Review: Senses Fail – If There Is Light, It Will Find You

There is a true rage on If There Is Light, It Will Find You, the new album from Senses Fail, that can only manifest with age. Eighteen-year-olds can scream all they want, but they haven’t lived life long enough to see everything truly collapse yet. The demons haunting Buddy Nielsen, lead vocalist, and the album’s writer, are the type that inspire not only true art, but also unconditional emotional failure. Coming out on the other side of these issues is what gives If There Is Light such a powerful message that few bands can mimic.

You can buy If There Is Light, It Will Find You on Bandcamp.

I won’t claim to be a big Senses Fail fan, but I know the essence of their sound and the horror tinged lyrics that accompanied many of their early albums. I also know of the Drive-Thru Records pop elements that fused into their hardcore edge. As the first album from the band written entirely by Nielsen, If There Is Light captures the sound of Senses Fail and puts me in the mind of what the band were hoping to achieve on their debut LP, Let It Enfold You.

The guitars thrash with heavy power chords and hard pop, reminiscent of The Movielife. However, rather than forcing the harder edge of mid-career Senses Fail, Nielsen relies on the pop element to lift the songs to catchier highs and sharper hooks. A few Queen-inspired guitar solos help lift the spirit of the music from time to time, too.

The poppier elements are a juxtaposition against the darker lyrics that also shows the light beaming through the nightmares. Rather than rely on lyrical screaming, Nielsen’s clean vocals are more than enough to communicate the depth of the real-life horror of this album, as well as how thankful he is to be on the other side.

One of the recurring themes of If There Is Light, is that Nielsen is one of the few his age still relying on music. At this point in my 30s, everyone I grew up with listening to the same music has abandoned listening to it, much less still performing. “Double Cross” finds Nielsen reminiscing about the passion he shared with others while singing from the stage, but now age has made them jaded.

“Is It Gonna Be The Year?” may be one of the most open songs pop punk has ever seen. Nielsen is split between wanting to pursue music forever even as his peers fall away, and the realization that maturity kills the genre. It’s genuinely a stab to the heart to hear him shout, “I never thought that it would last this long / And neither did the others, that’s why they’re all gone / When is it time to give it up, and how long is long enough? / And when should I throw it in, cause I don’t wanna be a washed up old man”.

But where the theme of the album finds its truth is in the songs clearly dedicated to Nielsen’s wife. “First Breath, Last Breath” is a true hell, as it tells the story of watching his wife almost die during childbirth. The guitars chug slowly, letting every note bleed as Buddy sings, “I have never felt so crushed / The sadness buried in my bones / How the hell am I supposed to raise a daughter on my own?” Following later on is quick burner, “Orlando And A Miscarriage”, which seems to be a title that needs no explanation, as the pain that flows from it is visceral.

However, knowing that she survived, “You Get So Alone At Times It Just Makes Sense” is a glorious redemption. The music blasts as Buddy praises her for giving him the strength to keep moving. It’s playful (“I love the way that you don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks / And I’m trying so hard to think like that / but I’m the singer in a fucking band and I’m still neurotic as shit”), and a confession of true love (“All my life I’ve waited to kiss your perfect face / Into the darkest night I’ll take you by my side”).

What makes If There Is Light so redeeming is that each song, and each theme has a callback. For each song that fears being the aging punk, he rallies the troops of youth in a rage against the government (“Gold Jacket, Green Jacket…”) or relishes the memories of Saves The Day from 12 years ago (“Stay What You Are”). For each song about potentially losing his wife, he sings her praises for making him stronger. For all of the darkness swirling across the album, closer “If There Is Light, It Will Find You” ends with a note of hope, as the last lyrics of the entire album are, “Don’t be afraid”.

If There Is Light, It Will Find You is a heartbreaking experience. It’s also something so real and terrifying, the horror pop lyrics of early Senses Fail seems childish in comparison. The poppier aspects of the album may turn off fans hoping for a harder edge, but this is a masterpiece considering it was written by Buddy Nielsen alone. I can’t claim to have any idea of where it will stand in the band’s discography, but it is an album everyone should experience. You’ll be thankful once you’re on the other side. Cheers.

