Review: The Regrettes – How Do You Love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and is petting the head of a toy Tyrannosaurus Rex instead of his cat. He regrets nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Nadia Paiva

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

Review: Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/5

by Nadia Paiva

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

Review: The Futureheads – Powers

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

You can buy or stream Powers on Apple Music.

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

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

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

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

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

4/5

 

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and is running on an ADRENALINE HIGH!!!! 1:30 am! Sleep is for the healthy!

Review: Taylor Swift – Lover

Photo by Valheria Rocha

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

You can buy or stream Lover on Apple Music.

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and literally just spilled an ENTIRE cup of water across the ENTIRE kitchen floor in an attempt to keep the cat from doing just that. Please send him towels.

Review: Have Mercy – The Love Life

Photo by Benjamin Lieber

Have Mercy is consistently the saddest band I listen to. It makes me feel really bad because no one should be this sad for four whole albums. They’re so sad they surpass the emo label and they’re in their own league. I was hoping that Brian Swindle had turned over a new leaf with The Love Life, but here we are again with another album about the ways love fails us.

You can buy or stream The Love Life on Apple Music.

The album opens quietly with “We Ain’t Got Love”. It features a haunting acoustic guitar and ends with a slow but heavy breakdown. Here, Brian’s a man speaking to a lover in the past. She’s moved on, but Brian sings that “[Her] new boyfriend / Is a failure / Just like me”. It’s a great opener because it shows us exactly what to expect. This album won’t be hard hitting like the others. There’s not so much anger here, but certainly more regret.

“40oz” is one of my personal favorites. The band’s founding member, Aaron Alt, passed away earlier this year, and it’s hard to listen to the chorus of this song and imagine it to be about anything else. 

The fourth track, “Clair”, is my favorite. If you can get past the awkward first verse, the chorus is explosive, and I’d say it’s definitely the best track off the album. It’s the one that’s stayed with me the most. It’s the perfect combination of what we’ve grown accustomed to from the band and the lighter vibe this album has. 

“Mattress On the Floor” gave me the same sad nostalgia that Aaron West’s “Rose and Reseda” gave me when I first heard it. I love songs that get visceral with emotion, and this track feels extra raw. The second verse hits with the notion that things aren’t going so hot but they’re making it work, but the final lines are “And I don’t dream like I used to anymore / I still drink about that mattress on the floor”. It’s one of the things that drew me to the band. The way they use contrast in their songwriting always keeps you guessing. You know it’ll be sad, but you don’t always know where, when, or how. 

“Dressed Down” seems like a filler track to me. The album is definitely not uplifting in any sense, but it seems like the band really tried gave an effort to keep the musical side jaunty, as seen in the next track “So Like You”. The former track is a definite low point, and a track I skipped from probably the third listen.

I personally like this album the most out of their four album run, but I will admit that it isn’t their strongest. The band works better when they lean towards their post-hardcore sound. This is the most mellow of their releases, and while it’s a great addition to their discography, the ways they held back left me wanting a little bit more.

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: NF – The Search

Nate Feuerstein (NF) has become one of the top names in hip-hop. What sets him apart, and what draws me to him, is the fact that he refuses to sing about wasting time on anything hollow. He makes clean rap but never fails to make it almost unbearably relatable. 

If you listened to his last album, 2017’s Perception, you’ll know that the topics talked about in his latest are not new to NF. He’s simply telling his story in real time. Perception’s success is what allowed NF to keep that same raw approach on The Search.

You can buy or stream The Search on Apple Music.

It’s hard to live in today’s society. The culture we live in is as divided as ever. And that’s why NF’s music is thriving. We are interested in hearing something that’s not merely a distraction. NF refuses to cut corners. He speaks unashamedly about mental illness, imposter syndrome, and the toll that our fame-focused culture is taking on today’s youth.

I would say the best lyric that sums up the album’s main theme comes from the title track, where he says: “I’m lookin’ for the map to hope / You seen it?” I think I might want that tattooed onto me. The album is an absolute mountain: 19 tracks clocking in at an hour and 12 minutes. This isn’t an album that you throw on in your car as background noise. This album demands your absolute attention. That’s something I rarely find in today’s music, so I reveled in it for quite some time before trying to talk about it.

The album truly speaks for itself. Anything I write here will either only repeat what the album says better than I will, or completely prove the point that Feuerstein is trying to make. I got into NF when my younger brother started talking incessantly about Perception. I took him to the Boston date of that album tour and it convinced me that NF was someone to add to the list of the few rappers I have in my repertoire. Rap is my bottom genre choice, so if I’m listening to a rap album, it’s really worth listening to. 

