Pierce the Veil Release “Today I Saw the Whole World EP”

Pierce the Veil have released a short EP featuring their latest single, “Today I Saw the Whole World” along with an acoustic rendition of the song. “Today I Saw the Whole World” was included on last year’s album Misadventures and is one of the heavier tracks the band have penned (and arguably the best song on the album).

Thus, it’s exciting to hear an acoustic version of the track, which features a delicate acoustic guitar and scaled back vocals from Vic Fuentes. Whereas the original version finds venom in Fuentes’ words, this new acoustic rendition displays a broken soul. Vic’s opening lines of, “Baby, pour over / Tell me are we concrete? / What would you do without my perfect company to your undressed spine?” feel desperate instead of determined.

The best acoustic tracks tend to dig into new emotions that full band versions can’t completely capture, and “Today I Saw the Whole World” certainly excels. Take a listen below:

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: The Wonder Years – Burst & Decay

For many people, myself included, it is hard to buck the idea that The Wonder Years are a positive band. After the release of The Upsides, there is always that part of me that will juxtapose anything they release with the immortal line of “I’m not sad anymore”. Even as the band has matured and their music drifted away from youthful optimism, I still see them as one of the most earnest bands out there. But their songs always felt grounded in the stories each album told. Burst & Decay, the band’s new acoustic EP, is an exercise in reinvigorating their material so much so that it’s hard not to see those same optimistic boys that set the scene aflame with positivity.

You can buy Burst & Decay on iTunes.

Burst & Decay is a delicate interpretation of songs throughout their catalog. Tempo changes, keyboards, and crooning vocals are the most prominent changes from the original punk rock. However, that is enough to revamp these songs entirely into their own message. The softer songs build to crescendos that the original songs lacked. When vocalist Dan Campbell shifts from a croon to all-out shouts, the message carries stronger and more prominently than the original songs were able to.

“There, There”, which reflects on one’s own faults, becomes a slow-built song of defiance. “Cardinals”, a song of regret over letting down a friend, becomes a moment of somber reflection and a loving war cry.

It’s not as though these songs are fundamentally different by any means. The melodic violin, soft drumming and acoustic strums of “Cardinals” sits alongside Dan Campbell’s whispery vocals in perfect meditation. There is a build throughout so that in the final verse, when Campbell explodes and shouts the lyrics, it fundamentally seems to change the tone of the original song. Instead of pleading for a chance to prove himself, Campbell is swearing an oath to the gods.

“Don’t Let Me Cave In”, a cornerstone track of Suburbia, I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, may be the most dramatically changed. In lieu of the raging guitars, the song is a ballad focusing on dreamlike keyboard melodies with minimalistic guitars. Originally, this song was frantic and desperate. Campbell seemed to search for an excuse for being in such hysterics. He pleaded for help. This softer version finds him saying the same words, but determination is behind him. He’s aware of his problems and thankful to have someone there to help see him through his demons.

Not every song takes a different tone to its predecessor. “Dismantling Summer” is arguably the most direct conversion to acoustics. “Coffee Eyes” is still an absolute jam. The drums rattle away and the guitars are crisp and hypnotic. Slightly more isolated, Campbell’s cracking voice as he shouts, “There’s always been a table for me there”, sounds so much better than it did on the original recording.

“You In January”, one of No Closer To Heaven’s stand-out tracks, tops off the EP. The light violin and plinking piano provide the romantic backing a song like this always asked for. It’s also in this song that the record’s title, Burst & Decay become prominent as Campbell sings to his love. “You In January” is the thesis of the album in a roundabout way. Where many of these songs centered on the idea of cracking slowly and trying to stop the damage, these versions have managed that task.

Burst & Decay is one of the few acoustic albums that make a true difference in a band’s sound. Much like The Starting Line’s Make Yourself At Home, this record is short, crisp and fundamentally different than the core sound of the band. Though it doesn’t carry the same weight or theme of a proper album, Burst & Decay does enough to differentiate itself from anything else The Wonder Years have done.

My one hope for this album was that perhaps the songs would be reimagined lyrically, much in the same way that “Logan Circle” and “Logan Circle: A New Hope” were. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with Burst & Decay. But finding a new meaning and tone to the existing lyrics may be something more profound.