4.5/5

Photo Credit: Tyler Ross

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 discovered Senses Fail moments before he discovered The Early November, one of his all-time favorite bands. He also saw Senses Fail open for Saves The Day, another of his all-time favorite bands. It took over 15 years, but he is finally in love with Senses Fail without overshadowing them with something else. Please throw apples at his temples if you see him.

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Review: The Wombats – Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life

The Wombats’ new album, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, is one of the most accurately named albums I’ve seen in a while. The entire collection of songs is about love and the lack of love and what to do about it all. Whether this is about one person or many past relationships, I’m not sure. What I am sure of, though, is that The Wombats treat every one of these scenarios as the most important thing in the world. So apparently, there are 11 most important scenarios in the world.

This album is sort of how I expected/wanted the new Walk to Moon album to sound. I didn’t get it from them, but I’m glad that The Wombats came through. It’s full of synth and subtle 80’s influence and it works perfectly.

You can buy Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life on iTunes.

My first taste of this album was the song “Turn”. The album’s second single was so unrecognizable as a song by The Wombats that I had to Shazam it to find out who it was. They’ve been around since 2003, but I first heard their song “Give Me a Try” from their 2015 album Glitterbug on the radio. I fell in love with the sound and eagerly awaited what they’d do next. They impressed me with their evolution over the past three years.

One stand out track is the opener, “Cheetah Tongue”. It’s a strong opener and was perfectly released as a single. It’s catchy in all the right ways and it’s a great beginning to a great album.

Honestly, there aren’t really any weak tracks here. Oftentimes there’ll be a dip in quality in the middle tracks of an album, but with Beautiful People that never happened. Even though I do have favorite tracks and ones I skip, it’s only because of personal preference, not because they’re bad songs or don’t flow well with the album.

My personal theme song from this album is titled, “I Only Wear Black”. I’m joking, but it’s hard not to identify a little bit with the line, “Sometimes you laugh / But usually you cry”. Encased in a cute melody and that mildly comical chorus is a song about a breakup. Lead singer Matthew Murphy sings about moving to L.A. and hanging out at the beach but, “…I don’t really care / They couldn’t walk me back to you”.

Sometimes a band will write a song with a metaphor that’s difficult to understand, and “Dip You in Honey” is that song. Even so, The Wombats have managed to make it accessible in a way I couldn’t verbalize at first. This song is about a new relationship and how wonderful and exciting everything is. Murphy wants to “dip it in honey” so maybe it’ll stay in the aptly called honeymoon phase forever.

Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life is an album I’ll be spinning all summer. It draws you in right away and doesn’t let you go until you’ve felt every up and down Matthew Murphy has. So, yeah, beautiful people will ruin your life, but at least now we can have fun with that concept instead of sulking about it. I’m so thrilled that The Wombats are back with this fantastic piece of pop rock mastery.

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: Dashboard Confessional – Crooked Shadows

After the release of Dusk and Summer 12 years ago, Dashboard Confessional had an identity crisis. They couldn’t seem to decide whether to commit to pop rock or strip back entirely to the acoustic sound that made Chris Carrabba famous. Alter the Ending attempted to quell this by releasing a version of each. In the nine years since that last album, Dashboard’s audience has grown up, and so has he.

You can buy Crooked Shadows on iTunes.

Crooked Shadows is the first Dashboard album since A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar that finds a solid footing between songwriting styles. Aggressively romantic, Carrabba found a way to embellish his writing to flow organically between rock, Lorde-esque pop and acoustic ballads. Crooked Shadows organically forges new ground as much as it sounds like a ‘best of’ collection.

It would be easy for the variety of style on Crooked Shadows to feel messy, but the album is extremely cohesive. An anthemic rock song like “We Fight” can sit beside the finger snaps and digital drums of “Belong” without sounding out of place. It is refreshing to hear each song try something new without retreading the footsteps of another song, or even past albums. That’s not to say that Crooked Shadows doesn’t sound like a Dashboard Confessional album. You can pick up the essence of every era of Dashboard’s history throughout the album if you’re listening.