I can’t talk about stand-out tracks or hard hitting lyrics because literally every song stands out and every lyric hits hard. “I Miss the Days” is one of the softer tracks but it made me tear up because it’s all about childhood and remembering the days when we didn’t have anything to worry about other than what time we’d get to go out to play. He hasn’t had it easy in his life, which is something he speaks often about. 

NF is not afraid to bring attention to the rough edges in his life. In “Nate”, he recalls being young and watching his parents go through a divorce, as well as watching his mother fall into drug addiction. He ends the verse by saying “You look uncomfortable / I’m sorry / Let me change the subject”. 

What I appreciate most about NF is the fact that he doesn’t pull a Kanye and say life was hard but now I have a life of luxury and beautiful women and everything I could ask for. He’s honest about the fact that life is a lot more complicated than ever before. He’s become a spokesperson for being grounded in reality and realizing that experiencing success doesn’t magically mean that life will be smooth sailing, and that it’s hard, but it’s okay.

5/5

by Nadia Paiva

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

Review: The Black Keys – Let’s Rock!

If you’re like me, you thought The Black Keys were never going to come back. They were a has been of the mid 2000’s and early 2010’s, and then they were gone forever. Well, not so fast. They have returned with Let’s Rock!,  an album that celebrates the ups and downs of life in the unconventional way that The Black Keys do. 

I say “unconventional,” because the inspiration for the album title and cover is a convicted murderer’s execution. He was executed using, you guessed it, the electric chair, and his last words were reportedly, “Let’s rock.” Other than that morbid tidbit of trivia, the album was made for summer beach drives.

You can buy or stream Let’s Rock! on Apple Music.

Putting aside the distasteful influence of the album, there’s part of me (the conspiracy theory side) that wants to believe there’s more to it than meets the eye. There’s a part of me that feels like it’s kind of the murderer’s Death Row story. They obviously don’t murder anyone within the lyrics of the album, but it’s very reminiscent, much like someone on Death Row might be when facing their last days. There’s a lot of begging for mercy, and remembering past loves, and eventually, a kind of acceptance of fate. 

The opening track, “Shine a Little Light”, is explosive and really drives forward the themes of the album. It packs a punch — easily one of the best tracks here. The only downfall is it sets the album up to be more energetic than it ends up actually being. The next few tracks are largely forgettable, in my opinion. They have some nice sentiments here and there but the album slows down far too quickly for me. The band seems to rely on their guitar solos pretty heavily this time around. The first single, “Lo/Hi”, is a standout on the album, with lyrics addressing a concern for emotional wellbeing and then being fed up with the person in question while watching how their lifestyle choices are detrimental.

There are a couple of love songs on the album, something I feel like doesn’t happen very often with The Black Keys. “Eagle Birds” and “Walk Across the Water” are definitely wedding playlist worthy. My other favorite tracks are “Sit Around and Miss You” and “Under the Gun.” 

A lot of the album is very 70’s Southern rock-esque, but it doesn’t really do it for me. They’ve strayed away from the cool garage band sound into their own take on the bluesy rock hitting the radio today, à la Greta Van Fleet. It’s kind of sad, seeing as the band paved the way for bands like the aforementioned. It’s almost as though they waited too long to come back. I feel like if it had been two years ago, Let’s Rock! would have really brought the house down. All that’s left for The Black Keys is the fame of 2009. It’s a worthy offering, but falls just a little bit short.

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: Jonas Brothers – Happiness Begins

It’s been 10 years since we received a full album from Kevin, Joe and Nick Jonas. We got a single six years ago called “Pom Poms”, along with some potential tour dates that never happened. The single was nothing to write home about, and we kind of forgot about it for the most part. But finally, six years after a live album flopped and 10 years since Lines, Vines, and Trying Times, they did it. They came back for real.

Happiness Begins is largely based on the fact that Joe and Nick both got married, to Sophie Turner and Priyanka Chopra, respectively. Kevin’s been married since 2009, and basically continues to be the forgotten Jonas (which sucks and is rude of everyone to keep doing).

You can buy or stream Happiness Begins on Apple Music.