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 probably playing euchre right now. Why? No reason other than he is a pretty cool cat. Myaaah!

Review: The Early November – Fifteen Years

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The Early November have been such a beloved band for nearly two decades because they find ways to adapt their sound while maintaining the ability to sound like the same band that burst onto the emo scene in the early naughts. But one of their most enduring legacies is that each album seems to contain a show-stopping acoustic song, whether it be The Room is Too Cold’s melancholic “Dinner At the Money Table”, or the defeated rail against modern music of “Digital Age” from In Currents. It’s something that seems to be not only guaranteed with each record, but the songs become and remain crowd favorites.

You can buy Fifteen Years on Bandcamp.

You can buy Fifteen Years on Bandcamp.

Fifteen Years is a fitting collection of a visit throughout the band’s discography that highlights some of their best songs while managing to hit that sweet middle ground for hardcore fans, bypassing many of the group’s most famous singles that have been played at every show they’ve ever had. This is the essence of The Early November on full display without having to play favorites to get people to listen.

I’ve seen The Early November almost half of a dozen times since their reunion in 2011, and the most startling thing to me was how their triple disc album, The Mother, The Mechanic, & The Path was ignored almost entirely for several years in favor of new material from In Currents and Imbue and the hits from The Room Is Too Cold. Perhaps because several tracks have already received the acoustic treatment on I Can Make a Mess’s Dust’n Off the Ol’ Guitar album, songs from the band’s debut LP and EP, For All of This barely appear. And it’s a good thing, as it gives the next 12 years of the group’s career the chance to shine past emo nostalgia.

It’s hard to evaluate whether any of the songs sound better acoustically than their original recordings, but that’s a matter of taste. What makes Fifteen Years so special is that it strips everything away and shows what a lovingly crafted song remains. There are a few added flairs, such as the new country-esque guitar solo that acts as the bridge midway through “Outside” or the intimate solo of “A Little More Time” fleshed out.

A few surprises give a new soul to several songs I never expected to see again, such as “Call Off the Bells”. Originally a barbershop quartet turned punk song of a wedding gone wrong, with Ace’s voice screaming over sizzling guitars, its new form is a heartbreaking ballad pleading at the memory of what love should have been. “The Mountain Range In My Living Room” lacks the grunge aesthetic, instead presenting itself as a song of hopeful rebellion

There is such a passion that seeps into the songs, it’s a simple task to see why Ace Enders’ acoustic songs are a league above his peers, especially at this point in his career, when his voice has never been better. Strong, confident and emotive, this version of “Ever So Sweet” is a stronger cousin to the raw version from The Room Is Too Cold, where a young Enders’ voice almost crackles on the high notes.

Fifteen Years is something every fan of Ace Enders should hear. It’s a definitive collection of The Early November’s material without being a greatest hits album. It’s also his best vocal work to date, improving on past recordings without losing the soul of the lyrics. The biggest detriment to the album is honestly a lack of the other band members. There are layered guitars, but it’s impossible to tell who is on what, and I found myself longing for Jeff Kumer’s drumming. Regardless, Fifteen Years is the type of album that makes you proud to be a fan of someone who’s career has been a part of your life for so long.

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 has been a staunch supporter of TEN for 15 years. You kids and your electricity music. YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT MUSIC IS! *grumble grumble fist shake grumble*

Review: Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues

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Jimmy Eat World is a band that I respect immensely, but for some reason, I tend to view each new release as though it were their final one. I don’t have any precedent for this other than the fact that I have spent 15 years watching what was essentially an emo band morph itself into an incredibly successful indie pop rock band that is still active.

What is spectacular in this regard, though, is that the band manages to retain a familiar sound from album to album while discovering ways to reinvent themselves. Even though they are a band that prefers acoustic ballads over hard guitars, finding new ways to showcase themselves as a band is the most punk rock thing I can think of.

You can buy Integrity Blues on iTunes.

You can buy Integrity Blues on iTunes.

That said, Integrity Blues, threw me off balance on first listen. While most Jimmy Eat World records find a loving balance between aggressive punk songs and soft acoustics, Integrity Blues takes a different approach – whether on purpose or by accident, the album seems to narrow in on one of the greatest twenty 20 of music I can think of and expand it in every way.