The guitars of “We Fight” could be pulled from Dusk & Summer. Ending song, “Just What To Say” seems like it was left off of The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most. However, songs like “Belong” sound remarkably different from Dashboard’s past. Distinctly modern pop, it is driven by electronic drums, finger snaps, and Carrabba’s cracked vocals. It doesn’t sound out of place on the album, but it is a marked difference in songwriting.

This level of pop infusion follows through to “Crooked Shadows”. More traditional in nature, the pop elements mix with guitars to create a sound that is uniquely what a Dashboard Confessional song in 2018 should sound like. It is the line between today’s radio pop and Carrabba’s MTV rock anthems.

Carrabba’s voice has always been one of his most powerful instruments, and is in full force yet again. Older and matured, he returns with the slight gravel of age, giving his deeper songs an impact that an 18 year old could never muster (“We Fight”). Alternatively, his crisp high notes are just as powerful as ever (“About Us”), and the signature emo crooning seems ageless (“Just What To Say”).

Crooked Shadows is a record brimming with love songs and the will to forge ahead. “We Fight” is a song of encouragement for anyone scared to dive forward into their dreams. “Heart Beat Here” is Carrabba’s most romantic song since “Hands Down”. Backed by only an acoustic guitar, he sings to his wife, “I wear my ring to know what’s at stake / And when the days work at their own pace, you remain my time and place”.

“Open My Eyes” finds the doubt creeping in. However, the song still finds a way to push back and look for hope, even as Chris sings, “I would stare at myself in the mirror if I thought I had any answers / Hell, finding my way just by failure / Oh, so far, we can see clear”.

Crooked Shadows is a brilliant return to form for Dashboard Confessional after taking nearly a decade between albums. At only nine songs long, it takes its time with a confidence that the last two albums lacked. Whichever era of Dashboard you prefer, there is a song for you, and a few that will feel entirely new. It’s hard to say whether Crooked Shadows will be anyone’s favorite album from the band, but it is sure to be remembered for as one of their most unique.

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 Crooked Shadows while wading through a foot of snow to the train. Yaaaaaay, February!

Review: AWOLNATION – Here Come the Runts

If you’re anything like me, your interest in AWOLNATION stopped at their hit song “Sail”, never really delving any deeper into their discography. I have searched for years to try and find a better way of organizing what I should be listening to, but I haven’t found the perfect system yet, so things fall through the cracks. That’s what happened between AWOLNATION and I – no hard feelings – just an overwhelming sense of having to listen to anything and everything. I’m happy to say that this is something that will no longer happen. AWOLNATION and I are fast friends because of their latest album, Here Come the Runts.

You can buy Here Come the Runts on iTunes.

I’m always skeptical of listening to a band’s newest album without doing a bit of research, (aka listening to the rest of their discography), but I didn’t have to worry about that with this album. It’s somehow simultaneously what to expect from Aaron Bruno and a complete surprise. It’s jumbled, it’s loud and it works. The first (and title) track is raucous and chaotic, yet doesn’t set the tone for the album. It goes all over the place and is as interesting as it is entertaining.

My favorite song from the album is without a doubt the lead single, “Passion”. Look for it on my summer playlist, folks. It’s got a great energy and it stands out, reaching out to old fans who may have put AWOLNATION on the back burner, as if to say, “Hey guys, we’ve still got it!” It also draws new people (me) in and displays just how talented this band is.

Lead vocalist Aaron Bruno is the only original member left in the band. They’ve had a rocky couple of years in this regard, losing members left and right for all manner of reasons. To me, this should signal the end of a band’s golden era, but it doesn’t seem to mean that for Bruno. This is the band’s best release out of their three albums.

The song “Sail” from Megalithic Symphony is seven years old at this point, and I think it was time for something fresh. I hadn’t really heard too much about their second album, Run. I knew it existed but the buzz around it died so quickly I felt like I never got a chance to focus on it. With Here Come the Runts, Aaron Bruno gives a collection of songs that refuse to be ignored. They stand perfectly fine on their own, but come together in a dynamic way when listened in full.