The album opens with the lead single, “Sucker”, which is a fitting opener for the thematics of what’s to come in the album. They really love their wives, which is great. It continues with the next single, “Cool”, where Joe and Nick talk about what they’ve been doing since The Jonas Brothers broke up. It includes album references, Nick’s cologne venture and, of course, their wives. But this is still Kevin erasure and I won’t stand for it. Kevin has also had a great decade, Joe and Nick.

The album really doesn’t do much else but brag about how great their wives are. That’d generally be fine with me, but it’s been 10 years. Lyrically, I was hoping for a little bit more of a mature offering. Basically the only differences here are the facts that they’ve hit puberty, so their voices are deeper, and they’re singing about their wives, not their girlfriends.

Musically, the album is a treat. You can hear Joe’s DNCE influence, as well and Nick’s solo albums. There’s some reggae, some sultry Justin Timberlake pop and, of course, the original pop rock sound we fell in love with. What the album lacks in thematic diversity and lyrical depth, it’s made up for with the musical aspect. The boys have always been talented musicians, and it’s nice to see that they’ve paid attention to what they wanted their comeback album to sound like. It’s trendy, but it has enough originality to be recognizable.

I don’t want to say that I’m disappointed by the album, because felt like I knew what to expect. I wasn’t looking for a deep expose on social issues. That’s not their brand and that’s fine. They’ve always been in the bubblegum sphere of pop, but I suppose I thought they’d rise above that label, like they did with their solo music. This is definitely going to be the album of summer, if not for its sound then simply for the band it’s come from. The Jonas Brothers could probably release an album of screeches and tire squeals and we’d all buy it without shame. Their brand is stronger than any musical mistake they could make, but I feel like they definitely played it more on the safe side with Happiness Begins.

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: Frank Iero and The Violent Futures – Barriers

Frank Iero’s passion for rock music shines through his solo work more than the heavy mood would have you believe. Barriers, Iero’s third solo album, celebrates rock music. The album is moody and constantly blitzing with wild energy. He sounds raw—similar to some of the best emo releases of the mid-2000s. Barriers sounds like a lost masterpiece from a decade earlier, but isn’t dated in the least. Iero doesn’t have to work too hard to craft his own identity from past work with My Chemical Romance and Leathermouth. Barriers is an album that overcomes every obstacle to stand tall on its own, possibly as Iero’s best solo release.

You can buy or stream Barriers on Apple Music.

Each new interpretation of his solo career has refined his sound and not shied away from the gloom that helped define him as a musician. The guitars are fuzzed, but still release a hard melody. Iero’s writing channels the best aspects of rock and focuses it down to a grungy tip. It allows the album to be a cohesive collection while adding a massive variety to the sound.

Opener, “A New Day’s Coming” mixes blues and a gospel-heavy keyboard with heavy, raw guitars. The chorus of “Fever Dream” rages with simple power chords, reminiscent of classic-era Green Day. Meanwhile, “Moto-Pop” rages with metal inspiration from Black Sabbath. Iero and fellow guitarist Evan Nestor are clearly relishing their ability to play whatever they want.

Bassist Matt Armstrong (Murder By Death) provides a hard, dark mood throughout the album (“Medicine Square Garden”). Keyboardist and backing vocalist Kayleigh Goldsworthy adds just enough to crank the effect of Iero’s demons throughout the album. She hides like an angel or a demon haunting Iero’s highs and lows (“Six Feet Down Under”). Former Thursday drummer Tucker Rue adds an energy to the album that keeps the music charged even in more somber moments (“No Love”).

Where Iero impresses the most is in his vocals. The wild change in singing styles throughout the album keep each line engaging. The preference to get the emotion out, even if it means falling flat, lends a haunting urgency to each line. Clean, lazy singing on “A New Day’s Coming” is inspiring. Slurred, charged shouting during “Young and Doomed” channels a blend of AFI’s Davy Havok’s eccentricity and Thursday’s Geoff Rickly’s angst. Meanwhile, singing through gritted teeth, grunge whispers and hedonistic shouting, “Fever Dream” is wave after wave of unfiltered energy thrown at the microphone.

Barriers is a thick album. There’s certainly an argument that it could have benefitted from being a couple tracks shorter. However, Iero’s passion for music shines through each track. Although it’s hard not to compare him to a few legendary bands he was a key part of, Iero has forged a solo career defined by the freedom to lay waste to expectation. Barriers is Iero at his best—doubling down on a genre he helped forge and paying homage to rock music from every region of the genre.

4/5

Photo credit: Mitchell Wojcik

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 stepped in a puddle this morning. Now he is known as “Dumb ol’ Wet Foot.”