While the past couple of albums have become noticeably less rock heavy, Integrity Blues is the first to full abandon the rock format almost completely. Instead, it feels like it has focused in on the final few minutes of Futures and explored the sound of two of my favorite songs the band has ever put out (“Night Drive” and “23”) so as to create a full album out of gentle serenade. If you weren’t listening closely, you’d almost confuse it for a Death Cab for Cutie record from the early 2000’s.

Integrity Blues is an emotional album. It relies heavily on percussion and harmonious bass guitar to do the heavy lifting of the songwriting. It is one of the rare occasions where it feels like the guitar and vocals are more of an extra element that adds to the depth of the music instead of being the main focus (“You With Me”, “It Matters”). Bassist Rick Burch and drummer Zach Lind certainly feel like the MVPs of this record compared to previous releases.

While I am unable to say that Integrity Blues has any bad songs on it, the guitars and vocals definitely take a noticeable step back. Rather than forge the course of the music, they seem to find ways to fill the melody into something wonderful. Each song feels like something that I’ve heard from Jimmy Eat World before, but it is distinctly different from their past work.

What is slightly disappointing is that it doesn’t feel like guitarists Tom Linton and Jim Adkins are pushing themselves. Instead, they are falling back on loving rhythms that create an enticing record, but does little to showcase their skill. “Through” might be the best example of the guitars swirling through melody, but even then it builds towards a bridge before giving way to the incredible bass line.

Jim Adkins’ vocals feel restrained throughout, unfortunately. He doesn’t sound off in any way, but without the rush of guitars, he has no incentive to push himself. Adkins finds his voice in half-breathy gospel tones, similar to Futures’ “23”. His voice fills the songs with an earthy folk tone, but never quite reaches for the higher notes he’s shown in the past. It fits the mood, but doesn’t showcase in the way that you might hope.

A central theme of Integrity Blues is overcoming and standing tall. Though the music lacks the energy of a punk album, the lyrics are beautiful, encouraging and heartbreaking. “You With Me” sets the tone, as some of the opening lines sling off a thesis of, “The list of things I feel is crazy / News to me that I would need a second wake-up / It’s all been happening like they said it might / Am I weak if I want to fight?”

Against the grain of pulsing drumming and a haunting keyboard, Adkins finds himself lost, but hopeful on “Pretty Grids”. “When the fight is done and the feelings come / Is it more than what you thought? Or even want? / No place feels right for a busy mind / However goes the night, it’s what you got / Someday we might not bother / Line up the way we should / Why not? The sun just feels too good”.

“The End is Beautiful” reflects fondly an on a relationship in its final days, as Adkins comes to terms with the fact in his own way over mounting guitars. “There must be a plan that neither of us could see / So we went along where it went, a party within a dream / I never felt peace like that, it was safety as I’ve never known / Oh, but I knew nothing, I was sick / And I don’t blame a thing that you did”.

“Pol Roger”, the final song on the record returns to the thesis of looking for the bright side and encourages the listener to do their best over the course of nearly seven minutes. The final chorus is perhaps the most positive message JEW has ever written.

“First they’ll think you’re lost – it’s the easy feeling / Yeah, there’s every chance you could crash if you don’t believe it / Why spend more time in a lie if it goes on that way? / Love don’t come to you, who knew, it just was there, always”.

Integrity Blues isn’t the most progressive album that Jimmy Eat World has put out, but it is one of the most positive. It’s a slow build-up of music that finds the charred march of pulling yourself from a dark place and picking yourself up to the point that you can believe in yourself again. Integrity Blues doesn’t have any answers, but what it offers is hope.

The songs are heartfelt, melodic and soft, much in the same way that good advice always finds its way to you. It’s not an album that may rival the most loved of Jimmy Eat World’s albums, but it may be the most Jimmy Eat World album ever written. It’s cohesive, thunderously emotional and taps into every emotion it can with sincerely great writing. If this was the last album the band ever put out, I would see it as their opus. But since I have been wrong literally every other time I have thought that, It is an honor to see the band dial in on their one section of their own sound from past discography and expand it in every way.