That being said, the one double-edged sword with this album is its length. I’m sure I’ll confuse everyone when I say that while each song is necessary, each song isn’t totally necessary. Maybe it’s just me falling into our culture’s trend of short attention spans, but 14 tracks feels a bit lengthy on this album. (Personally, I think 11 to 12 would have been the sweet spot.) So, yes, it takes a while to get through, but it’s a rewarding experience once you do. Make sense?

To say that this is a great album is an understatement. In my opinion, AWOLNATION has returned with an offering that hopefully only compounds their success. This has definitely come into my rotation for a while, and I think this could be a great start to a new, unique part of AWOLNATION’s career.

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: Waterparks – Entertainment

Back in 2015, my boyfriend added two songs by Waterparks, currently one of the biggest bands in the pop punk scene, to a playlist he made for me. I listened to those songs (“Silver” and “I’m a Natural Blue”) a couple of times and promptly forgot about them. They were good tracks, but lacked what I was looking for at the time. A little over two years later, despite their growing fame and a brand new collection of songs, the band unfortunately still lacks what I’m looking for.

You can buy Entertainment on iTunes.

I started the band’s second full-length album, Entertainment, with high hopes. Frontman Awsten Knight has what could be considered a bromance with the popular music publication Alternative Press, so I figured they wouldn’t steer me wrong. Oh, Alt Press, why was I ever optimistic?

Entertainment could be described as “cute,” or maybe even “adorable,” if I’m feeling generous. The songs don’t really fit together, feature a range of strange effects, and sometimes lean a bit too heavy on autotune. I know the band is a self-professed “boy band,” but I suppose I figured they were being facetious. The first track on the album, “11:11”, supported my view that Waterparks focused more on punk than pop, but over the course of the album’s nine other tracks, the band proved me wrong.

If we can be transparent, I made a temporary playlist in preparation for writing this review, titled, “Songs From Entertainment I Like.” Out of the 10-track album, I added four to that playlist: The album’s two first tracks, aforementioned “11:11” and lead single, “Blonde”, along with “Not Warriors” and “Rare”. I found the other six tracks to be filler and either immaturely written, musically uninteresting, or both. The song “We Need to Talk” begins so lyrically similar to Justin Bieber’s hit “Love Yourself” that I couldn’t get past it. Referencing the 2015 Bieber track, Knight opens the song with the lines, “Your mama likes me / And she doesn’t like anyone”.

“Lucky People,” is about Knight’s ex-girlfriend, who he apparently thought he was going to marry, and includes the childish line, “Happy birthday / Merry Christmas / To the one I call my Mrs.” I actually laughed out loud when I heard that line. Is this Nickelodeon? Is Awsten Knight the future and real-life iteration of the Disney Channel show Austin and Ally in which the titular character’s name is Austin Moon? The world may never know. It’s cheesy and maybe some people think it’s sweet, but “Lucky People” ends up being another filler track on an album that needed more substance in order to hold up to what I know of their past work.

Before concluding, we need to talk about “TANTRUM”, a track that sounds exactly like you’d expect from its name. It’s loud, obnoxious, and, as the title suggests, childish. Knight calls out people he dislikes by name and profanity abounds. It’s a fair effort in sincerity, but the track never lands right, leaving the listener a bit put off.

Even as someone who thoroughly enjoys a good pop album, Entertainment was too much. There are moments when the instrumentation aligns and the band executes a fun chorus or makes you nod and smile, but those moments are far too few.

Waterparks are a band that could have a promising career in the scene. They’re talented musicians and seem to have a large following, but for a band that’s now been around for seven years, it’s time to up the ante. It’s time to find the sound that defines them, but also to use the platform they’ve been given to write something more than bubblegum-y pop rock. Maybe they can find a way to channel the anger of “TANTRUM” into a song about something of substance. Here’s hoping they do.

2/5

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: Fall Out Boy – MANIA

Fall-Out-Boy-2017-cr-pamela-littky

MANIA may be the most infuriating album of the last few years, and one of the few to actually exist and live by its name. Announced nearly a year in advance, launched with a lackluster single, delayed six months, and posted with the wrong tracklist on every digital platform, MANIA is a mess at every conceivable angle. And yet, it is absolutely brilliant.

You can buy MANIA on iTunes.

