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.”

Review: Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated

Four years is a long time to wait between albums. While fans clamor for new music, artists risk losing cultural cachet. This is, of course, inherently dumb because time is a flat circle and, also, art doesn’t work on a schedule. Nevertheless, the antiquated expectation is a real thing. Just maybe not so much for Carly Rae Jepsen.

You can buy or stream Dedicated on Apple Music.

In the four years since the one-time one hit wonder reinvented herself with 2015’s Emotion (my personal favorite album of the decade so far), Jepsen has become meme-able in the best of ways. Her newfound niche fanbase has found community in her quirky pop and personality, often inciting viral moments to spread the good news.

It helps that Jepsen has offered up appetizers in the form of 2016’s Emotion: Side B, 2017’s summer single “Cut to the Feeling” and last year’s new-album-primer “Party for One”. Even when she was on hiatus, it never really felt like she was gone.

But here we are – finally – with a new full-length album called Dedicated. To cut right to the chase, Dedicated does not match the masterful execution of Emotion, but it’s a hell of a fun pop record. Whereas Emotion found synchronicity in theme and sound, Dedicated reads more as a collection tried-and-true tactics and delightful experiments. When you write more than 100 songs leading up to a record, they may not all live in harmony, but the best of the crop are fairly certain to be good.

Unsurprisingly, Jepsen has already shared the obvious singles to quench our expectations – light, bubbly pop anthems with big hooks. “Now That I Found You” is the “I Really Like You” of Dedicated, an easy anchor to draw us in. Similarly, “Too Much” and “No Drug Like Me” fit the bill for heart-on-her-sleeve Jepsen material, equally catchy and eccentric. Where Dedicated really excels, though, is when she leans into experimentation and allows herself to get a little weird.

“Want You in My Room” is a great example, proving that the Jepsen/Jack Antonoff partnership is just as fresh as when it began. A track that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the last Bleachers record, “Want You in My Room” matches deep bass and organic instrumentation with Jepsen’s breath-y delivery of lines like, “I’ll press you to the pages of my heart”. It’s everything fans of Carly already love about her, freshened up with new sounds and tempos that sound specifically built for Summer 2019.

Similarly, “Happy Not Knowing” uses the sonic building blocks of Emotion to achieve something new, coupling shoegaze guitar licks with the synth sounds we’ve come to know so well. It’s also peak CRJ in the best way, honing in on those feelings of longing and the insecurities that keeps us from acting on them: “I don’t have the energy / To risk a broken heart / When you’re already killing me”.

“The Sound” lays a tinkling piano behind the synthesizers while “Automatically in Love” finds Jepsen experimenting with pitch and pace to create a fantastic chorus to match the most Carly Rae song title in history. All of the new pieces seem to come together on “Feels Right”, where the partnering of Jepsen and Electric Guest results in one of Dedicated’s highlights.

On the whole, Dedicated feels like the output of an artist who has earned the opportunity to test some new waters without losing even one iota of who she is, allowing her to stay firmly in her own wheelhouse while still creating something new. What a treat for fans that identify so deeply with her penchant for leaning hard into her feelings.

At a time when it feels more enticing than ever to disengage, Jepsen invites us to do the opposite without ever sounding forced or cheesy. Just listen to the lyrics of “Too Much” and try not to smile: “So be careful if you’re wanting this touch / ‘Cause if I love you, then I love you too much”. At every step, Jepsen reminds us that it’s good to feel completely and without shame or fear. It’s likely what keeps her from ascending back into the upper echelon of pop music, but it’s something that makes her music so much better and refreshing.

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.

Review: Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties – Routine Maintenance

At its core, Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties is a story about rebirth. Singer and songwriter Dan Campbell’s debut album, We Don’t Have Each Other begins with Aaron breaking down completely after the death of his father, dealing with a miscarriage, and losing his wife. As that album closes, Aaron gives the first glimpse of healing – he is determined to return to his wife in New York. That hope to fix things is what drives the sequel album, Routine Maintenance. Although Campbell could have continued breaking Aaron down, Routine Maintenance vividly explores how Aaron finds meaning in life again and why family is worth fighting for.

You can buy or stream Routine Maintenance on Apple Music.

Dan Campbell, the singer for pop punk wunderkind group The Wonder Years, has built a career off of writing intense, relatable lyrics and stories. Aaron West, his first fictional creation, is a fully formed person. Like its predecessor, Routine Maintenance is essentially a novel set to music. Aaron hitchhikes to Los Angeles (“Bury Me Anywhere Else”), and forms a successful band (“Runnin’ Toward The Light”) in explicit detail. The anxiety of being in a divorce lawyer’s office is especially rich (“Just Sign the Papers”).