3.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has no reason to believe that Jimmy Eat World would break up any time soon. They seem so well put together. But for some reason, each time they announce a new album, it comes as a shock to him. Why? KISS is technically still together, and they are way more volatile. There is no solution. Enjoy the music while the getting is good, then scurry off into the night – that’s his motto.

This Wild Life Stream New Song “Hit the Reset”

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We’re only a few short weeks away from Low Tides, the new release from This Wild Life. The Long Beach duo made a splash in 2014 with their debut album, Clouded, a mostly acoustic affair full of rich melodies and heartbreak. This time around, This Wild Life appear to be adding to the mix, exemplified by their new song “Hit the Reset”. Take a listen to the new track below:

If you like what you hear, you can pre-order Low Tides through the band’s website. The album releases on September 9 via Epitaph Records.

What are your thoughts on the new track? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Jake Bugg – On My One

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Jake Bugg has been a growing name in the musical world for quite some time. He grabbed the mainstream’s attention for writing aggressive, modernized folk with the fierce and biting lyricism of early Oasis. When his second LP, Shangri-La released, his shift to a full band delving deep into Brit pop was a welcome change that still managed to highlight his songwriting in the best ways.

On My One then, is a complicated matter. It is a hybrid that gives a grounded focus to Bugg’s signature acoustic ballads while throwing in some rock songs to give a taste for both worlds. However, what should be a well-rounded sound instead feels disjointed and crammed with several ‘filler’ tracks to justify the release as an LP.

All things considered, Bugg’s sound is remarkably similar to what gave him a rise to fame to begin with. His voice fits the sound with a youthful arrogance that occasionally hits the bleating notes of a young Bob Dylan. The acoustic tracks are a strong mix of crooning ballads and strong pop sensibilities. What falls flat are the electric tracks. Rather than transitioning his sound through an electric guitar, he takes the opportunity to experiment with genre and electronics. While I am never opposed to artists taking chances, it does not pan out for On My One.

Where the acoustic songs shine in atmosphere and story and emphasize the loneliness felt in the album’s name (“Love, Hope, and Misery”), the electric tracks devolve into wanna-be dance songs with repetitive lyrics that feel alien to anything in Bugg’s discography.

“One My One” is a dark, bluesy opener that aims to set the tone, describing being on the road touring for three years as an artist and feeling stripped of a sense of home, much less an abandonment by God. It feels like a thesis statement and carves a deep wound immediately.

The very next song, “Gimme the Love” barges in with a disco-esque beat and guitars ripping at the dance floor. Jake sings, “Better put your sticker on cause you gonna break / Late nights make you walk sideways / And now we’re gonna party my way / It’s only gonna be the same” before shouting “Just gimme the Love” eight times in a row per chorus. In a way, it removes most everything that made me pay attention to Jake Bugg in the first place, and replaces it with what feels like an above-average song that would play in the background of a dance club.

Immediately following that, is “Love, Hope, and Misery”, a song among the best of Jake Bugg’s career. An acoustic ballad highlighted with doo-wop guitar strains, brass instruments and swelling violins, the song is emotional and marks a return to the loneliness of the album title. Bugg’s voice carried the weight of frustrated sincerity as he sings, “They say it comes in threes; love hope and misery / And the first two have gone and tell me if I’m wrong / I hope that I am and you don’t hate me / Don’t be mad, I’m just a man / And I know, and I know, and I know, and I know, and I know, and I know that you must hate me”.

“Livin’ Up Country” is an experiment that pays off. It is a country-styled song that seemingly appears in the middle of the album, much in the same way Ace Enders would plant one in the midst of The Early November’s albums. It gives a different mood than the rest of the record, while pulling off the idea of being hopeful while stumbling through a series of failures. “And if I could understand, my body would get some rest at last / Would I fight back to take a stand?/ I’d never look back, never have to look out for the man”.

But for all of the hits, it is the misses that ruin the mood. “Ain’t No Rhyme” is a paltry attempt at a Beastie Boys-esque rap song that would have felt cheesy in 1991. It could be a matter of taste, but with it’s lame drum beat and cheap guitar riffs, the track feels like the epitome of ‘filler.’