It is the direct result of Fall Out Boy’s experimentation in pop since their reformation in 2013. The songs are cleaner and the choruses reflect the soaring experiences of Folie À Deux. But MANIA is an experience unto itself that forces you to earn its respect. This will surely be Fall Out Boy’s most divisive album for a number of reasons, but one stands out in particular: There are accidentally two versions of it. If nothing else, the album is a master class in how the order of the tracks can make or break an album.

The initial digital release (the wrong tracklist) held to my belief that I wouldn’t care for MANIA. It sounded dourer and lacked the energy I expect of FOB; just a bunch of uninspired singles with “Young and Menace” as its thesis. However, once the tracklist for the physical release appeared (the right one) and the songs were rearranged, it completely and utterly changed everything. MANIA was an entirely different album that somehow shined and overflowed with the confident sway of Fall Out Boy. It was tight, concise and moved seamlessly.

This version of MANIA is the best album Fall Out Boy have released since Infinity on High.

This album shines with the sound of a classic the way the band’s early releases did. After the unarguable mixed results of pushing the radio-pop sound of their last two albums, MANIA focuses those efforts to a fine point. The guitars are more noticeable than any release since their pop punk days, the percussion is hypnotic, and the bass is monstrous. Patrick Stump, already guaranteed to give a stellar performance, absolutely soars. If the singles didn’t impress upon initial release, listen to them in the context of the album. I don’t know what black magic is at work, but it somehow changes everything.

Opener “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” is a dark rock song with a deep bass that sets up the album with a thesis of acknowledging a chaotic world and the frustrations in it, but how a belief in yourself can overcome it. “The Last of the Real Ones” is a raging pop song centered on imagery of celestial bodies spinning in space.

One of the biggest surprises is the pairing of “Church” and “Heaven’s Gate” at the midpoint of the album. “Church” is an epic sounding rock song that focuses on Pete Wentz’s melodic bass leading a ‘church’ choir through the song. Accompanied by the soft chime of bells and Andy Hurley’s hard percussion, Stump finds equal footing in the love song and prays for a way through personal demons as he sings, “I love the world but I just don’t like the way it makes me feel / Got a few more fake friends and it’s getting hard to know what’s real”.

“Heaven’s Gate” is much softer, with a soul sound that allows Stump’s vocals to jump in spectacular fashion. If you ever needed proof that he may be the best vocalist of any rock band, this will be all the evidence you need. Propelled by the strength of “Church” before it, “Heaven’s Gate” feels all the stronger when Stump croons, “Give me a boost over heaven’s gate / I’m gonna need a boost cause everything else is a substitute for your love”.

Which brings us to “Young and Menace”, the reason I initially soured to MANIA a year before it was even released. An EDM inspired hot mess with a bare thread chorus, I have found this song near unlistenable since its release if for no other reason than the high pitched sampling of Stump’s vocals during the breakdown. However, sitting near the end of the album (instead of the opening track), it is propelled by the songs before it and doesn’t sound nearly as out of place.

After the soaring choruses and precise pop of songs like “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T”, “Young and Menace” is an acknowledgement of Fall Out Boy’s mixed reception since their reformation. The song itself is the most extreme sound they’ve ever attempted, as though it is meant to turn off listeners. However, as Stump sings, “I’m just here flying off the deep end / I’m just here to become the best yet / I’m here for the psych assessment / I’m just here for the, for the fall”, it’s a message to fans that they are aware that they aren’t writing the punk songs half of their fanbase still wants. Instead, they know what direction they to travel in order to become the best band they can be.

MANIA is an anomaly that may just change your opinion of it based on what tracklist you hear. It forces you to work to enjoy it. But once it clicks, it is a beast that harnesses years of experimentation. Even a song as manic as the garbage fire of “Young and Menace” feel like one big feint to throw you off the trail, just to swing out of nowhere. It took a year to make me excited about this album, but it was absolutely worth the wait.

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 cannot accept how much he enjoys MANIA. On a scale of just and even, he is sooooo can’t. See you at Wrigley, you monsters of music.

