.

While it is a new direction for Key, Thirteen sounds like it has been written before. At 18-minutes long, these songs struggle to differentiate themselves from each other. After the flush and extravagant writing of Key’s vast body of work, Thirteen feels underdeveloped, even if that was the intention. However, it still points towards the next amazing step in his career.

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 frequently is criticized for his posture. Whip him with a wooden ruler upon sight, if you could be so kind.

Review: CHVRCHES – Love is Dead

As Memorial Day weekend arrives and temperatures creep into the 90s in the Midwest, I can’t help but be reminded of days past when this setting would be accompanied by the newest summer soundtracks. It’s a nostalgic sort of feeling that leaves me pining for long drives with windows down and late nights with old friends where the music tells our story.

Love is Dead, the third full-length release from Scottish synth-pop trio CHVRCHES, scratches this itch well, in both expected and unexpected ways.

You can buy Love is Dead on Apple Music.

Calling the music of CHVRCHES carefree, or, more specifically, the sort of tunes you’d play in those happy summer moments, might feel peculiar. The band has excelled at digging deep into pain underneath a blanket of shiny synthesizers, leaving just enough uncertainty to let the listener decide the mood. On this latest effort, the music is glossier and poppier than ever, while Lauren Mayberry’s lyrics forgo ambiguity, leaving no room for misinterpretation.

It’s an interesting choice, and one that will likely leave fans of the band feeling slightly off-center upon first listen. In truth, it might be the most impressive thing the band has done – expanding their own existing gap between sound and substance, making the bridge of that divide all the more impressive.

Album opener “Graffiti” is delightfully buzzy as Mayberry examines the vanishing of a youthful love, singing, “I’ve been waiting for my whole life to grow old / And now we never will”. At first glance, it’s the most straightforward track the band has penned, leaving room for reflection instead of targeting a culprit. But Love is Dead is far from one-dimensional, shifting emotions and wrestling with the very idea of what love means and looks like in a time of political and cultural turbulence.

On “Deliverance”, Mayberry takes a candid look at the harmful side of religion, crafting what might be the band’s most ear-pleasing track to date. On “Graves”, she targets sexism in the music industry, a topic she has spoken brilliantly and powerfully about in the past, singing, “You can look away / While they’re dancing on our graves / But I will stop at nothing”. These moments are so direct, it’s impossible to divorce them from their juxtaposed sonic surroundings, making the music of CHVRCHES just as engaging as ever.

In handing over the production reigns for the first time, the band allowed Steve Mac and Greg Kurstin to guide these moments that will likely transition CHVRCHES from indie darlings to full-blown pop stars. Kurstin’s work with Tegan and Sara seeps through so many tracks on Love is Dead, like blissful closer “Wonderland” and “Heaven/Hell”, which finds Mayberry being pushed to new vocal heights.

With any such transition to new territory, you will undoubtedly find missteps, and Love is Dead shows those growing pains at times. Early single “Miracle” strips the band of their distinctive edge, harnessing the type of beat that drives Imagine Dragons into pop purgatory. There are also repetitive moments that provoke disinterest, making the album feel about 10 minutes too long.

But when Love is Dead is at its best, it provokes the kind of feeling that a summer album should, while still providing plenty to dialogue about. In such a short time, CHVRCHES have toed a fine line between pop bliss and gloom, making them one of the most unique bands to blossom from the 2010’s 80s-inspired synth boom. That more people than ever may now feel compelled to join the conversation should be cause for rejoicing, even if you miss the quirkiness of The Bones of What You Believe or the sharp, ambiguous edges of Every Open Eye.

On “Deliverance”, Mayberry questions, “Is it deliverance / If you can never change?” For those rankled by a band growing their much-needed platform while inviting more participants to the party, this might be a good thought to ponder.

4/5

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.

Photo credit: Danny Clinch

Review: Chase Huglin – Will the Sun Ever Come Back

I’ve seen Chase Huglin live twice. The first time, he was opening for Brian Swindle’s (of Have Mercy) solo tour. Then, I saw him play earlier this year when he opened for Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties. When he announced his new full-length, Will the Sun Ever Come Back, I was psyched.