Jake Bugg is an incredibly talented musician. He’s one of the under-headliners for Riot Fest, marked on the same line as established bands like the Deftones, Bad Religion and Underoath as a draw. On My One is an album that all bands make, a foray into experimentation and tweaking sound to ensure that they don’t write the same songs year after year. However, the trials here seem forced, wedged between great songs like a bad game of Marco Polo. Not that most of them are even bad songs, it seems like there would have been a better way to implement them into the record. While there is much to like about On My One, it is a divisive hodge-podge from a musician who has shown several times that he is capable of so much more.

3/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and will be seeing Mr. Bugg at Riot Fest. Honestly, I’ve been waiting for that for almost three years now. 😀

Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties: You Only Know Half the Story…

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Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties is a unique entity in the music scene. There are thousands of bands that tell stories on their records, but few that follow those stories through until we have something of substance. Aaron West, the side project of The Wonder Years frontman Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell, is an emotional catastrophe. It tells a story about a broken man so earnestly that you would almost think that ‘Dan Campbell’ is the fake name of Aaron West, trying his best to hide amongst the living.

I knew that Aaron West was a passion project for Campbell, but until I saw his blistering set at the Subterranean in Chicago, I had no idea that listening to the record was only half of the story.

The Subterranean is a small venue by Chicago standards; hidden under the incredibly noisy Blue Line ‘L’ Train and tucked in the side of a building at a six-point intersection. It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it, and with so much traffic and congestion, the area can get dirty very quickly. The dark rooms are just big enough to fill up smaller shows and create a sense that the room is bigger and fuller than it really is. The entire venue feels like a cheap secret, and it’s the exact kind of place that you would imagine Aaron West, a man broken, alone and clawing his way home, to hide out and play music for money.

Before the show, I found Campbell hanging out near his merch table, posing for photos and signing anything tossed in front of him, a fact I know because I tossed the Aaron West Vinyl in front of him. As he disappeared, I looked down at the signature, taken aback at the fact that Campbell had signed it “A. West”. It didn’t bother me, but it was the first inkling to Campbell’s commitment to the character, and that this concert would be far different than I had expected it.

The show was a smooth collective of rowdy up-and-coming punk, followed by the soulful intimate songs of Allison Weiss. Cold Collective, a mashup of musicians from previously well-known bands such as Transit and Defeater, led the charge. Their songs were that of short, sweet punk rock with a twinge of Nirvana’s edge to the guitar with a hard, crisp bassline. It seemed clear that their debut album had been out for less than a month by the people singing along, but for a band taking the stage at 6:30 (I know, right?), the crowd that showed up to see them was large, even by Subterranean standards.

Taking the stage next was Can’t Swim, a newer melodic band signed to Pure Noise Records. Their songs caught my attention, as the guitars swayed between a hefty crunch to various tempo changes that reminded me of a mix of a young Early November and Set Your Goals. Vocalist Chris Loporto’s voice ached with an edge not unlike Polar Bear Club’s Jimmy Stadt. Each song garnered a louder round of applause until they made their exit, taking the noise with them up the dark spiral staircase behind the stage.

After an hour of loud, aggressive punk rock, it seemed odd that Allison Weiss should take the stage next. An indie artist more than a staple to the pop punk scene, Allison stood alone on an empty stage with one electric guitar plugged into an amp. With the drum kit removed entirely, the stage suddenly looked enormous. For anyone else, it could have been a disaster to suddenly change the vibe of the room and be left alone without even a backing band to cover you.

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Allison Weiss

Weiss has slipped through my attention for several years; not because I didn’t want to listen to her, but I always had something else to do. It led to me knowing her name and what she did, but not enough to know any of her songs. However, after the first song, I knew that she was indisputably the most talented musician of the night.

Weiss tore down the room with beautiful songwriting, pure vocals and quick strums of the guitar. As someone unfamiliar with her albums, I already know that seeing her live is the way she is meant to be appreciated. Her witty banter with the audience between songs as she tuned the guitar only added to her charm, even as she covered (I believe) “Call It Off” by Tegan and Sara. “New Love” included an energetic chorus shouted by the audience and ended with a song for the LGBT community, “The Same”. For one person standing alone on stage, her show became louder inch by inch and she crooned into the melting mic, gaining at least one new rabid fan.