Review: Tonight Alive – Underworld

I’ve been looking forward to the return of Tonight Alive. As a female fan of the alternative scene, I have always found safety in other female members. Lacey Sturm of Flyleaf, Hayley Williams of Paramore, and others have all influenced how I see things as a woman in music (even though I’m only a listener on the sidelines). I’m always excited to hear their perspectives. Jenna McDougall is another girl on my list, and she’s returned with a beautiful and hopeful picture of what’s been going on inside her head.

You can buy Underworld here.

Underworld is an album about the search. Searching for meaning, for joy, for whatever can bring some light to our lives. McDougall and the other members of Tonight Alive really captured that well with the 13 tracks on Underworld. There’s nothing I love to see more in any piece of art than honesty, and that’s what Tonight Alive did with this album. It’s raw and it cuts deeply, but it’s also comforting. McDougall seems to have taken on the burden of reminding everyone that they’re not alone in what they struggle with.

To say that it’s been a turbulent ride for Tonight Alive is an understatement. From McDougall’s battle with health concerns to the departure of their guitarist Whakaio Taahi, there has been no shortness of setbacks. Regardless, Tonight Alive have stood strong and their resilience is showcased in Underworld.

The band has really turned a corner, musically, switching over from their frantic and moody pop punk vibe to a more grown-up pop rock sound. The tracks fit well together thematically, and it’s all around a great sonic experience. I loved the single “Temple” from the minute I heard it and was pleased to find that the rest of the album was just as strong. Singles can always be hit or miss, especially when they don’t represent the album well, but Tonight Alive chose correctly with all three of the singles they put out.

Speaking of women in the rock scene these days, I think McDougall and Lynn Gunn (of PVRIS) are on the same level. They’re both talented, have a great stage presence, and have still kept femininity a part of their career. I hate the idea that these bands have to be pigeonholed as “female-fronted,” and I’m sure that the bands hate it even more, so I won’t focus too heavily on it, but I hope that women standing on stage realize how inspiring their careers are. I bring this up because Lynn Gunn is featured on the third single, “Disappear”, and the two of them are a vocal dream team. I hope someday they’ll tour together again so I can hear it live (fingers crossed).

The track “In My Dreams” is also really lovely. McDougall takes a second to focus on the more positive side of things, and it’s a nice breather from what is mostly a thematically heavy album. She sings about not really feeling comfortable where she’s at, but there’s someone who helps her find a sense of peace.

Because Underworld is largely focused on finding peace within ourselves, despite what’s happening around us, perhaps McDougall is talking to her past self, letting herself know that even though there was a rough patch, it’s gotten better and it’s okay to have been that girl who struggled. Who knows, maybe she was talking to me.

The rest of Underworld continues the slow climb upward. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, just like life is. It goes up and down and there are glimpses of light, either musically or lyrically, in even the darkest points. It’s a musical essay on dealing with things and making it through successfully.

McDougall’s honesty is familiar to what we find ourselves experiencing. Tonight Alive has let us know that it’s okay to struggle and have those doubts about ourselves and what we feel. In those times when we can’t see past the problem right in front of us, Underworld is a reminder that it can and will get better if we just try to find the light.

Photo by Neal Walters

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: Jeff Rosenstock – POST-

As a living embodiment of the DIY ethos, Rosenstock may be the closest thing to a true artist that there is. At this point in his career, it can be easy to summarize a Jeff Rosenstock album – it’s going to be loud, incredibly catchy, and dripping with a mature honesty that’s almost impossible to find elsewhere. Yet somehow, he manages to surprise and impress each time.

You can buy POST- on Bandcamp.

POST-, is the surprising first release of 2018 (I’m making it official!). It is also surprisingly inspirational, given Rosenstock’s track record. He is known for realistic stories that relish in not feeling like an adequate adult while the people around you make responsible decisions. Meanwhile, you are drinking a tallboy alone.

He is brutally honest and doesn’t glorify these aspects of life, nor does he shame or look down on them. POST-, however, turns some of these concepts on their head.

Partially inspired by some of the social commentary from previous album, WORRY., POST- hints at societal problems and uses these vague ideas to shout anthems to inspire and sympathize. “USA” hints at the gang mentality of tearing someone apart because society is bored. “As they held him down, the crowd got loud / And they cheered when they thought he had escaped”. Instead of casting judgement, he simply sings, “Oh what else could they say? / They said, “Well, you promised us the stars and now we’re tired and bored”.