Chase is from Fort Wayne, Indiana. He has two EPs and (now) two full-lengths. His first album, You Deserve an Island, was released in 2016 and lyrically focuses on themes like the death of his mom and the end of relationships.

You can buy Will the Sun Ever Come Back on Apple Music.

He released two tracks ahead of the album as singles. The first is the opener, “Both of Us”. It’s a fitting first single, as it provides a great sense of the album’s direction and was a solid choice. The next single, however, isn’t my favorite. It’s called “June Bug”. It doesn’t really fit the tone of the album but it’s still a cute song. The track I really liked is called “Heaven Come My Way”. It’s the fourth track on the album and I love the way he transitions from the verse to the chorus.

The tune of Will the Sun Ever Come Back doesn’t change much from his last release. It’s still pretty sad and downcast. He focuses a lot more on the end of relationships in this one, rather than death, which I guess is kind of an improvement? At least he’s doing better with some things.

Something that has changed from the last album to this one is the addition of a full band. It really rounds out the sound and is a welcome change. You Deserve an Island was mainly him and an acoustic guitar. It fit the theme and the direction he aimed for. He’s managed to do the same with this album. It’s great to see what someone can do with minimal instruments but to see him accomplish the same things with such a change in sound is really impressive.

The one thing I’m not  super huge fan of in this album is how sonically continuous it is. It kind of drones on. There’s a fine line between a good and a bad sense of continuity. I could chalk it up to Chase still being kind of new to making music. There’s this idea that you have your entire life to write your first album, and a lot less time to write your second. An artist’s first album is often the best display of their personality and the things that are important to them. I saw this in Chase’s first album, and, while obviously there are stark differences between this album and his last, the two albums are so closely intertwined that Will the Sun Ever Come Back is almost volume two to You Deserve An Island’s volume one.

So this album is really nice. It’s easy to listen to and has lyrics that you could draw meaning from with a little bit of thought. I’ll spin it this year when I want something familiar and low key, and I’ll definitely recommend it to friends who are looking for the same.

3.5/5

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: Beach House – 7

The number seven is a number that holds a lot of symbolism in history. Biblically, it signifies completion. It’s a number that holds a lot of weight through superstition – seven years of bad luck follow breaking a mirror. There are seven deadly sins and seven chakras in Hinduism. It is considered a sacred number in many cultures. On Beach House’s new album, 7, I’m not sure whether they refer to any of these ideas, but they certainly reflect on their past six albums and the world we live in today.

You can buy 7 on Apple Music.

Beach House was formed in 2006, and has two members: Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. In 2008, they released Devotion, which was the album that I first heard and enjoyed. But in all of their albums, they place a focus on sitting and meditating. Their albums are drawn out experiences, and, in my opinion, are meant to be listened to in one sitting, from start to finish. 7 is no different.

The album begins with “Dark Spring”, which is a different direction musically (and the third single). Their past albums usually begin with a softer track that builds up, but this opener hits right away. It’s bass heavy and establishes a sound that really carries right through the entire album. Lyrically, it talks about the death of stars and a lack of light, hence the title. The lyrical theme carries on into the next track, “Pay No Mind”, which showcases a different type of dying star: an ending relationship. Legrand sings, “It’s painful but / You do what you must”.

“Lemon Glow” was the first single the band released. I really liked the vibe that this track puts out. There’s a driving force behind it that, while at the same time carrying so much gentle energy, also carries so much restraint. One of my favorite things about this band is their ability to effortlessly bring a sense of balance.

The strangest track on the album is “L’Inconnue”. It has a very Catholic feel to it, brought on by the heavy use of layered vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place in such a church service. Legrand is French, and she sings some French in this song. The subject comes from a story about a woman who was found drowned in the Seine River. In an interview with Stereogum, Legrand said of the track: “The French part [on “L’Inconnue”] started years ago. We always liked it, but we never found where it belonged.” 

“I am loving losing life” is a line from the track “Drunk In L.A.” It struck me as a really heavy but profound line. It’s about death, and follows the song about a girl who drowned, but this isn’t a morbid song. Victoria Legrand talks about the memories she’s made over the years. She talks about strawberries in the summer and playing pretend when she was a child. These are times she’s proud of and recalls fondly. She acknowledges that life isn’t forever, but it’s okay because she’s doing what she loves. This is one of my favorite tracks on this album because it’s a reminder that amidst all of the negative things that a person watches happen in the world in a lifetime, there’s a positive microcosm of personal memories that make life worth living.