Headlining the night was Aaron West. As he took the stage, I no longer saw Dan Campbell – he had committed to the character of Aaron completely. The usual energetic and fierce Campbell that I have seen several times at The Wonder Years shows was replaced by a nervous-talking creep. He was wearing a different shirt than I had seen him in earlier, and possibly wearing a very, very realistic fake beard (I say that because I met him earlier in the night and would swear to the Jeezy Creezy his beard wasn’t that long, but I’m half-a-creep as well, so take that with some healthy skepticism). This was Aaron West, alone on stage with an acoustic guitar and a few bright lights, telling his story.

Aaron played his debut LP, We Don’t Have Each Other front-to-back, in order, with the addition of the newly released Bittersweet EP finishing off the set. Under other circumstances, I would be disappointed with an artist just playing their songs like this, as concerts are usually a means to play with the setlist and find which tracks mesh well together. But Aaron West is a different entity. He is a broken man desperate to tell his story to anyone willing to listen, and there is no other order than this one.

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Aaron West

West’s songs are deeply depressing affairs – the opening song, “Our Apartment”, a song about West losing his mind as he sits alone after his wife leaves him, wondering where she went, was sung from the rafters by the crowd. Half way through, I looked to my left to see a woman holding her husband’s hand, wiping away a stream of tears, a process she would repeat several times throughout the night.

Between songs, a twitchy, Aaron would explain the storyline, where he was geographically and what was going through his head before each song. It gave even more insight into a story that is already extraordinarily detailed.

Before my personal favorite, “St. Joe Keeps Us Safe”, West explained, “When I was in kindergarten, I went to a Catholic school, and they told us that there were 10 commandments. It always blew my mind that there was a specific amount, not nine, or 269, but 10. And one of them was (and I’m going to fuck this up), ‘Thou shalt worship no false idols.’ But my mom kept these small statues of saints throughout our house. One facing the doorway to make sure we had enough food, stuff like that. And she buried a statue of St. Joe in the backyard to keep us safe. She was so devout, and it blew my mind that she was blatantly ignoring one of the 10 rules that we were supposed to strictly follow.”

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Aaron West

Aaron West has been an obsession of mine ever since the debut LP came out two years ago. The intense lyricism, the strong storyline, and the mix between aggressive singing and whispered crooning, as though Campbell found himself nearly in tears recording the damn thing, have always been something powerful for me. But seeing him live, I realized I was only seeing half the show. The other part was the dedicated performance piece, showing someone who has already found their bottom time and time again as they tried to get home. The nervous voice between songs and the twitchy movements may be that of a broken man, but he also showed the resolve of someone determined to fix themselves.

That said, the entire evening wasn’t all doom and gloom: a couple got on stage for the man to propose to a girl (she said yes, btw), to which West said, “”Have you even listened to the record, man?” However, following the proposal, instead of jumping straight back into Aaron’s dire straits, he performed a cover of Rilo Kiley’s “More Adventurous”.

Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties is an event that should be seen if it’s even remotely near you. Dan Campbell has proven himself not only as a musician, but as a writer and performance artist that would make Gerard Way jealous. Once again, though, Aaron West finds himself at a crossroads: with just one LP and one EP, he can tell his story as it was intended up through where he is now, and it is perfect. But as someone clamoring for the next part of the story, he may soon have to pick and choose which parts to tell. Even so, I can’t wait to hear how it ends.

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 anxious for the next chapter of Aaron West, whenever that may be. Two years is a long wait 😦

 

Review: Ace Enders – Silver and Gold

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The best/worst/best thing about Ace Enders is that he tends to just appear with new releases, offering you a quick invitation to take a look at it, and then leaving it there for you whenever you want it. This week, he discreetly dropped a new Christmas album pretty much right around the time that news outlets learned that he ‘might’ be releasing a Christmas album. Well played.

Silver and Gold is a quick album, coming at eight songs in just over 20 minutes. It’s festive, atmospheric, and the most stripped back work Enders has ever released. Its sound is reminiscent of I Can Make a Mess’s Dust’n Off the Ol’ Guitar: simple melodies, whispering acoustics and soothing vocals craft a cheery holiday album that remains true to Enders’ unique sound.