Immediately afterwards, “Yr Throat” bounces with a plea to speak your mind as long as it’s honest. “What’s the point of having a voice when it gets stuck inside your throat?” The song delves into the stress and pressures of handling yourself properly, and adds the reminder, “If you’re a piece of shit, they don’t let you go”.

While the thesis may be slightly different, the uncomfortably honest lyrics reflect some inner demons. Doing his best Ben Folds impression during “TV Stars”, Rosenstock croons about coping with seeing a past love in someone else’s arms by comparing it to his ability to play piano. “I can’t play piano all that well / Like, I’m fine, I can get away with it / If I’m acting like I’m drunk on stage / And you’re shocked that I’m playing anything / I’ll get away with it”.

Rosenstock hits on the fear of loneliness in “Powerlessness” in a way that terrifies. His voice is frantic, trying to get his message out before he is alone again. “I haven’t spoken to another person in a month / Well, small talk, obviously, but nothing beyond barely catching up / I have lots of things to say, but they’re gonna sound dumb, dumb, dumb / I have lots of things to say, but I’m just an idiot”.

Sonically, Rosenstock absolutely slams it. The guitars crunch with the confidence of Weezer and the experimental melody of early Brand New. John Dedomenici’s bass lays a gorgeous backbone to the songs (“Melba”) and Kevin Higuchi’s drumming is a hypnotic wall of sound (“Powerlessness”). However, the songs always keep you guessing with surprising twists.

“USA” starts as a solid rock song, complete with cowbell, only to fall apart into an atmosphere of synth before it bridges a guitar solo and a chant so catchy, it’s impossible not to see theaters filled with fans screaming it to the rafters.

“TV Stars” begins as a melancholy ballad that evolves into a devastating piano-driven rock song. “Melba” is the poppiest and most melodic song on the album. It also takes the deepest stab at a scene that preaches incessantly about grabbing for your dreams, as Rosenstock sings, “So go on, listen to some stupid song / And pretend to sing along / And try remembering what I’d think was smart when I was young / Where my memory makes me strong, but the record shows me dumb and breaking everything”.

If nothing else, it is impossible to deny that Jeff Rosenstock is anything but authentic. He conveys an honestly that artists of any type would kill to be able to express half as well. It doesn’t preach or judge, but that doesn’t make it any less devastating. His cracking and sometimes off-key vocals add to the ferocity of throwing the ideas out there. However, set to some expertly crafted punk songs, these are some of the most unique tracks that have fun confronting the universal demons we all encounter.

Photo by Hiro Tanaka

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 viscerally delighted by a surprise Jeff Rosenstock album to start the year. Hooray.

 

Review: Story of the Year – Wolves

It’s no secret that this has been a challenging year in the music scene. 2017 has been harsh and unforgiving, this seen particularly in the loss of several major figures in alternative music. Returning from a seven-year hiatus, Story of the Year tackles these issues of mental health and feeling alone, as well as fatherhood and feelings of mediocrity, in their latest album, Wolves.

You can buy Wolves on iTunes.

The album begins with a haunting minute-long instrumental intro which sets the stage well for what appears to be a concept album. From almost every standpoint (lyrically, musically, compositionally) Wolves is full of surprises. When you listen to Story of the Year, you expect morose lyrics surrounded by an equally moody soundtrack, but this album finds a new lightheartedness. Story of the Year haven’t lost their signature sound, but they’ve definitely matured.

In an interview with Fuse, front man Dan Marsala went through the album track by track, offering a bit more background into the stories that compose Wolves. Two of the tracks are about Marsala’s family, which is not generally a theme we find in this genre of hard rock/punk. It’s refreshing and new – something this scene, filled with sad songs about breakups and ordering pizza at 2 a.m., needs desperately.

His lyrics are the same as any fathers would be: worrying about how to raise his kids in this crazy world and how to provide for them. Both tracks, “A Part of Me” and “Give Up My Heart”, are beautifully written and meaningful but still hard-hitting and don’t sound anywhere close to the lullaby you would expect from someone writing about his family.