However, this Aaron is hopeful. We’ve already seen him broken and homeless. Routine Maintenance shows how Aaron becomes a dependable person again in incremental steps. The tragedies he faces aren’t those within him anymore and he discovers how to step up to meet them.

Much like the previous album and EP, Routine Maintenance relishes in Americana. Comparisons to Bruce Springsteen are impossible not to mention, especially with the bluesy harmonica (“Rosa & Reseda”) and killer saxophone (“Bury Me Anywhere Else”). This album expands the folk rock sound of previous releases with deeper horn sections, slide guitar and a mesmerizing banjo. Ace Enders’ style of production oozes throughout, similar to West’s debut.

Campbell’s vocals are on full display at their best. Although there’s no difference here to how he sings in The Wonder Years, Campbell flexes to express the story. “Just Sign the Papers” shows this perfectly, with an emotional and tortured build up. While the verses mourn his marriage, the choruses burst with shouts of why he loved her. The bridge though, is magical. The first time he whispers, “C-come on, just sign the papers / Don’t make me stay in the room / I don’t want this to be the way I remember you”, he softly croons. As they both sign the divorce papers, Campbell shouts with cracking vocals. The weight of Aaron’s anxiety is part of what makes these albums so real and special.

Routine Maintenance is an album that will give back whatever the listener puts in. New listeners may be lost or have trouble relating to the character. But anyone who has followed Aaron West over the last few years will be familiar with many of the characters and their expanded personalities. Dan Campbell’s live shows, where he takes on West’s persona, greatly amplify how the character builds his music career during the story. Routine Maintenance is fine on its own, but it’s so very much a different beast as a sequel. Wherever Campbell decides to take Aaron after this album, at least there is hope to be found.

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 heavily relates to Jasper from The Simpsons.

Review: New Found Glory – From The Screen To Your Stereo III

In general, I find covers albums to be useless. Often times, the original song was good enough that it’s hard to top it, or the band covering them find nothing new to add and just make a grab for the attention. While I have counted New Found Glory as part of that group in the past, From The Screen To Your Stereo III has broken that mold entirely. Instead of mostly covering movie theme songs from the 80’s, the pop punk figureheads have grappled with several contemporary songs and found new ways to express them. New Found Glory haven’t just made punk versions of popular movie ballads, they unapologetically owned the material and forced it to bend to their sound.

You can buy or stream From The Screen To Your Stereo III on Apple Music.

New Found Glory’s From the Screen to Your Stereo series has always annoyed me. They’re decent enough albums, but it’s usually a reminder that it will be another year or two until a proper new NFG release. It’s filler to remind you that the band is still active. However, this ‘threequel’ is by far their best and most consistent. Instead of just plucking from the 80’s and 90’s, FtStYS3 jumps across the decades, grabbing songs that the band grew up with as well as those of their newer fanbase.

Unlike songs from their past covers albums, these songs don’t sound dated. Whereas Tears For Fears “Head Over Heels” sounds distinctly like the 80’s even when given a punk makeover (From the Screen to Your Stereo Pt. II), most of these sound as though they could have been written by New Found Glory, but someone else just got to them first (“Accidentally in Love”).

It’s hard to argue why a new version of The Greatest Showman’s “This Is Me” is needed. The original is a broadway-esque masterpiece, and Panic! At the Disco’s version shines as an equally glitzy pop hit. However, New Found Glory turns it into a grungy powerhouse that pays homage to the original broadway sound with a backing choir and angelic bridges. “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen bounces between harsh power chords to enormously melodic choruses. This song also tests vocalist Jordan Pundik’s abilities to their fullest. I forgot about Counting Crows’ “Accidentally in Love” (Shrek 2) to such an extent that I was sure that it was a brand new song until I went back to hear the original.

As much as I have railed against it, where the band shines the brightest is on their versions of 80’s anthems “The Power of Love” (Huey Lewis and the News) and “Eye of the Tiger” (Survivor). New Found Glory lean into the spirit of the originals entirely, including the syth during the chorus of “The Power of Love.” These versions are fast, heavy and embody the spirit of New Found Glory while amplifying the originals in every way.

From the Screen To Your Stereo III is easily the best of New Found Glory’s cover albums. The band takes full control of the material and turns it into an album that proves cover songs can be as thrilling as new material.

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 has eaten HALF A BAG OF TWIZZLERS?! ….. He needs Twizzler rehab ;-;