Sonically, I love the direction of “Dive”. It was the second single released, and it shifts the mood from the melancholy tones of the past couple of tracks and brings the energy of “Dark Spring” back. They’re not happy lyrics though: “Tell her something / Tell her nothing /  Tell her that you’re fading”.

The last single they released is “Black Car”. It’s a strange single choice, but I suppose they may have wanted to give a different taste of the album. The previous singles were on the more upbeat side of things, but this track is moody and dark. This isn’t a favorite track for me, and I can see myself skipping it when I (inevitably, much to my chagrin) do cherry-pick tracks in later listens. It is interesting in the way that this is one of the only tracks where there’s a back-and-forth lilt in the lyrical delivery.

Remember how I talked about Beach House’s use of balance? “Lose Your Smile” is another example. “Drunk In L.A.” had references to happy times, but then the mood was brought back down for the next two tracks. This album is like a soundwave: up and down. We’re back on the upswing with “Lose Your Smile”, which strays away from their usual musical choices with some country influences. It’s a lovely track. “Dreams, baby do come true”, Victoria sings as the end fades out.

The song with the most shallow lyricism is “Woo”. It’s a proper love song. Victoria sings of unrequited love: “I cannot say much / But I want it all / And I want it all”. It’s psychedelic and sonically reminds me of 90s R&B, in a weird and definitely vague, barely-there way.

If “Woo” has shallow lyricism (from, of course, a Beach House perspective – the lyrics are never truly shallow), then they make up for it in “Girl of the Year”. This is a song about the harsh reality of stardom, and has a lot of sexual imagery, no doubt connecting the two topics due to the rise of the Me Too movement and the heavy emphasis on Hollywood and the price of fame.

The final track on the album, “Last Ride”, is in reference to Nico, the German singer who died following a bicycle accident in 1988. It could also be seen as a potential reference to the end of Beach House’s musical efforts. If seven is the number of completion, it’s possible that they’ve completed all of the music they have to offer. (That’s just my fan theory, though – not confirmed or even likely. Just a distinction I noticed.) The song ends with the line, “It’s just a whisper”, as the keys fade out.

This is nothing short of a beautiful album. Each track is essential to explaining the ideas and perspective Legrand and Scally put into our minds and thought processes, which is difficult to accomplish with a first album, never mind number seven. It’s lyrically thought-provoking and the soundscape is enthralling. Is it their best album? Maybe. It’s hard to compare Beach House’s albums because they’re all dynamic in their own way. 7 is simply the perfect addition to a wonderfully diverse catalog.

4.5/5

Photo Credit: Shawn Brackbill

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: Matt and Kim – Almost Everyday

I’ve been on a huge indie pop streak this year. I loved MANIA by emo kings Fall Out Boy, but lately I keep returning to Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life by The Wombats and Always Ascending by Franz Ferdinand. My spring playlist consists of Bad Suns and Smallpools, but nowhere to be found was anything from the Brooklyn duo Matt and Kim. That may have been because they haven’t released any music since 2016 and simply fell off my radar. The real reason is that I’ve never listened to anything but their 2009 single “Daylight.” Sorry, Matt and Kim.

You can buy Almost Everyday on Apple Music.

I don’t know what it is lately but all the albums being released seem to be about death and loss and how generally bad the world is to live in these days. While these things are all inevitable and true, Matt and Kim took the opportunity to lighten the mood with their latest album Almost Everyday. Okay, the songs are still sad but at least there’s some synth as a distraction. We’re all having a hard time with trying to find the silver lining in society, and Matt and Kim express it this way in the first single, “Forever”: “Don’t want to live forever / If things stay like this.” Big mood.

The album has a lot of 80s vibes and, if I can make a weird comparison, sounds like those jackets covered in random geometric shapes look. I know that’s vague and doesn’t make much sense, but it has a very cubic feel to me.

“Like I Used to Be” reminisces on how things were when Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino were young. They talk about broken down cars and partying late. He sings, “And yeah, the sails have set / But I’m not dead yet”. This theme continues in the next track, “I’d Rather”, which is one of my favorites. One of things that sets Matt and Kim apart is their recognizable use of piano, and it’s displayed best on this track.