It’s a simple record, as it’s meant to be. The songs send the message they’re supposed to without heavy production or gloss. The simplicity carries the meaning and the love behind the season. Basic beats, a light tap of tambourine, slow keyboards and echoing vocals plaster the record. Enders takes advantage of the fact that almost all of these songs are standard holiday classics (it doesn’t matter how he plays them, you’ll recognize them instantaneously) to strip them to a bare minimum, then play stylistically to add a new twist to them.

The only song that I THINK is an original song is “My Gift”, only because I have never heard it before. It’s a fun song with crisp acoustic strums, Disney-style whistles, and a harmony of Ace Enders vocals multi-tracked to assist the chorus.

“My Gift” has the signature ICMAM mentality of foregoing material objects, with the incredibly catchy chorus of, “I’m the type that won’t stop believing in hope for the holidays / If Santa skips town it’ll be okay / I’ve crossed my list of material script / I believe that every second with you is a gift”.

The EP not ground breaking, but it’s incredibly fun.

The only real ‘downside’ to this release is that it incorporates a Christmas EP by ICMAM from a couple of years ago, appropriately titled Happy Christmas EP as the final three tracks, which have a fairly different sound from the first half. That said, they’re wonderful songs and a very thoughtful inclusion.

What I appreciate the most about this release is that Enders didn’t take the traditional route of attempting to re-make or out-do existing Christmas songs, which usually produce mediocre results at best. This sounds like an I Can Make a Mess release that just happens to have Christmas music attached to it, which is an impressive feat.

If you collect holiday music from the scene, or are in need of something uplifting, Silver and Gold is there for you, and incredibly cheap. For a surprise release, this is about as good as it can get.

We’re not giving this a score. It’s Christmas Music. You either love it or you don’t, you grinch.

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 an avid Ace Enders fan. Huzzah and a half!

The Wonder Years Acoustic Tour – Chicago

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“If I can manage not to fuck this up…”

With a new record coming out this week, the claustrophobic aisles of Chicago’s Shuga Records were filled tight with two hundred fans hoping to catch a glimpse of The Wonder Years play an acoustic set. The current tour is simple, short and a thank you to their most passionate fans, who lined up for hours (allegedly) in front of the record store for the best view. Even outside of their loud, energetic element, the band has a hell of a presence that follows them wherever they go.

Their set was a short, quick burst of six songs. At first, hearing as gossip that there were going to be so few songs while waiting in line to enter felt like a disappointment, but it’s all that is required to not only satisfy any fan, but set the mood for a theme. The band, sitting and lower in tone than the normal shouting, really made this set feel like something special and secretive.

Starting off with “Cardinals” and ending with “Cigarettes and Saints” off of their new album, No Closer to Heaven, the repeated theme of “If we can’t save our brothers, we’re no saviors” encapsulated the set. It wasn’t until the final moments of the show that it really hit me – like most everything the band does, they tried to not only tie the set up together with reoccurring elements, but relate them to their older songs, like “Local Man Ruins Everything”. It’s a brilliant way to set the mood for what’s to come, and give new meaning to the songs we already love.

It’s odd to see fans learning the words to new songs. During “Cardinals”, the room was decisively quiet until older favorites like,“Passing Through a Screen Door” began and lured the crowd into shouting the lyrics back at the stage as Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell closed his eyes and let us sing to him before breaking back into the next verse.

However, the breakout song from the new record is almost definitively “Cigarettes and Saints”, a crooning ballad turned raging rocker that gives the band a much needed slow down during their high octane sets. Even after the band’s biggest singles, this new song is the one that caught the most passion as the crowd roared every word. During the final verse, Soupy stood for the first time and raged into the mic, screaming repeatedly, “You can’t have my friends, You can’t have my brothers” and looking like he was almost on the verge of tears. It was incredible to see the fire of a loud electric set fit perfectly into the confines of the acoustic sound, making the final shouts all the more powerful. If the reaction from the band and the fans in attendance is any indication, “Cigarettes and Saints” is the definitive song from this newest release.

Patient onlookers were lucky enough to get autographs and photos afterwards. The meetings were brief, which is perfect in order to not make an ass out of yourself, which I am generally known to do. The band members were fun, cheerful and joking with everyone in front of them and tried to make sure everyone left feeling great.