The album was recorded independently, a path many bands have been taking and using successfully. They used Pledge Music, and the amount of merch and exclusive content for backers is actually insane. (There’s still some items available, as well as copies of the album, for sale on their Pledge page.)

Much of the album was produced by Aaron Sprinkle of Tooth and Nail fame, and honestly, I can hear his input all over the record. He’s very sonically talented and always finds new and exciting ways to elevate the projects he works on.

For as many great moments as you’ll find on Wolves, there is certainly filler as well, including the three tracks leading up to the album closer. While it’s certainly brave of Story of the Year to come back with such a lengthy album, you can feel the effects of the seven-year layoff, as well. That isn’t to say there’s a lot of bad tracks, it just feels as though some might have fit better on another album or on a collection of b-sides.

The biggest surprise on Wolves is probably the final track. Story of the Year really went with the “go big or go home” approach with this closing song and it’s some of their most impressive work. There’s a spoken word piece thrown into the middle that solidifies the concepts in this album and ties everything together really well. The instrumentation in the final track is also impressive; the band really pushed themselves musically, which offers a counterpoint to the aforementioned layoff. Sometimes a little time off is necessary if a band is to come back and create another set of songs.

One final theme in this album is the band’s struggle with whether to reunite and release new music. When you’ve been a band for as long as Story of the Year (17 years, to be exact), it can be easy to grow monotonous, simply treat it as a job, and lose the passion for the creative process that was once so appealing. After a break, the band is back and seemingly stronger than ever, and Wolves is a beautiful testament to both human struggles and the joy that overrides those.

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: Emery – Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined

What does someone write about an album of old songs? A lot, apparently, when it’s as rich of an experience as is the case of Emery’s latest offering, Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined.

You can buy Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined on iTunes.

Oftentimes, when a band re-releases old songs, whether it be an acoustic version or a remix, I’m not a huge fan. I generally enjoy the original recording more because I like an organic representation of the artist’s interpretation and intent when writing and composing. I’ve changed my opinion in recent years, because everyone looks back on past work and wonders what they could’ve done differently. With Emery’s Revival, the band captures that thought process perfectly.

Each track has been carefully re-crafted and entirely thought through. Originally an EP of three songs given as a gift to Kickstarter backers, they apparently enjoyed the process so much that they turned it into virtually another full-length. I’ve been listening to Emery for a long time and when I listened to Revival, it didn’t sound like the Emery I knew. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising when I did a bit more research and learned that the members of Emery weren’t overly involved with the production and planning. Their touring guitarist, Chris Keene was more involved with the composition side of things and really made a change sonically.

One of the things I especially enjoyed was the lack of harsh vocals. I may just be getting old, but I don’t have as much patience for lyrics I can’t understand. I was excited to really be able to hear and pick apart some of the lyrics that I missed in the original versions of the tracks. There’s something special about listening to lyrics rather than reading them from a random site that you’ve Googled. It provides a more personal approach and connection to the artist and their artistic intention.

The composition of all of Emery’s music is something to be severely impressed with. The members of the band have such an incredible set of skills when it comes to production, songwriting and musicianship. This album was no different. Each track has new elements and interesting facets, and it’s a joy to listen to. Toby Morrell and Devin Shelton are vocal masterminds. Their harmonies are honestly unmatched and I can only chalk that up to the longevity of the band and how well they’ve worked together over the past years.

Favorite tracks for me were generally the ones I’m most familiar with from other albums, the top track for sure being, “The Smile, The Face”. Even though that doesn’t rate as one of their heavier tracks, I loved the way that they managed to soften it up even more. The only complaint I have is the lack of tracks from their 2011 album We Do What We Want. That album, along with their last release, 2015’s You Were Never Alone, is my favorite album and I was a bit disappointed to see that they ignored it. I would’ve especially loved to hear a new version of “Scissors”.

Emery never fails to excite me with any release announcement. Regardless of the familiarity and age of these songs, Emery has managed to completely revamp their sound once again. Based on what they’ve accomplished with this collection, I am eagerly awaiting another full album and look forward to what they’ll do next.

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.