My other favorite track is “Happy If You’re Happy”. I really like the lyricism and tone of it. I just think it’s adorable and can imagine it playing at my wedding. A lot of this album talks about being sure to live a life with aspects worth remembering. They talk a lot about being older and remembering things but they also have a lot of present memories that they talk about, too. They haven’t lost their sense of fun. It’s a nice reminder that growing up doesn’t have to mean growing up. Sure we’ll have bills and funerals and a lot of “adult” things to do, but we can also make memories that don’t involve the mundane. We can still have adventures.

Almost Everyday isn’t my favorite album. I don’t think it’s my style. I’m sure it will resonate with some people, but I don’t think this will be one I’ll play regularly. I think the synth is a little bit overdone for my taste. It sounds almost industrial at times, which is a cool effect, but it’s used too much and kind of makes up for the fact that it isn’t very lyrically exciting. All of the songs touch on the same themes and while that usually makes for a cohesive album, the way Matt and Kim went about it just makes it redundant. That being said, it’s still well produced and has some gems that may end up on a playlist.

3/5

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 Longshot – Love Is for Losers

There are two incredibly distinct versions of Billie Joe Armstrong. One writes rock operas that flawlessly meld biting, poetic verses and savage critiques of government. The other just loves writing pop songs. The one constant between the two is that no matter who holds the pen, Armstrong is going to belt out some absolutely killer songs designed to stay in your head. Love Is for Losers by The Longshot, his newest side project, is a band that has fun with rock and isn’t crippled with expectation.

The first thing anyone who listens to The Longshot will wonder, is why this wasn’t released as a Green Day album. The obvious answer is that Green Day is a group that seems to be aiming for higher goals. Their experiment with the ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! trilogy showed that following up several critically acclaimed rock operas is difficult when the band just wants to release some pop songs without the depth of American Idiot or 21st Century Breakdown. Love Is for Losers is the answer.

These songs are fun. Incredibly catchy, and packing the energy of Armstrong’s signature power chords, The Longshot is power pop at its finest. These are party songs that feel instantly familiar to anyone who has been a fan of Armstrong for more than a minute. Traces of each of his ventures can be heard in the album. “Taxi Driver” beckons the ghost of Green Day circa Nimrod. “Turn Me Loose” channels Foxboro Hot Tubs, and I’m sure you can find traces of Pinhead Gunpowder and some Bille + Norah if you look for it.

Bandmates Jeff Matika (bass), David S. Field (drums) and Kevin Preston (guitar) deliever some killer performances, but it is almost impossible not to compare them to Tre Cool or Mike Dirnst. They are obviously influenced by the other members of Green Day, and give as sincere an homage as is possible. While their performance is worthy of the influences, they give Armstrong a chance to write pop songs free of the weight of his main band on his shoulders.

What does stand out is how Armstrong’s songwriting formula shifts just slightly for The Longshot. There is a slight influence of southern rock in the guitar (“Cult Hero”). Hand claps litter the verses (“The Last Time”, “Soul Surrender”) and guitar solos run rampant just because they can. The Longshot also remind me that I miss classic Green Day, before they took on their political edge. Most of these songs could have been pulled off of Nimrod, and it’s actually refreshing to hear something like that again.

Perhaps the only downside (or upside, if you prefer) is that there is nothing lyrical to bite into. These are party songs, designed to be easy to sing along to without thinking about it. For example, the title track, “Love is for Losers” has a chorus of, “Hey kid, love is for losers now, alright / Stupid kid, you’re a loser now, alright”. While it’s nice to be able to sing along to literally any of these songs midway through the first listen, it’s upsetting to know that it is just a tease of Armstrong as a writer.

Love Is for Losers isn’t a reinvention, because it doesn’t need to be. It’s an excuse to write classic power pop songs. The Longshot is essential listening for fans of Green Day. While it is disappointing that the wit and anger that fuels Armstrong’s best writing is nowhere to be seen, songs like these are rarely written anymore. Love Is for Losers may not be anyone’s favorite album, but it’s impossible not to enjoy.

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 wrote this while attempting to eat an apple. It fell off of the table after one bite and rolled under the couch, because why wouldn’t it do just that?