No Closer to Heaven comes out Friday. If you can, get a copy of it. When you find a group of people who put as much passion as they can into their music and work as The Wonder Years do, it’s worth every cent to make sure they can do it again for the fans that love them.

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 was able to walk to the show. Hooray, convenience! Also, apparently the band likes Hellogoodbye, as three of them, including Soupy, stopped what they were doing to let me know.

Aaron Gillespie and William Beckett Celebrate the Past on Summer Tour

aaron-gillespie-splash

On Saturday, September 12 in Chicago, William Beckett will step onto the stage in front of roaring crowd at Riot Fest as the lead singer of The Academy Is… to perform Almost Here for what will likely be the final time. On July 31, Beckett took the stage at the dimly lit Emerson Theater in Indianapolis, silently strapping on his acoustic guitar as a small, quiet crowd looked on.

For Beckett and tour mate Aaron Gillespie, art and performance exist independently of audience size. Both singers are familiar with crowds both large and small, and have spent the better part of their careers gaining a rabid following, thanks in large part to the passion they pour into their many projects. Tonight in Indianapolis is, in a way, about giving back, as the two perform acoustic numbers from both past and present.

Gillespie, formerly the drummer of Underoath and lead singer of The Almost, now spends his days crafting songs for his solo endeavors when he’s not on the road as the touring drummer of Paramore. A multi-talented artist known to play a myriad of musical instruments, Gillespie masterminded this tour as a way for fans to relive a decade’s worth of songs and moments.

William Beckett

William Beckett

Beckett saw The Academy Is… take flight in the summer of 2005, just as Gillespie and Underoath were bringing heavy music to the flocking masses. In part, the two helped signify the bridging of a gap between heavy and light in a scene that became a melting pot for new alternative sounds.

On this night, Beckett not only takes time to play old Academy classics, but also shares his wildly underrated solo material. Truth be told, time has been quite kind to Beckett, whose vocals now sound even more crisp than in his early days as an energetic and flailing frontman. When he sings “About a Girl”, a soaring chorus that once appeared to take everything his vocal chords could give, now appears effortless, as he holds incredibly high notes for extra beats, just for good measure.

His 2013 debut solo album flew largely under the radar, but Genuine & Counterfeit is chock full of the gorgeous melodies that made Academy such hit, even as he relies far more on his pop sensibilities than his punk and emo tendencies. “Hanging on a Honeymoon” sounds just as wonderful in this acoustic setting as old favorites such as “The Phrase That Pays”.

Beckett’s ability to capture a crowd while on stage has long been lauded, but it’s clear that he hasn’t lost a beat. As exciting as the upcoming Academy reunion at Riot Fest may be, it’s even more exciting to know that Beckett is planning on sticking around for the foreseeable future.

Aaron Gillespie

Aaron Gillespie

Gillespie’s set finds a treasure trove of hits to choose from. Both The Almost and Underoath have provided a large collection of fan favorites through the years, but stripping these songs down for this acoustic setting was surely a challenge. Even so, the melodic leanings of They’re Only Chasing Safety-era Underoath tracks like “Reinventing Your Exit” and “A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White” make for obvious choices. Likewise, calmer numbers like “Dirty and Left Out” and “Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape” lend quite well, too.

With an acoustic guitar and a single pedal-powered drum, Gillespie is able to add dimension to the songs as the crowd sings along. When he picks up pace for “Say This Sooner”, the audience goes into full choir mode during the chorus. Gillespie has made a name for himself with his ability to capture the moment with both gentle and explosive deliveries. Red in the face, he belts out the high points of “No, I Don’t” just as if a full band were on stage to back him up.

Even with such an expansive catalogue to pull from, Gillespie still makes time for cover songs from U2, Oasis and Tom Petty. The highlight of the night finds Beckett and tour mate Nathan Hussey of All Get Out joining Gillespie on stage for a performance of “Free Fallin’”, featuring a delightful three-part harmony during the song’s chorus.

A longtime fan of Beckett and Gillespie, I’ve found myself in attendance for numerous concerts from both throughout the past decade. The music of The Academy Is… and Underoath are likely to remain timeless for me – a touchstone to a coming-of-age period in my life. Truthfully, it’s hard to think back without remembering their voices as the soundtrack. All of these years later, it’s a pleasure and an honor to sing along again.

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.